The iconography of Bronzino’s sexually explicit Portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici as Orpheus has long challenged scholars, especially since scientific analysis revealed below the portrait’s surface a fully conceived underpainting depicting a different moment from the story of Orpheus. First, I suggest that this change was associated with Cosimo’s military victory at the battle of Montemurlo, where the duke’s army finally extirpated his political opposition. Second, I contend that Cosimo’s nudity should be interpreted within the milieu of the Accademia Fiorentina, where the painting’s eroticism suggested to court literati that the duke had achieved the highest state of Platonic spirituality, known as “erotic furor.” Finally, I argue that although Bronzino’s Cosimo as Orpheus seemingly aggrandizes the duke, it is a polysemous image that former Republican, anti-ducal literati could likewise interpret as a scathing critique of the young ruler and an embodiment of the hope that political demise was close at hand.
"The Implicating Gaze in Bronzino’s Cosimo I de’ Medici as Orpheus and the Intellectual Culture of the Accademia Fiorentina,"
Studies in Iconography: Vol. 42, Article 7.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/studies_in_iconography/vol42/iss1/7