Bronzino's Bodies and Mannerism's Masks
Stuart Lingo is Donald E. Petersen Professor in the Division of Art History at the University of Washington. He received his PhD from Harvard University, and before coming to the University of Washington taught at Duke University and Michigan State University. He has published on Federico Barocci and post-Tridentine painting, painting and music in the sixteenth century, Agnolo Bronzino, Mannerism and masking, the question of the nude in late Renaissance art, and sixteenth-century artistic reflections on the body and the nature of invention in relation to the European encounter with the Americas. His work has been supported by I Tatti and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
During his residence at I Tatti, Lingo will complete Bronzino’s Bodies and Mannerism’s Masks. Mannerism has proven susceptible to such radically varied, even opposed readings – from art of alienation to ornament of court culture – that some scholars advocate abandoning the concept altogether. Yet refusing to confront Mannerism’s masks forecloses a full reckoning with much of the most innovative sixteenth-century art. It is precisely a self-conscious elusiveness in this art, at once soliciting and resisting interpretive gambits, that inaugurates the hermeneutic aporia we still confront. The mask and the nude are Mannerism’s pre-eminent emblems, apparent antipodes yet intimately imbricated. The mask appears to conceal, but Mannerist masks achieve uncanny animation. The nude appears to reveal, yet Mannerist bodies became a center of insider discourses on the “mysteries of art.” The poetics of style that emerges from these discourses opens a gap between artistic processes and institutional imperatives, a space in which art’s ostensible religious or political functions might be exceeded and even destabilized. Emerging from this exploration of the stakes of artistic excess, a new book, Painting’s Dreams at the End of the World: America, Ancient Grotesques, and Artistic Invention at 1500, will recover a lost history in which fascination with Roman grotesques and the artistic imagination intersected with Europe’s encounter with the Americas to inspire a culture in search of renewal.