About This Artwork

Jacopo da Pontormo (Jacopo Carrucci)
Italian, 1494-1557

Alessandro de' Medici, 1534/35

Oil on panel
35.3 x 25.8 cm; (13 7/8 x 10 1/8 in.)
Painted surface: 31.4 x 25.8 cm (12 3/8 x 10 1/8 in.)

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1002

Although he was trained in the tradition of his Florentine master, Andrea del Sarto (1486–1530), Pontormo created more expressive and experimental works than the older artist. His portraits are noted for their penetrating insight into character. The subject of this painting, the emotionally unstable Alessandro de’ Medici, was probably an illegitimate son of Pope Clement VII by a Moorish slave. Alessandro was named the first Duke of Florence in 1532, after the defeat of the city’s republican government by an alliance of the pope and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Alessandro’s tyrannical reign ended in 1537, when he was assassinated by his cousin. This appears to be a preliminary painting of the duke that Pontormo consulted in the creation of a larger format state portrait now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Toronto, Art Gallery of Toronto, Italian Old Masters and German Primitives, 1931, no. 26, as Bronzino.

Muskegon, Michigan, Hackley Art Gallery, Italian Paintings in the Loan Collection from Mr. Martin A. Ryerson, M. Knoedler and Company, E. and A. Silberman, 1932, no. 6, as Bronzino.

Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum, The Detective’s Eve: Investigating the Old Masters, 1989, no. 33.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Bill Viola: A 25-Year Survey, October 16, 1999 – January 9, 2000, included in the gallery that held Viola’s The Greeting for the Chicago venue.

Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, L’Ombra del genio: Michelangelo e l’arte a Firenze, 1537-1631, 2002; traveled to Art Institute of Chicago and Detroit Institute of Arts as The Medici, Michelangelo, and the Art of Late Renaissance Florence, no. 34.

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pontormo, Bronzino and the Medici: The Transformation of the Renaissance Portrait in Florence, 2004, no. 25.

Frankfurt, Städel Museum, Maniera: Pontormo, Bronzino and Medici Florence, 2016, no. 65.

Publication History

Gustav Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, vol. 2, London, 1854, p. 232.

G. Frizzoni, La Gallerie Morelli in Bergamo, Bergamo, 1892, p. 19.

A. McComb, Agnolo Bronzino: His Life and Works, Cambridge, Mass., 1928, pp, 44, 137.

William R. Valentiner, Paintings in the Collection of Martin A. Ryerson, unpub. MS [1932], Archives, Art Institute of Chicago, n. pg.

Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Oxford, 1932, p. 114.

Bernard Berenson, Pitture italiane de Rinascimento, Milan, 1936, p. 98.

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago. A Catalogue of the Picture Collection, Chicago, 1961, p. 226.

Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central and North Italian Schools, vol. 1, London, 1968, p. 41.

Karla Langedijk, The Portraits of the Medici, 15th to 18th Centuries, vol. 1, Florence, 1981, pp. 84, 86.

Ellis Waterhouse, “Earlier Paintings in the Earlier Years of the Art Institute: The Role of the Private Collector,” Museum Studies 10 (1983), pp. 84-5.

Christopher Lloyd, Italian Paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago. A Catalogue of the Collection, Chicago, 1993, pp. 197-202, ill.

Philippe Costamagna, Pontormo, Milan, 1994, pp. 87, 221-3, no. 71, ill. p. 82.

Anna Forlani Tempesti, Alessandra Giovannetti, Pontormo, Florence, 1994, p. 137-8, no. 43, ill.

John E. Gedo, The Artist and Emotional World: Creativity and Personality, New York, 1996, p. 189, fig. 13.11.

Janet Cox-Rearick, review of Costamagna, Pontormo in Burlington Magazine 139 (1997), p. 128.

Elizabeth Pilliod, Pontormo, Bronzino, Allori: A Genealogy of Florentine Art, New Haven and London, 2001, p. 11, fig. 7.

Janet Cox-Rearick, review of Philadelphia 2004 in Burlington Magazine 147 (2005), pp. 211-12.

Larry J. Feinberg, "A Brief History of the Old Masters in the Art Institute of Chicago," Museum Studies 32, 2 (2006), p. 8, fig. 3.

Joaneath Spicer, "Free Men and Women of African Ancestry in Renaissance Europe" in Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe, exh. cat. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, 2012, p. 96 n. 64.

Ownership History

Probably Cosimo I de’ Medici (d. 1574), Florence [it is almost certainly identical with the study described in Le vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori scritte da Giorgio Vasari, ed. Gaetano Milanesi, vol. 6, Florence, 1881, p. 278]; William Ward (d. 1885), 1st Earl Dudley, London, by 1854 [described by Waagen 1854, as by Pontormo]; his son William Humble Ward, sold Christie’s, London, June 25, 1892, no. 46, as Giovanni Bellini for £180, to Durand-Ruel, Paris and New York, acting on behalf of Martin A. Ryerson [annotated catalogue , Ryerson Library, and letter from Durand-Ruel to Ryerson, June 25, 1892 in AIC Archives]; Martin A. Ryerson (d. 1932), Chicago, from 1892; on loan to the Art Institute from 1930; bequeathed to the Art Institute, 1933.

View mobile website