Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi
Agnolo di Cosimo Tori known as Bronzino (Florence 1503-1572)
Lucrezia di Gismondo Pucci, was a Florentine noblewoman, wife of the banker Bartolomeo Panciatichi whose portrait is also owned by the Uffizi Galleries (Inv. 1890, no. 741). Bronzino's setting is a shadowy room which we can glimpse the back wall of, where there is a niche in serena stone bordered on the sides by fluted semi-columns, topped by Ionic capitals. The lady is seated on a Savonarola type chair with armrests carved with grinning faces; she is painted with a three-quarter view, in line with a fashion introduced by Raphael in the portraits of Julius II (in the National Gallery, Inv. NG27) and Leo X (Inv. 1890 no. 5157), examples that had set the tone among artists a few decades earlier. Bronzino took that model and made it his own original creation which, not surprisingly, he also used in the same period for the portrait of the Duchess Eleonora of Toledo (Inv. 1890 no. 748), because it aligned perfectly with the ambitions, habits and customs of the Florence of that time. Lucrezia is bathed in an intense light that contrasts with the background shadow and enhances her perfect complexion, which is as smooth as an alabaster sculpture. The same lamp also enhances the spectacular red dress, a riot of ruffles, embroidery and ribbons, ending at the neck with a pleated veil. The outfit is also enriched by an equally enviable set of jewellery: the semi-precious stones belt, the emerald on the ring finger, the gold, bead and gemstone hairpin, the pearl necklace with a pendant in the middle with a spectacular ruby, the latter being a symbol of passion and love. The standout piece is, however, the gold chain which contains the words sans fin amour dure. Tradition has it that this motto is a declaration of love for her bridegroom, but some scholars believe it also has a religious meaning: that of God's love for mankind, reaffirmed by the presence of the prayer book resting on Lucrezia's leg. In this sense, the portrait could also refer to the religious convictions of the couple, who, during the years they had lived in Lyon, had moved closer to the heretical and spiritual movements, a choice that would later lead them to be tried for heresy when they returned to Florence.
The Panciatichi portrait is one of the works in which Bronzino's mature style can be best appreciated, due to the perfection of the drawing and the accuracy in making every detail so realistic you can almost touch it. And despite the static atmosphere that freezes the figure in her statuesque pose and seems to suspend her life, there is a glint in the woman's eyes that engages the spectator and elicits an unforgettable feeling.
C.Falciani, scheda n. III.2, in Bronzino. Pittore e poeta alla corte dei Medici, a cura di C.Falciani e A.Natali, Firenze 2010, p. 168; E. Cropper, Holy Face - Human Face. thoughts on Bronzino’s "Lutheran" Panciatichi portraits, in Synergies in Visual Culture - Bildkulturen im Dialog, Studi in onore di Gerhard Wolf a cura di M. De Giorgi, A. Hoffmann, N. Suthor, Paderborn, München, Fink, 2013, pp. 45-56; L.M.F. Bosch, Orthodoxy and heterodoxy in Agnolo Bronzino’s paintings for Bartolomeo and Lucrezia Panciatichi, in Agnolo Bronzino. The muse of Florence, a cura di L. De Girolami Cheney, Washington, DC, 2014, pp. 35-130.