Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 11

New light on Cecco Bravo, a Medici painter
of mythology and landscape
Modern scholarship on Francesco Montelatici (1601-1661),
known as Cecco Bravo on account of his mastery of
the brush, is extensive. Through the insightful and
pioneering studies of Gerhard Ewald in the 1960s1 and
the research of several scholars who followed suit, the
artist has become recognized as one of the most original
and eccentric talents of the seventeenth century.
Key publications that have enabled us to recognize the
full range of his abilities include the 1962 monograph
by Anna Maria Rosa Masetti (albeit now somewhat
outdated)2 and the catalogues of two exhibitions in
Florence dedicated to the artist: the first in 1970, at
the Palazzo Strozzi, included some fifty drawings from
the Biblioteca Marucelliana and the Gabinetto dei
Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi;3 the second at the Casa
Buonarroti in 1999, assembled nearly sixty drawings
and paintings from private collections and museums
worldwide.4 In addition, the artist was well represented
by a comprehensive selection of his work in the major
survey of the Florentine Seicento at the Palazzo
Strozzi in 1986-1987, an exhibition which brought him
recognition among an international audience.5
Fig. 1 / Cecco Bravo, The
Wedding of the Gods,
copper ovate, 38 x 56 cm,
Private Collection.
Cecco Bravo worked mostly in Tuscany, where his
legacy includes a large number of frescoes (in which
he demonstrated a typically Florentine mastery of
the technique), several altarpieces, a small quantity of
paintings in the collections of the local nobility (e.g.,
the Counts of Bardi), and numerous other works in
the houses of wealthy Florentines. The artist ended his
career in December 1661 in Innsbruck at the court of
Ferdinand Charles of Habsburg and Anna de’ Medici,
the Archdukes of Tyrol, having moved there in the
summer of the previous year, when Leopold de’ Medici
(1617-1675) recommended him to his sister Anna as a
replacement for Justus Sustermans.
Cecco Bravo’s early works are characterized by an
experimental approach. Based at different times on
Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo, and Rosso Fiorentino,
they also recall the teaching of his master Giovanni
Bilivert and the drawings of Jacques Callot, all
interpreted in the artist’s own eccentric idiom. In 1638
he was summoned by the Grand Duke Ferdinando
II de’ Medici to fresco the two large lunettes in the
present day “Salone dei Argenti” in Palazzo Pitti. The
resultant works – Lorenzo Receiving Apollo and the Muses
and Lorenzo the Magnificent the Bearer of Peace – reveal
a style that was by then already well formed and
distinctive, with the more expressionistic mood of his
early output replaced by a new elegance echoing the
stylistic refinement of Francesco Furini.
Only a small percentage of the easel paintings by
Cecco Bravo mentioned in the archival sources are
now traceable. The inventory of goods in the artist’s
house on via de’ Pilastri in Florence, drawn up in the
spring of 1660 before his departure for Innsbruck, lists
some 163 paintings by him, with subjects specified and
dimensions often included. Of these only twenty or so
have been identified.6
The rediscovery of an important easel painting by
Cecco Bravo is therefore of particular consequence
for the scholarship on the artist. Previously considered


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