BRONZINO, Agnolo
(b. 1503, Firenze, d. 1572, Firenze)

Portrait of the Dwarf Morgante (front)

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Oil on canvas
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence

Braccio di Bartolo, also called Morgante was the most famous of the five buffoons who lived at the court of Cosimo I de' Medici. He spent most of his life in the Palazzo Pitti. He was a very popular character during Cosimo I's rule; he was famous and well-liked because of his sharp, witty tongue. Bronzino painted full-length nude portrait of him, with the front on one side, and the back on the other side of the same canvas. The canvas portrays the dwarf as a "fowler", or bird-catcher, as he was not allowed to hunt larger animals, this being an activity reserved for characters of higher ranks.

The character is portrayed respectively from the front and back at two subequent moments of the action: at the front we see him before the hunt, holding an owl in a snare to be used as a bait to capture a jay that is flying in the air. Two scarce swallowtail butterflies cover his genitals. From behind, we see him just about to turn towards the viewer, eager to proudly show off his prey.

During the 19th century, Bronzino's painting was heavily restored, which turned the dwarf into the god Bacchus. The original appearance of the canvas was restored in 2010.