Alessandro Allori, a leading figure of Mannerism in Florence

Today marks the birth of an artist who reinterpreted the ‘manner’ by combining formal elegance, character introspection, and great artistic personality. 

Florence, May 31, 1535, Alessandro Allori was born.
He was a leading figure in the late Mannerist artistic scene in Florence. He was trained under the guidance of Bronzino – the undisputed master of the movement – who introduced him to the Mannerist aesthetic canons: slender figures, sharp faces, delicate color schemes, and rarefied atmospheres.

However, Allori did not simply replicate his master’s style. His artistic personality emerged strongly, reinterpreting the dictates of Mannerism with a new and original sensitivity. His works, often with religious, mythological subjects, or classical portraiture, are characterized by a refined formal elegance combined with a deep psychological introspection of the characters. 

Alessandro Allori, Portrait of Grand Duchess Bianca Capello de Medici with Her Son, '500

An emblematic example is Susanna and the Elders, where the chastity of the protagonist is severely tested by the grotesque sensuality of the two old men. The narrative tension is palpable, and the atmosphere is charged with pathos. The skillful use of light creates effects of softness and depth, enhancing the ideal beauty of Susanna’s figure, while the deformed bodies of the old men are immersed in a shadow that emphasizes their moral repulsion. What emerges is an elegance of rhythms and a vivid chromaticism rooted in Bronzino’s style. From here, his imaginative reinterpretation of the ‘manner’ developed, stripped of any emphasis for a subtler, almost melodramatic lyricism.

Allori excelled in portraits, keenly capturing the psychological nuances of his subjects. Among his most famous portraits is that of Bianca Cappello – lover and later wife of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco I de’ Medici. Her eyes, charged with melancholy, tell a story of passion and power, love and ambition. The careful rendering of the details, from sumptuous clothing to precious jewels, reflects the high social status of the lady and closely echoes the style of Agnolo Bronzino. He blends realism and idealism with deep expressive incisiveness.

Alessandro Allori, Portrait of Isabella de' Medici Orsini, 1575 - 1599

A sonnet by Benedetto Varchi, a writer, humanist, and historian of the 16th century, offers an extraordinary praise dedicated to Allori, officially consecrating him as the heir to Bronzino’s workshop:

“Let us give thanks to the Lord for everything he gives us, for such is God’s will,
my dear, esteemed, and courteous Bronzino,
whom I have had, have, and will always honor.
And if your Alessandro, in his first bloom, has created such beautiful work, wherein I too will always live beyond common oblivion,
it has only been by God’s grace and favor.
We are nothing, Bronzino, and you, who are such a great Apelles and no lesser Apollo, nothing of yours is truly nothing,
and that you, my Bronzino, as you should, hold every good of yours and his from God,
is a belief certain, indeed the only certain one.”

Alessandro Allori, Pearl Fishermen, ca. 1570 - 1571

Opening image: Alessandro Allori, Susanna and The Elders, 1560

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