Salviati or Bronzino?

Francesco Salviati (maybe), Portrait of a Man, about 1544-1548. J. Paul Getty Museum
The Metropolitan Museum's "The Medici: Portraits & Politics, 1512-1570" attributes the above painting, lent by the Getty Museum, to Bronzino. That would be a surprising upgrade. Ever since the Getty bought the painting in 1986, it has been assigned to the intriguing but less famous Francesco Salviati. 

Carlo Falciani, co-organizer of the exhibition with retired Met curator Keith Christiansen, wrote the Met's catalog entry on the Getty painting, arguing for Bronzino. It appears that Christiansen doesn't agree. The controversy is over a century old. Falciani is one of a persistent minority of A-list scholars who have supported the Bronzino attribution. 

Agnolo Bronzino (definitely), Lodovico Capponi, 1550-1555. The Frick Collection, New York
An obvious comparative is Bronzino's portrait of Lodovico Capponi in the Frick collection. It's in the Met show too. 

In 2019 Getty painting curator Davide Gasparotto posted the Getty Portrait of a Man on Instagram and asked followers to vote, Salviati or Bronzino? The vast majority said Salviati. Among them was Christiansen: "I remember when it came on the market and was taken to the Frick for comparison. I believe that’s when the Salviati attribution was proposed as the best solution. But since then we’ve had a Salviati exhibition from which we learned just how varied he is—and how problematic the portraits are. In the end: Salviati in an emulation of Bronzino, but with his special sense of conveying character."

One dissenter in the survey was John Marciari of the Morgan Library & Museum: "Still think you’re all mistaken and it’s Bronzino. What’s the good Salviati comparison?"

Francesco Salviati, Carlo Rimbotti, 1548. Metropolitan Museum of Art
The current Met show (through Oct. 11) offers another chance to compare. In the standard understanding, Bronzino's faces and surfaces show icy perfection. Salviati is more informal, painterly, and real, drawing on the naturalism of Northern Italian portraitists. Witness a small Salviati portrait the Met bought in 2017. The sitter, Carlo Rimbotti, was a medical doctor with literary interests. 
Francesco Salviati, Portrait of a Florentine Nobleman, 1546-1548. Saint Louis Art Museum

Other Salviatis hail from a different visual universe. A Salviati portrait lent by the Saint Louis Art Museum has the green curtain and fancy black outfit but is almost cartoonish. The St. Louis painting has been likened to the cornpone mannerism of Thomas Hart Benton(!)

Art historians would like to think that time and international loan shows reveal truth. But the controversy is also a reminder of how much we don't and may never know. 


Anonymous said…
Excellent post. You are second to none.

Hands are usually a good way to tell the difference between artists and the two sets of Salviati hands are clearly painterly and different then the Frick Bronzino. Brozino’s hands are smooth and shiny and manage to show detail despite their otherworldliness. The Salvati is painterly, like Tintoretto. Even the more mannerist St. Luis painting the flesh looks more like a Tintoretto than a Bronzino. The hands in the Getty are much much closer to the Bronzino. The only problem with the Getty is the shininess, the metal like finish. Could that have been lost when cleaning an old varnish? The Getty work looks clearly cleaned, especially compare to the Frick work. The only layer missing to be a Bronzino is the finish. But it’s odd, whenever I visited the Getty this painting stands up to the Pontormo.
For me, the runaway sleeper of the Met's Medici show was Francesco Salviati. He imbues both gravity and humanity in his works. Splendid art!
Florentine portraiture in the 1530's could simply be called "artifice," and that would be the end of it.
But psychological depth and emotion arise with the proto-Baroque, most notably with the works of G.B. Moroni. And it only gets better from there.
See, for example, Simon Vouet's self-portrait of c. 1626–1627 in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon. That's the money shot for me.
I bought the Met catalog not for the Bronzinos, but rather for the plentiful tracts on Salviati, who has been virtually absent in the English-language art-historical literature until now.
Anonymous said…
Based on the examples above, I'd say that's a Bronzino, not a Salviati.

Regardless, than goodness LACMA doesn't own it. It would be stowed away for years and submerged next to something garden-variety Hollywood-hipsterish and contemporary. But the selfies on Instagram of a lot of concrete and freeway-type underpass should be cool in a few years.
Don't get me started on LACMA. After my last visit, in 2018, I wrote the following to Director Michael Govan:

Your paintings collection exceeded all of my expectations. The quality of all the paintings, and the sheer number of master artists whose works cannot be found at my local Metropolitan Museum, all awed me.

Still, I am so angry I could spit.

Why in God's name does LACMA not have a museum guide of your masterpieces? I visited your store, as I had also done the stores of the Norton Simon, Getty and Broad museums, only to find not a single book that treats your curators' estimation of your own masterpieces. The poor store employee pointed to a Resnick book, but said there really isn't anything available like what I want. He continued that if I wanted to know more about the Ahmanson Collection, for example, or the Carter Collection, there were out-of-print books that I might find on-line.

Yes, indeed! Both world-class collections are treated in books that are three decades old!

I have to ask myself, in a city like Los Angeles that is awash in a sea of money, what possible reason could there be why YOU can't knock on doors and ask for financial aid to actually publish current curatorial information about your paintings?
Anonymous said…
^^^What masterworks can't be found at the Met?

The painting collection at LACMA (early to late Modern) is not on par with that of the Met.

I can think of only one painting in LACMA's collection that would displace any work at the Met and the Met already has its own version of that painting.
"Par" has nothing to do with what I said about the Met's gaps.
It's fun to see other fine collections to enjoy artists not represented at home:
Tanzio da Varallo, LACMA acc. no. M81.247
Hendrick Avercamp, M.2009.106.23
Antoine Le Nain, M58.25
Carel Fabritius, M 90.20
Alonso Cano, M.48.5.1
Jan Porcellis, M.2009.106.10
Yes, the Met has its lovely Hubert Roberts. But the statospheric best of his works that I've seen to date is LACMA's monumental: AC1995.170.1:
Yes, the Met has some works by Gerhard Richter, but none remotely as stunning as M.2017.1.2:
And yes, the Met is blessed with Arold Bocklin's "Island of the Dead." But nothing prepared me for LACMA's tour de force Bocklin: M.2004.195a-c.

I'm sure I missed some, but props to LACMA nonetheless.
FWIW, there are new (2019), expanded catalogs of the Ahmanson and Carter collections, online and free.

European artists that LACMA has but not the Met include Hendrick Goltzius and Rosso Fiorentino. I would have added Clara Peeters but the Met just bought one (not nearly as good as the Carter painting at LACMA, though).
Great thanks for the news about new [to me] on-line resources on LACMA's collection.
The Met bought its first Simon Vouet 10 minutes ago, but it is a shadow of the supernova Vouet at LACMA: a portrait of his wife as the Magdalen.
The finest Goltzius in America, in my opinion, is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Anonymous said…
> Your paintings collection exceeded all of my expectations.
> The quality of all the paintings, and the sheer number of
> master artists whose works cannot be found at my local
> Metropolitan Museum, all awed me.

Interesting take and one that I judge as a bit more serious since I don't assume your POV is mainly "rah, rah, home team" instead of being closer to objective reality.

Regardless, what Govan has done to LACMA borders on cultural malpractice. He has created an operational, technical, philosophical and financial mess aided and abetted by an arrogant elite throughout the community and city/county governments.

In re Anonymous, above:
You say: "Interesting take and one that I judge as [...] being closer to objective reality."
I don't trade in alternative facts. LACMA'S Baroque paintings collection is rich, rich, rich, the envy of any museum in this country.
I possess no knowledge about the malmachinations of museum men, in this case, Mr. Goven. But LACMA is worth saving, eight days a week and twice on Sunday.
Anonymous said…
^ Your post makes me think of an online review I read of the museum around 5 years ago from a person based in Minneapolis. She said something about how underwhelmed she was by it and was accustomed to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Out of curiosity, I checked that museum's website.

The MIA is a beaux-arts-style building from the early 1900s. So the setting looks "old-world grandeur" compared with LACMA's 1960's Periera-tract-style format. But the collection of the MIA appears to be so-so or run-of-the-mill. Meaning that reviewer apparently was inspired to judge a book based on its cover. So since she was impressed by Beaux Arts compared with 1960's-tract, she judged the artwork accordingly.

Now Govan is making a mess out of everything, from packaging to contents.

Incidentally, that a rather small urban area like Minneapolis at least had a formal public art museum decades before LA did means that the stewards of LACMA are returning the city to its former half-crocked roots.

Thanks, Govan and company.
I cannot hold with the view that the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) is "so-so." Years ago, a columnist with The Guardian UK put forth an interesting notion about arts in England vs the U.S. He said in England the overwhelming majority of the country's cultural heritage is housed in the nation's capital, whereas in the U.S., city after city had long ago built substantive cultural warehouses, and populated them with important art. The U.S. is lousy with superb "provincial" museums, particularly in the northern tier, from the Mississippi River east to the Atlantic Ocean. MIA belongs to this cultural richness. Indeed, some of these warehouses may not be vast, but nearly all of them (Philadelphia; Buffalo; Detroit; Milwaukee; Toledo; Cleveland; et al.) hold masterpieces that New York or Washington, or Los Angeles would covet. Example: Gerrit van Honthorst is one of the most important Dutch exponents of Caravaggio's style. His unquestionably most important painting in the United States, "The Denial of St. Peter," resides at the MIA. [Indeed, I would venture that the Met would give the eye teeth of its Emeritus Chair Keith Christiansen to possess it.] As another aside, LACMA holds a very good van Honthorst: "The Mocking of Christ" (acc. no. AC1999.92.1). Yet another aside, the Getty owns _two_ fabulous van Honthorsts: "Christ Crowned with Thorns" ( 90.PA.26; and the stellar ceiling painting, "Musical Group on a Balcony" (acc. no. 70.PB.34). I've never been to Minneapolis, and only saw its van Honthorst when it was lent to the Uffizi in 2015 for an enormous show there of van Honthorst's oeuvre. LACMA contributed to that show. If I lived anywhere near MIA, I would go every other week just to see that one painting. [I might even sneak peeks at MIA's El Greco; van Dyck; Rubens; Poussin; Rembrandt; Claude; van Goyen; Metsu; Boucher; Chardin; Goya; Delacroix; Corot; Courbet; Tissot; Caillebotte; Cezanne; Seurat; Gaugin; van Gogh; Monet; Manet; Toulouse-Lautrec; Vuillard; Bonnard; Matisse; Derain; Kandinsky; Kirchner; de Chirico; Modigliani; Soutine; Schiele; Leger; Mondrian; Picasso; Klee; Tanguy; Beckmann; Bacon; Guston; Magritte; Stella; Twombly. ...Just to name a few.]
Anonymous said…
^ Detailed, interesting comments. You're obviously quite attuned to the contents of a cultural institution, not just its facade or so-called packaging.

By contrast, the average member of the public is more likely to be just the opposite of that.

I bet the person who critiqued LACMA in an online forum around 5-8 years ago and was underwhelmed with the museum compared with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts was largely affected by the 1960's nature of LACMA as opposed to the early 1900's style of DIA.

That obsession with the packaging versus the contents (and the budget, logistics, scholarship, etc) has led to the Govan-Zumthor mess of today.

If the Pereira-era design of the museum (with add-ons in the 1980s, such as the modestly budgeted Ahmanson extension) hadn't reflected the limited monies of LACMA since the beginning, then what Govan is doing in 2021 wouldn't be so pathetic, if not even rather deranged or deluded too.
To me, the style/grace/preciousness of the facility is incidental. If the art is good [and the bathrooms are clean], I would jump a wide river gorge on a motorcycle, into the mouth of a darkened cave, to see it.
That's what's so desperately tragic about the Gardner Museum, as seen on my recent visit: they're so possessed by the dictates of the ghost of its long-dead founder for an unchanging atmosphere of a 1900-era home, they forgot about modern museology. As I said earlier, some trustees and curators have no business caring for a fine collection.
Anonymous said…
I saw the very thorough Netflix documentary earlier this year on that museum's major loss of artworks from a heist a few decades ago.

In regards to trustees and curators - and the people around them - I'm wary of how increasingly politicized, irresponsible and unethical they're becoming.

LACMA is one case study of that.
Perhaps not the right venue, but I have a wedding to attend next October in Palm Springs, and I planned to extend the stay to roam LA's museums. But I'm entirely unfamiliar with the environment.
Will LACMA's core paintings collection be viewable then?
Anonymous said…
The museum is pretty much non-existent right now.

However, there is some modern/contemporary in one building (the Broad wing) and rotating exhibits in another (the Resnick wing). There's some Japanese art in a third building (the Price pavilion). But you'll get a better sense of how pressed the museum has been through the decades for enough funds by dropping by its central open-patio area for tickets and dining. That was designed by Renzo Piano and is based on a limited budget. It's reminiscent of something from a grade school of the 1950s-1960s.

While you're there, give a shout out to Michael Govan. Even better, drop a few coins into his pocket.
Anonymous said…
Ted, I recommend a stop over at the Norton Simon in Pasadena. It’s easily the least well know best small museum in America and based on what you’ve said, there’s so much you’ll appreciate. It’s got the best Zurbaran in America, a very nice Rafael, and impressive groupings of works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Rubens, Zurbaran, Degas, Monet, Courbet, and Rembrandt. They have a top notch drawing collection, if lucky enough to see it on display and a nice sculpture collection heavy on Rodin. There many unexpected gems, a trio of Sam Francis is often on display, a very fine Murillo, Cranach diptych. I don’t know if you mean next year October or this October. At any rate if Baroque is your thing, they have an incredible Guido Cagnaci, good Guercinos, gorgeous guido Reni.
Anonymous said…
@Ted Gallagher...

I assumed by "masterworks" you were referring to works like the Death of Socrates and artists like David.

Most of the artists you mentioned are secondary in importance. There may be better examples of their works at LACMA because they have been less expensive to acquire or they are the sort of works that are donated by lesser collectors. Acquisition funds or access to primary works through collectors has not been a historic problem for the Met.

Also, until recently, the Met has not been very keen on collecting contemporary art (e.g., Richter). With so many Richter's in Manhattan, I doubt they will have a problem matching what LACMA has. Heck, there is probably a better Richter in Marian Goodman's storeroom. I saw one the last time I was there. (I collect works by another of her artists.)
Anonymous said…
^^^It is somewhat absurd to be comparing two collections on the basis of secondary artists, when the two collections are not comparable at all on the basis of primary ones.

It may also be the case that the Met’s focus is not on having a great collection of secondary artists in any given period when it already has the period covered with primary artists and there are more pressing needs in other areas. In size and scope, the two collections are hardly comparable.

I think some people here have no idea how small LACMA’s collection is. In terms of number of objects, the Yale University Art Gallery has a larger and more important collection.
Anonymous said…
^^^Good point. It’s not the Met’s focus. With secondary artists, the Met is often trying to establish context for the primary artists. Hence, aesthetics alone is not necessarily the primary consideration in acquiring or showing a secondary artist.

For example, take a look at the Salviati painting the Met often shows in close proximity to the Bronzino (Portrait of a Young Man). The Salviati painting (Portrait of Carlo Rimbotti) is hardly a stunning painting; nevertheless, it serves a pedagogical purpose.

You can emphasize context over aesthetics in secondary works when you have a collection of primary artists that does almost all of the aesthetic heavy-lifting.

On the relationship between primary and secondary works in the Met display, here is the chairman of the Met’s Department of European Painting:
Evidently, I reckon the canon of European painting masters quite differently than the writers, above. Clearly, my notion is much more catholic.
The reference to the likes of painters Tanzio da Varallo, Gerrit van Honthorst, and Simon Vouet as "secondary" is a completely unwarranted characterization.
Is the test whether the artists' names are well-known? To whom? Or that there are wall calendars or kitchen magnets with their works pasted on them?
The familiarity of relatively obscure artists does not diminish their glorious works, or relegate them to "secondary" status compared with their more famous peers.