Friday, July 1, 2011


Title: St Mark
Artist: Angnolo Bronzion
Medium: Oil on wood
Size: tbd
Date: c. 1525
Location: Cappella Capponi, Santa Felicità, Florence.


Saint Mark the Evangelist is the traditional name of the author of the Gospel of Mark. Tradition identifies him with the John Mark mentioned as a companion of Saint Paul in the Acts of the Apostles. John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas, who was Mark’s cousin, on Paul's first missionary journey. After a sharp dispute, Barnabas separated from Paul, taking Mark with him to Cyprus. In AD 43, about 10 years after the ascension of Christ, Saint Mark traveled to Alexandria and founded the Church of Alexandria, which today is claimed by the Coptic Orthodox Church. Aspects of the Coptic liturgy can be traced back to Saint Mark himself. He became the first bishop of Alexandria and he is honored as the founder of Christianity in Africa. Some are said to have resented his efforts to turn them away from the worship of their traditional Egyptian gods, and in AD 68 they placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he was dead.

Four tondos with the Evangelists still adorn the pendentives that once supported the old cupola of the Cappella Capponi in the church of Santa Felicità in Florence. Except for the painting of St John, the precise authorship of the other three portraits has posed considerable problems for scholars. As Vasari only attributes two of the tondi to Bronzino, without specifying which, scholars are still divided over which and how many of them were painted by Bronzino. Probably Bronzino's is St Mark with its palette of yellow and red tones contrasting with the green of the mantle wrapped around the figure, which looks as if it is peering through a window, an idea drawn from the Gospel. The figures of the Evangelists, with their distinctly Michelangiolesque flavor, have a vigor deriving from the way their heads are twisted and pushed forward. They are wrapped in ample robes, whose bold colors stand out against the dark backgrounds. This play of strong contrasts, which exalts the delicate outlines of the colored surfaces, is in keeping with the refined style of the entire decoration of the chapel.

Agnolo di Cosimo (November 1503 – November 1572), usually known as Il Bronzino, or Agnolo Bronzino, was an Italian Mannerist painter from Florence. His sobriquet, Bronzino, in all probability refers to his auburn hair, or possibly derived from his having a dark complexion. The son of a butcher, according to his contemporary Vasari, Bronzino was a pupil first of Raffaellino del Garbo, and then of Pontormo, to whom he was apprenticed at 14. Pontormo exercised a dominant influence on Bronzino's developing style, and the two were to remain collaborators for most of the former's life. Towards the end of his life, Bronzino took a prominent part in the activities of the Florentine Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, of which he was a founding member in 1563.The painter Alessandro Allori was his favourite pupil, and Bronzino was living in the Allori family house at the time of his death in Florence in 1572 (Alessandro was also the father of Cristofano Allori). Bronzino spent the majority of his career in Florence.

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