Stuart Lingo: Beauty, Danger, and the Power of Painting in Agnolo Bronzino's "Christ in Limbo"

Abendvortrag / Conferenza serale

Agnolo Bronzino's 'Christ in Limbo', a monumental altarpiece for the prominent Florentine church of Santa Croce, generated intense discussion from the moment of its unveiling in 1552. Early epistolary reports indicate that Bronzino's tour de force was seen to have bested an important altarpiece by Francesco Salviati for the adjacent chapel, and to threaten the standing of recent painting by Giorgio Vasari. The painting's dense composition of artful, frequently nude or partially nude figures seems to have been critical to its artistic success. However, these bodies made the altarpiece an immediate site of contention as well. The earliest surviving attack, a barbed verse by the sharp-tongued poet Alfonso de' Pazzi written shortly after the painting was installed, went so far as to claim that Bronzino "sbagliò dal Paradiso al chiasso," or - in the inimitable language of Florentine burlesque poetry - "mistook a brothel for Paradise." Indeed, Bronzino included in his altarpiece a number of prominent female nudes, painted in a lyrical style that represented a notable departure from the Michelangelesque models with which he has been generally associated. In Raffaele Borghini's 1584 dialogue 'Il Riposo', one of the interlocutors admits that whenever he sees Bronzino's great painting he can only "delight in the delicate members of those lovely ladies," thus highlighting the challenge such figures posed for traditional devotional responses to religious painting. There are many discourses inherent in the 'Christ in Limbo', ranging from fierce artistic competition to cultural politics in the Accademia Fiorentina and the Medici court to the assertion of a particular kind of 'Fiorentinità', deeply engaged with a range of poetic and pictorial modes. I will call particular attention, however, to the daring discourse of feminine beauty that is among the painting's principal leitmotifs, and forms a critical part of Bronzino's self-representation in it as one of the city's greatest artists.

Stuart Lingo is currently holding a position as Associate Professor for Italian Renaissance Art at the University of Washington and a Samuel H. Kress Senior Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

In 2009 he initiated researching for his current Project "Bronzino's Bodies. Fortunes of the Ideal Nude in an Age of Reform" as a Royalty Research Grant Fellow at the University of Washington. In 2010 he was invited to the academic advisory board for the Barocci exhibition at the Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Venezia, Rome.

Stuart Lingo received his B.A. from Williams College in 1984 and his M.A. from the Courtauld Institute of Fine Arts, University of London in 1986. He completed his PhD at Harvard University in 1998. His dissertation entitled "The Capuchins and the Art of History. Retrospection and the Reform of the Arts in Late Renaissance Italy" was supervised by Prof. John Shearman of Harvard University and Prof. John O'Malley, S.J., of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

Amongst his various academic honors, fellowships and grants from different universities in the U.S. some were accompanied by several stays in Italy like the Samuel H. Kress Senior fellowship at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome from 1993 through 1995 as well as numerous stays at the Villa I Tatti - The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence.

He started his teaching as a Visiting Lecturer at Duke University, Department of Art History in 1997-1998, from 1998 through 2006 he was holding a position as Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, Department of Art and Art History, Italian Renaissance Art and in 2006 he served as Associate Professor at the same department, from 2006 through 2009 he was Assistant Professor for Italian Renaissance Art, University of Washington, Division of Art History, School of Art.

Publications (selection):

Federico Barocci. Allure and Devotion in Late Renaissance Painting. New Haven and London 2008; "M"Raffaello Borghini and the corpus of Florentine Art in an Age of Reform," in The Sensuous and the Church. Re-Encountering the Counter Reformation, ed. Marcia Hall and Tracy Cooper. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012 (in press); "Francesco Maria II della Rovere and Federico Barocci: Some Notes on Distinctive Strategies in Patronage and the Position of the Artist at Court," in The Della Rovere: The Creation and Maintenance of a Noble Identity, ed. Ian Verstegen. Kirksville 2007, pp. 179-199; "Retrospection and the Genesis of Federico Barocci's Immaculate Conception," in Only Connect. Studies in Honor of John Shearman, ed. Lars Jones and Louisa Matthew. Cambridge, Mass. 2002, pp. 215-222; The Capuchins and the art of history. Retrospection and reform in the arts in late Renaissance Italy, Cambridge Mass. 1998.

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