Though a sense of surface frigidity characterises everything Bronzino produced, emotional heat underwrites his style. As a pupil and adopted son of perhaps the greatest and strangest of mannerist painters, Jacopo Pontormo, Bronzino graduated to artistic maturity with impeccable credentials in that consciously artificial style. That he asserted his own artistic personality, albeit through a steely formality of technique, testifies to the originality of Bronzino's vision. In this magnificent portrait of his principal patron - a work that exists in many replicas and copies - the painter displays a perfectionism it is hard not to think obsessive. Riven with reflections, highlights and shadows, Cosimo's armour alone is an article of transfixing interest: almost reason enough for the painting. It was Bronzino's habit to concentrate on details of costume, jewellery and decoration, to the extent of conceiving the faces of his ducal sitters as polished stones. Apart from this authoritative example, another celebrated version of the work is found in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
AGNSW Handbook, 1999.
Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici in armour
oil on poplar panel
85.9 x 66.6 x 3.4 cm panel; 117.5 x 98.5 x 8.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Purchase 1996
Shown in 1 exhibition
Bronzino, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, 23 Sep 2010–23 Jan 2011
Bishop Paulo Giovio, 1551, Italy, in the collection of Bishop Giovio by 1551
Count Paolo Giovio, 1552-1846, Italy, by descent to Count Giovio, the painting was moved in the early 17th century to the Palazzo Giovio, Como
Giorgio Orchi, 1846-1860, Italy, or De' Orchi, bequeathed to Orchi by Count Giovio
Napoléon Bonaparte, 1860-11 May 1872, France, sold Christie's London, 11 May 1872, lot no. 302, 'Plon-Plon and the Prince Napoleon' bought by Thomas Holloway
Thomas Holloway, post 11 May 1872, England, Purchased at Christie's London, 11 May 1872, lot no. 302, 'Plon-Plon and the Prince Napoleon'. Sold to Alfred Morrison.
Alfred Morrison, pre 1897, Hindon/Wiltshire/England, label verso records that the painting hung on the 'no.1 Drawing Room Landing' at Fonthill House on 28 December 1887
Hugh Morrison, 1897-1931, England, by descent
John Granville Morrison, 1931-26 Nov 1971, England, by descent, 1st Baron Margadale of Islay, sold Christie's London 26 November 1971, lot no. 47
Cyril Humphris, 26 Nov 1971-circa 1990, London/England, [dealer] Purchased at Christie's London 26 November 1971, lot no. 47. On loan to the National Gallery, London 1990
Private Collection, pre 1996?, with Sotheby's New York, February 1993 and Simon Dickinson Ltd, London June 1995
Olsen Carr Art Dealers, Mar 1996, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, Purchased by the AGNSW from Olsen Carr Art Dealers 1996
Referenced in 25 publications
Miriam Cosic, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Wandering Medici finds a home', pg. 4, Sydney, 08 Feb 1996, 4 (illus.).
Terry Ingram, The Australian financial review, 'Great art find surfaces in Sydney', pg. 20, Sydney, 11 Jan 1996, 20 (illus.). This article appears in the 'Saleroom' section of the newspaper.
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 22 (colour illus.).
Heather Johnson, Australian art collector, 'Private Pleasure, Public Gain - the influence of private collections', pg. 58-61, Ultimo, Apr 1998-Jun 1998, 60.
Tomislav Nikolic, Look, 'The art that made me', Sydney, May 2018-Jun 2018, pp 23–25: p 25, col illus p 25.
R.B. Simon, The Burlington Magazine, 'Bronzino's portrait of Cosimo I in armour', pg. 527-539, London, Sep 1983, cover (colour illus.), 527-39, 529 (colour illus.). fig.no. 9; no. 19
Robert B. Simon, The Burlington Magazine, ''Blessed by the hand of Bronzino': the portrait of Cosimo I in armour', pg. 387-388, Jun 1987, 387-388 (illus.). X-ray images of this work appear on both pages.
Michael Wardell, Look, 'Foundation building', pg.14-17, Sydney, Sep 2004, 15 (colour illus.).
Elogia vivorum bellica virtute illustrium, 1551, 338-9.
Apollo, London, Jun 1984, 125 (illus.).
Bronzino's Portraits of Cosimo I de' Medici, United States of America, 1982, 86, 87 (Vol. I), 97-134 (Vol. II), A19a-A19f (illus.). cat. no. A19
L'opera storica di Paolo Giovio comasco vescovo di Nocera: il museo dei ruratti, 1928, 143. cat no. 143
Mémoirs de L'Académie des Inscriptions Belles-Lettres, 1900-1901, 273, 331.
The Columbus Gallery, 1893, 15.
Como e il Lario commentario, 1795, 33.
Idem, 1575, 390-1. With an engraved illustration probably after a drawing by Tobias Stimmer
The Australian, 'Duke fetches a record $2.8m', pg. 4, Sydney, 08 Feb 1996, 4 (illus.).
Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and the Renaissance in Florence, 2005, 328 (illus.). fig.121.1, illustrated in reference to cat.no.121, Francesco Salviati 'Portrait of Duke Cosimo I de' Medici' c.1545-46, Koelliker Collection, Milan
Look, 'Welcome back', Sydney, Mar 2018-Apr 2018, p 12, col illus p 12.
Look, 'Members events', Sydney, Dec 2015-Jan 2016, col illus p 52.
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation: Celebrating 30 years of art acquisitions, Sydney, 2015, p 19, col illus p 19.
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Annual Report 1997, Sydney, 1997, 22 (colour illus.).
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Annual Report 1996, Sydney, 1996, cover (colour illus.).
The Australian financial review, '$2.8m for Old Master', pg. 4, Sydney, 08 Feb 1996, 47.
Daily Telegraph, '$3m art cou, p -, Sydney, 08 Feb 1996, 9 (illus.), 10.