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

View of the Chapel of Eleonora da Toledo

Fresco and tempera, size of the chapel 4,9 x 3,8 m
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

This view shows the altarpiece and the frescoes in the Chapel of Eleonora da Toledo in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.

In 1540, soon after marrying Eleonora of Toledo, Cosimo de' Medici moved from the Palazzo Medici into the Palazzo della Signoria, publicly proclaiming his dominance over all civic institutions. Cosimo remodeled the building to accommodate his expanding family and commissioned elaborate decorative programs of the histories of his ancestors, of his own military conquests, and of dynastic portraiture to fill its vast spaces. On the upper floor Cosimo constructed a small cubical chapel for Eleanor's private devotions, completely decorated by Bronzino with imagery that ostensibly referred to Christian redemption but which barely veiled his dynastic and political intentions. The wall frescoes all depict scenes from the life of Moses: the left-wall frescoes include the Miracle of the Spring (Moses Striking the Rock) and the Gathering of Manna, the right wall is covered by the fresco Crossing of the Red Sea, an uncommon subject in Christian chapels.

The altarpiece currently in the chapel, depicting the Lamentation, is a replica Bronzino made in 1553 of his 1545 original (which was sent to France as a diplomatic gift and is now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Besançon). Bronzino also removed the original flanking panels of St John the Baptist and St Cosmas and replaced them with side panels depicting the Annunciation. The frescoes of the vault represents Sts Michael, John the Evangelist, Jerome and Francis.

For the decoration of the chapel Bronzino applied an unusual technique: the underpainting was true fresco and the finished layer in tempera. The combination of complex figural compositions, rich colours, and elaborate decorative motifs within the chapel's small space create a bejewelled effect typical of Mannerism as practiced at the court of Cosimo and Eleonora. The style employed by Bronzino in the chapel frescoes resembles the cool, calculated manner which can be seen in his portraits.