Alessandro Allori (Florence 1535 – 1607), Portrait of Tommaso De’ Bardi, half length, in a black doublet and hose with a statue of fame. Estimation 600,000 — 800,000 USD. Photo Sotheby’s.
signed lower left, below the hand: ALES. FLO. D (L ?); oil on panel; 41 1/4 by 32 3/4 in.; 105 by 83.1 cm.
PROVENANCE: With Galerie Neupert, Zurich, by 1936;
Private collection, Switzerland, by 1985.
LITTERATURE: R. Borghini, Il riposo di Rafaello Borghini, Florence 1585;
D. Bodart, The Zanchi Collection, Rome 1985, p. 345, cat. no. 475, reproduced p. 345 and p. 21;
P. Costamagna, « Portraits of Florentine Exiles », in A. Chong et al., Raphael, Cellini, & a Renaissance banker : the patronage of Bindo Altoviti, exhibition catalogue, Boston 2003, p. 343 (as a lost portrait by Allori, reproducing the presparatory drawing, p. 343, fig. 184);
A. Natali, The lady with a cameo : Ortensia de’ Bardi da Montauto, a portrait by Alessandro Allori, Florence 2006, p. 19 and 55 (as a lost portrait by Allori);
C. Bambach et. al, Drawings of Bronzino, exhibition catalogue, New York 2010, p. 59 (as a lost portrait by Allori and reproducing the preparatory drawing, p. 58, fig. 9;
C. Falciani and A. Natali, Bronzino, Artist and Poet at the Court of the Medici, Florence 2010, p. 332, under cat. no. VII.3, reproduced.
This powerful and imposing painting has been identified as the lost portrait of Florentine exile Tommaso de’ Bardi by Alessandro Allori, painted in Rome between 1558 – 1560, shortly before the sitter’s death. Until recently, the painting was considered lost and known to scholars only through a preparatory drawing, in the British Museum, London (fig. 1).
Agnolo Bronzino, Study of a Standing Man, a study in chalk, © The Trustees of the British Museum
For at least a decade, the drawing has been associated with a portrait in the Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence, depicting Ortensia Montauto de’ Bardi, Tommaso’s wife (fig. 2).
It was Carlo Falciani who discovered a small, black and white image of the present portrait among Berenson’s archives in the Fototeca at Villa I Tatti, Florence, listed as being with Neupert, Zurich in 1936 (see Provenance). The scholar recognized the work from the British Museum drawing as the lost portrait of Tommaso de’ Bardi, and published it as the companion to the Uffizi portrait of Ortensia in 2010 (see Literature). Ortensia’s portrait is slightly larger, measuring 123 by 97 cm., it is possible, therefore, that the size of the present panel was modified at a later date. A cleaning of the present painting prior to 1985, revealed a signature: Ales· Flo· (Alessandro of Florence) which is complimented in Ortensia’s portrait by the date and location of the sitting: IN ROMA MDLVIIII (In Rome 1559).1 While the Uffizi portrait and British Museum drawing had until relatively recently been given to Allori’s master, Agnolo Bronzino, the presence of the signature here further cements the attribution of all three works to Alessandro Allori.
While there is no evidence to suggest Bronzino was in Rome in 1559, the date inscribed on Ortensia’s portrait, we know from Raffaello Borghini, writing in 1585 (see Literature), that Allori was sent to the city by his master at the age of 19. Borghini further wrote that Allori painted a number of members of the Bardi family during his time there:
« At the age of 19 he moved to Rome, where he remained for two years studying the ancient statues and the works of Michelangelo and other great men, and in the same time painted several portraits such as that of Tommaso de’ Bardi, and of Lady Ortensia Montauto his wife, and these today are in Florence in the homes of the Bardi’s. »2
Allori was captivated by the works of Michelangelo and devotedly studied his sculptures while in Rome. Indeed, in both Ortensia’s portrait and the British Museum drawing, he incorporated allusions to Michelangelo’s sculptural works. Their inclusion, however, was likely at the behest of the sitters and not merely a display of the young Allori’s admiration for the older artist. Like the Bardis, Ortensia’s family, the Montauto, were an important banking family, living in both Florence and Rome. In 1554, the Montauto were embroiled in an unsuccessful uprising against the Florentine Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici and the family had since lived in exile in Rome. Prominently placed beside Tommaso here is a statuette of Fame; winged and naked to denote truth, she holds the palle of the Medici insignia in her left arm, and blows into a broken trumpet, signifying infamy and scandal.3 The motif is almost certainly an allusion to the fractured relations between Cosimo and the Bardi and Montauto families.
In the related Uffizi portrait, meanwhile, Ortensia is seated on a chair carved with reliefs referencing works by Michelangelo, and beside her is a miniature representation of Rachel, a sculpture of his design for the Tomb of Pope Julius II in Rome. While executing the much-celebrated tomb, Michelangelo’s finances were cared for by the Montauto bank, managed by Ortensia’s family.4 Knowing of Cosimo’s keen desire to have Michelangelo work for him in Florence once more, Ortensia’s portrait openly flaunts the couple’s close relationship with the illustrious sculptor.5 Moreover, in the drawing, the statuette ofFame was omitted and Tommaso instead leans beside one of Michelangelo’s famous Slaves from Julius II’s tomb. Why the accompanying objects in Tommaso’s portrait were changed between the preparatory drawing and its execution in painted form is not known. The Michelangelesque references served as a reminder of the Bardis’ political and social standing, as Philippe Costamagna writes,
“The portraits of this young couple would thus be emblematic of their role in the Florentine community in Rome and, in particular, as mediators between Michelangelo and Duke Cosimo de’ Medici.”6
1. Elizabeth Pilliod reads this inscription instead as AS AL ROMA MDLVIIII, E. Pilliod, Pontormo, Bronzino, and Allori : a genealogy of Florentine art, New Haven 2001, p. 269, note 148.
2. R. Borghini, under Literature, op. cit.
3. S. Giordani, under Literature, op. cit.
4. C. de Tolnay, The Tomb of Julius II, Princeton 1954, pp. 124 – 125.
2. P. Costamagna, under Literature, op. cit., p. 343.
5. P. Costamagna, under Literature, op. cit., p. 343.
6. Ibid., p. 344.
Sotheby’s. Master Paintings: Part I. New York | 29 janv. 2015, 10:00 AM