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An exemplary humanist hybrid: Vasari's "Fraude" with reference to Bronzino's "Sphinx." (Giorgio Vasari and Agnolo di Cosimo a.k.a. Bronzino)

In an article recently published in this journal,(1) I argued that a certain, often discussed, hybrid encountered in Bronzino's well-known painting depicting The Exposure of Luxury (ca. 1545, National Gallery, London; also known as Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time) was actually intended to represent a "sphinx" [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. Whatever its proper designation, this is the bizarre figure that may be espied lurking in darkness (as much metaphorical as physical), just as she/it was placed in the middle ground of the far right side of Bronzino's carefully contrived composition [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED]. This darkly crouching creature was situated by the ingenious painter behind the brightly illuminated figure of a nude and joyful putto tossing roses, so making it literally hidden (occulta). Bronzino's carefully delineated - and thoroughly bizarre - creature has a girl's chalky white face with falsely reversed, left-to-right human hands, a back seemingly covered with scales and feathers, feline and clawed hind-legs, and a leonine tail - that is even provided with a poisonous tip. In treating this motif - and Bronzino's ingeniously disparate hybrid has become something like a minor growth industry for ambitious iconographers(2) - I was mainly interested in the way that this fabulous creature, qua Sphinx, had been widely and somewhat uniquely attended to in Cinquecento emblematic literature. As seems not so commonly recognized, but as I have already shown, the mysterious Sphinx was then usually cited as having been initially "taken from the Tablet of Cebes."

Even though Bronzino's hybrid was not explicitly labeled "Sphinx" either by the painter or any of his contemporaries, this was unquestionably a bizarre product of creative fancy (fantasia) that caught the interest of Giorgio Vasari. It was, however, only referred to in passing by Vasari in a largely allegorizing description of Bronzino's enigmatic painting inserted into a kind of appendix attached to the revised edition (1568) of his pioneering study of The Lives of the Painters (Le Vite). Overall, Vasari's nearly contemporary appraisal makes out Bronzino's elaborate composition to represent (as might plausibly be rendered in English) "a nude Venus with [her son] Cupid, who was kissing her, and [it represents], on the one hand, Pleasure and Idle Sport and other kinds of [pleasurable] love-making, and, on the other, Fraud and Jealousy and the other [negative] Passions arising from Love."(3) If this alternative reading of Vasari's somewhat garbled text seems allowable,(4) then Vasari was probably not attempting a figure-by-figure interpretation of Bronzino's now famous panel painting, so explaining those supposed iconographic "omissions" still puzzling scholars. Instead, he seems broadly to interpret the complex allegorical ensemble as a bipartite thematic unit, one expressive of amorous "Piacere e Dispiacere."


In this instance our initial target is a specifically verbal tradition (eventually becoming a literary convention) that led Vasari - but not necessarily Bronzino - to call such a synthetic creature "la Fraude," the very personification of "Deceit."(5) Another issue implicitly present, if often only on the periphery of what follows, is the Renaissance artist's newly won license for fantasia, then signifying an enviable power of combinatory fantasy expressed in composite invention(s).(6) As depicted by Bronzino, the figuratively fraudulent figure has the pale, mask-like face belonging to a donzella (virginal girl, as will be later so stated by yet another contemporary author, Lodovico Dolce), and her false physiognomy is similarly complemented by "false" (or reversed) hands. Below, we find a mottled brownish dorsum appearing to be smoothly imbricated (and probably both scaled and feathered), the bent hind legs and sharp talons of a lion, and in the very end a gleaming serpent's tail with a scorpion's venomous stinger. Accordingly, this figure, qua hybrid, literally represents a "composite" (compositum). What the preceding discussion omitted, at least with specific reference to the source for Vasari's passing comment, was a citation of an important, indeed what must be considered the standard precedent in Italian letters for any such verbal mention of a personified and hybridized and/or composite figure of Fraude.

For Vasari writing in the mid-sixteenth century, apparently Bronzino's elusive allegorical figure of Fraude was already functioning like an iconographic commonplace. By that time a widely understood locus classicus for Vasari's verbal reference - but not necessarily Bronzino's pictorial motif - seems to be made perfectly clear in a standard iconographic handbook published some thirty years after Vasari had formulated his conclusions. With reference to one's primary understanding of Fraude, as may be read in Cesare Ripa's Iconologia (first published in 1593, with many subsequent editions):

In his Inferno, Dante depicts Fraud with the face of a just man, but with the rest of the body being that of a serpent; varied by spots and colors, its tail is retracted and has the stinger of a scorpion. Buried in waves coming from Cocytus, or in turbid and black water, thus he depicts the demon Geryon. And by that [seemingly] just man's face, one is given to understand the exterior of fraudulent men [gli huomini fraudolenti], for they have a benign visage and words, are modest in their dress, sober in their manner of walking and costume, and in every other outward aspect [they appear to be] peace-loving. In their operations, they hide under a feigned zeal for religion and charity. They are armed with astuteness and are colored by the spots of criminality, and, through their actual manner of operation, they are, in sum, revealed to be full of deadly venom.(7)

Nonetheless, according to this standard iconographic manual, Fraude - just like Bronzino's "Sphinx" - can likewise appear as a pretty but (literally) two-faced, scorpion-tailed lady: "Donna con due faccie, una di giovane bella, l'altra di vecchia brutta . . . e [con] la coda di scorpione."

Ripa was certainly not the first Cinquecento iconographer to place the locus classicus for a hybrid figure of Fraud/Deceit in Dante's Inferno. In fact, a nearly identical statement was published in 1556, that is a decade before Vasari identified Bronzino's "Sphinx" as the personification of "Fraud." Vincenzo Cartari's widely consulted iconographic manual discussing Le Imagini degli Dei was a work well-known to Vasari, who borrowed many passages from it.(8) This also appears to provide the most likely textual source (albeit unacknowledged) for Ripa's slightly later description of Fraud. As already firmly established by Cartari in 1556, the "natura di fraudolenti" was to be constructed as follows: "The arrangement of this figure serves to reveal the [inner] nature of deceitful people and to show this by their [outward] appearance; although they may seem benign, pacific and modest in their sayings, they are quite the opposite in their actual deeds; in the end, all their operations must be revealed to be full of lethal poison." Previously, Cartari had announced his sole textual source - and also the fact of a dual, male or female, tradition of picturing Fraud: "Thus was Fraud, whom Apelles had [initially] portrayed as a woman, designated [differently] by Dante; having only the face of a virtuous and just man, [his Fraud is] one who has all the rest of his body in the shape of a serpent covered with variously colored spots and terminating with a scorpion's stinger at the very tip. Dante's words are as follows: . . . [as quoted below]."(9)

Shortly after the publication of Cartari's standard mythographical manual, Federigo Zuccaro, a close associate of Vasari, painted (ca. 1562) his own version of the Calumny of Apelles, including the fatal figure, evidently a la Cartari, of "Fraude who is represented as being half man and half serpent, and who strikes with the blow of a viper."(10) The same kind of fraudulently composite, sting-tipped figure - once again made explicitly female in gender even it though had nothing whatsoever to do with Apelles's Calumny - appeared even earlier in yet another, unquestionably widely read text, Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (1516; rev. ed. 1532). This source, which was also well-known to Vasari (who frequently cited extracts from it),(11) was also to be quoted verbatim later, and as specifically attributed to Ariosto, by Cesare Ripa.(12) As quoted in either text, it now reads as follows in English:


She had a pleasing face, a humble gaze; Of grave demeanour, grave in speech as well, And modest in her dress, beyond all praise, She might have been the Angel Gabriel. And yet deformed and ugly in all ways Her body is, which ample skirts conceal, While under them she clutches at her hip A dagger which is poisoned at the tip.(13)

Clearly, the Dante-derived hybrid figure of Deceit was taken up by both poets and painters as a standard iconographic type - who rendered it sometimes male, but more often female - and they did so some decades before the first publication of Ripa's Iconologia. The crucial reference point is, of course, Canto 17 of Dante's Inferno, which Cartari carefully quoted in his text. In the seventh circle of hell, Virgil announces to Dante that they must fly further down into the fiery pit on the back of a certain monster, Geryon, the Monster of Fraud. This novel hybrid, which seems originally the mostly synthetic invention of Dante, is "la fiera con la coda aguzza che tutto il mondo appuzza" ("the sharp-tailed beast that makes the whole world stink"). Since this is explicitly "la fiera," it follows that Dante's allegorical figure is conventionally understood to be essentially female in gender. In the description following (Inferno 17:7-15, 25-7), Dante provided further details:

E quella sozza imagine di froda [Fraude] Sen venne, ed arrivo la testa e il busto; Ma in su la riva non trasse la coda.

La faccia sua era faccia d'uom giusto, Tanto benigna avea di fuor la pelle; E d'un serpente tutto l'altro fusto.

Due branche avea pilose infin l'ascelle; Lo dosso e il petto ed ambedue le coste Dipinte avea di nodi e di rotelle . . .

Nel vano tutta sua coda guizzava, Torcendo in su la venenosa forca, Che a guisa di scorpion la punta armava.

In John Ciardi's vigorous English verses (first published in 1954), the malevolent figure of Fraude is, nonetheless, inflexibly made into a male:

The filthy prototype of Fraude drew near and settled his [her?] head and breast upon the edge of the dark cliff, but let his [her?] tail hang clear.

His [her?] face was innocent of every guile, benign and just in feature and expression; and under it his [her?] body was half reptile.

His [her?] two great paws were hairy to the armpits; all his [her?] back and breast and both his [her?] flanks were figured with bright knots and subtle circles . . .

His [her?] tail twitched in the void beyond that lip, thrashing, and twisting up the envenomed fork which, like a scorpion's stinger, armed the tip.(14)

As students of Dante have long since recognized,(15) one of the more logical textual sources for the malevolent hybrid with a stinging tail exhibited in canto 17, la Fraude, would have been those "locusts" encountered in Revelations 9:7-10. According to Saint John's vision (a piece of Scripture naturally known to Dante only in the Vulgate), they are observed as having "faces [that] were as the faces of men and they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions . . . and they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months."(16) As we, however, observed in our quotation in Italian from the Inferno, the actual gender of la Fraude remains somewhat ambivalent in Dante's handling: within, the horrid hybrid is female in its basic bestiality but male outside, in its false physiognomy. Nonetheless, Dante's apparent scriptural source did clearly state that such monsters had a "human face" and a "woman's hair." Moreover, given the commonplace attribution of femininity to nearly all allegorical figures, whether good or evil, we may assume that a later Italian reader, like Giorgio Vasari - who often quoted Dante verbatim in his Vite - might have automatically made Dante's fraudulent hybrid into a female. As we do know for a fact, such was the (feminine) case much earlier, beginning with Ariosto's wholly female la Fraude, later to be quoted verbatim by Cesare Ripa.

Some other archetypical monstrous hybrids exhibited in mostly medieval texts that have been cited as influencing Dante's largely synthetic depiction of Fraud include the following.(17) An initial (but non-scriptural) model would have been a description, later repeated by Solinus, of a strange beast called by Pliny the "Mantichora" (Historia Naturalis 8:90). This classic hybrid had the face of a man, the body of a lion, and a tail ending in an envenomed stinger. Similar creatures were portrayed by other medieval notables, for example, by Albertus Magnus (De Animalibus 22:2,1) and Brunetto Latini (Tresor 5:59). That the Mantichore eventually became a literally "popular" (vs. exclusively erudite) figure is a conclusion that may be quickly confirmed by the comments contained in an anonymously authored, twelfth-century Bestiary: "A beast born in the Indies [is] a MANTICORA. It has a three-fold row of teeth meeting alternately: the face of a man, with gleaming, blood-red eyes; a lion's body; a tail like the sting of scorpion, and a shrill voice which is so sibilant that it resembles the notes of flutes. It hankers after human flesh most ravenously. It is so strong in the foot, so powerful with its leaps, that not the most extensive space nor the most lofty obstacle can contain it."(18)

No matter either the gender or (even) the species; in this instance, every educated Italian should have known something of Dante's archetypal Fraude, with a deceitful human face and, as for the rest, "tanto benigna avea di fuor la pelle; e d'un serpente tutto l'altro fusto." That said, we may now look for another, currently relevant (around 1545) and/or standard, kind of composite beast bearing specifically upon yet another latent significance potentially belonging to this kind of artistic Exposure of Luxury. In this case, we are exploring another meaning that is wholly art (vs. literary) theoretical in character, one that probably would have been attached by learned contemporaries to Bronzino's artful but decidedly "fraudulent" figure.


As a learned painter, and also as an accomplished poet of emblematic verse, surely Agnolo di Cosimo, called Bronzino (1503-1572),(19) would have additionally known the standard "poetic" topos of Horace's monstrous hybrid as given in the opening lines of his Liber de Arte Poetica. So too would have Giorgio Vasari, for both artists obviously subscribed to the doctrine of ut pictura poesis ("as in poetry, so too in painting"). This is the paradigm so famously advanced by Horace in an influential treatise composed circa 10 B.C., that was later to become standard reading for literati even during the medieval period.(20) As these notable (even quintessential) Cinquecento artists would have quickly recalled, at the very beginning of his celebrated treatise Horace made much of a diversely composite beast. The purpose of his monstrous hybrid was commonly taken by him to demonstrate that "the right to take liberties [audere] of almost any sort has always been enjoyed by poets and painters alike."(21) As for a representative prototype given to illustrate such poetic and/or painterly "liberties," the most striking example of all was provided by Horace (De arte poetica, 1-10). As he told it, there was a certain (unnamed) ancient painter's notorious decision "to put a human head on a horse's head, or to spread feathers of various colors over the limbs of several different creatures, or to make what in the upper part is a beautiful woman then tail off into a hideous fish."(22) Still, such provocative pictorial sport was perhaps not altogether a good thing; according to Horace, "A book will have very much the same effect as these pictures [of beastly hybrids] if, like a sick man's dreams, the author's idle fancies assume such a shape that it is impossible to make [literally] head or tail of what he is driving at."(23) Nonetheless, Horace would yet have his learned colleague affirm, as would later nearly all the erudite paragone discussants of the Cinquecento, that: "pictoribus atque poetis quidlibet audendi semper fuit aequa potestas" (Arte, 9-10) - meaning that "the right to take liberties of almost any kind has always been enjoyed by painters and poets alike."

As it turns out, it is easy enough to prove the currency of the Horatian composite figure within Italian art theory at the time of both the execution of Bronzino's painted Fraud/Sphinx motif and Vasari's verbal comment on the same motif. In this case, we may take what follows to constitute essential cultural-psychological background allowing for a broader context behind the conception of Bronzino's deviously compounded motif of "artful" heterogeneity. Moreover, we should also grant this artfully constructed hybrid, according to the evidence following, the potential status of an emblematic conceit, one newly formulated in this very period and expressive of an important new humanist topos, the sovereignty of the artist.(24)

The Latin text framing the standard Horatian motif was mentioned, indeed freely paraphrased in Italian, by Lodovico Dolce in his Dialogo della Pittura . . . intitolato L'Aretino (1557). Dolce's poetic adaptation was composed about a decade after the appearance of Bronzino's Exposure of Luxury.(25) At this time the venerable Latin author's exemplary hybrid was expressly taken by the Venetian art critic to represent a current paradigm of artistic license, or capriccio.(26) As seems not to have been noticed previously, once translated by Dolce into contemporary Italian verse, the often cited Horatian motif came to represent, even verbally "picture," the same kind of implicitly "fraudulent" monstrous hybrid that Vasari had espied in Bronzino's Exposure of Luxury. In short, once again we see exhibited a thickly feathered creature whose back also displays scales, since "a crude fish supplied the tail below." Dolce, however, significantly departed from Horace's text in assigning to his hybrid the same human gender, and even the distinctive physiognomy belonging to Bronzino's "Sphinx," for, according to Dolce, "the tender look appearing on the face belonged to a virgin girl [donzella] full of charm and grace." In the event, here is the English equivalent for the entirety of Dolce's linguistically licentious translation: "Suppose, out of sheer caprice, a horse's neck to a human head came to be joined together by some painter, and then was all overlaid with feathers, so presenting in its form such a strange aspect that, among differing kinds of limbs, it would even have the tail belonging to a misshapen fish; but [instead of a horse's muzzle] the head was accompanied by the sweet features belonging to a girl-virgin of pretty, even exceeding, grace: Seeing such a thing, and being called upon [to render judgment], would you not, my friends, be unable to restrain your laughter?"(27)

As reused by Dolce, Horace's didactic poem, and of course its exemplary hybrid, potentially serves many purposes. Not only does this provocative picture signify creative "invention" - la Invenzione(28) in general, but additionally, so said Dolce, it conveys a newly entrenched supposition, "the point being, as we have said, that the relationship between Poet and Painter is almost like siblings [quasi fratelli]"; ergo, both become exemplars of what we might today call "sister arts."(29) The adjusted Horatian motif also illustrates, said Dolce, the specific compositional principle that "across the whole span of a historical subject embracing many figures, one should produce a collective whole which is without discord [non discordi]." In fact, the reason why Dolce introduced his refurbished "poetical" motif was to gain support for his preceding claim that "certainly the [Cinquecento] painter really needs to possess a flourishing imagination [un fiorito ingegno], never nodding in inventiveness."

The Horatian catalogue of "inventive" hybrids should be considered a commonplace in Renaissance thought, for it had been discussed by artists much earlier in the Cinquecento. A case in point are remarks contained in Pomponius Gauricus's De Sculptura (1504). As had been previously claimed for painters (e.g., by Leonardo da Vinci), Gauricus announced that the interests of the sculptor must also be "universal" (kataleptikos) in scope, "meaning he must embrace and so represent the forms of everything he conceives and wishes to express." Additionally, the artist "must be endowed with imagination [euphantasiotos]," but this ability must be restrained by decorum, or appropriateness to the given subject; otherwise, he only produces "vain fictions, like a sick man's dreams." This last phrase, "aegri somnia," represents in fact a direct citation from the opening of Horace's Ars poetica, which is likewise the understood source for Gauricus's next observation. "Even though the human figure is their fundamental object," he noted, "sculptors are nonetheless moved to compose such figures as satyrs, hydras, chimeras and monsters [quamquam Satyriscis, hydris, chimaeris, monstris], such as have never been seen anywhere; it is as thought they had never seen anything else."(30)

However, the most important and also the most extended discussion of the Horatian hybrid-conceit as a paradigm of Renaissance art theoretical concerns belongs to none other than Michelangelo Buonarroti. His statement was recorded by Francisco de Holanda and included in his Dialogos da pintura antigua, composed between 1538 and 1548 (but only published in 1848).(31) In this case, the context introducing the larger subject was a discussion of ancient Roman grotteschi (painted decorations) recently brought to light in the ruins of Nero's palace, the Domus Aurea. Directly quoting Horace, Michelangelo spoke of these much discussed, imaginative compositions as displaying "a thousand monsters and animals, some of them with a woman's face and the lower parts of a fish," referring in this instance to Horace's often cited figure of the "piscem mulier formosa." In Michelangelo's mind, they represented "anything, in fact, that delights the painter's fantasia and which has never existed." Having introduced the subject of "delightful" and "fantastic" artistic hybrids, he expounded upon it at great length, even quoted (in Latin) the Horatian fons classicus:

I am happy to explain to you why it is the custom to paint that which is never seen in the world, and how reasonable and how correct is such license. They interpret [him] badly those who would say that the lyric poet Horace wrote these verses in blame of [imaginative] painters: Pictoribus atque poetis / Quilibet audendi semper fuit aequa potestas / Scimus, et hanc veniam petimusque damusque vicissim. In this phrase, he actually does not at all blame painters; instead, he praises and favors them. He actually says that poets and painters [equally] share a license to dare, dare I say [digo ousarem], and just as they may choose to do. And they have always [equally] enjoyed this power of insight. Whenever it seems, as very rarely happens, that a great painter has made a work which seems false and deceitful, this falseness is actually truth, and any greater truth in that context would be a lie . . . In order better to maintain decorum, which pertains to setting and time, he may transform [mudar] the parts of bodies which would otherwise appear without grace and most false - just as happens in obra grutesca. So he might choose to transform a griffin or deer, converting it below into a dolphin, or upward, and into any shape he may choose, putting wings into the place of arms, or removing the arms if wings seem better. The substituted part, whether taken from a lion or horse or bird, will become all the more perfect according to its species. Although this may be called deception, it should really be labeled monstrously well invented [ben inventado e monstruoso]. Rather than imposing the customary forms of men and animals, admirable as they may be, sometimes it is actually more reasonable to paint a monstrosity, [both] for variety and to ease sense perception, respecting those mortal eyes sometimes desirous to see that which they will never [otherwise] see and which they think cannot exist . . . That which seems impossible and wholly irrational [impossibeis e fora de razao] may yet be great - if it is executed by one endowed with understanding [se e feito de quem tem o entende]. Some might still be unconvinced, and ask "How is it possible for a woman with a beautiful face to have the tail of a fish [Horace's "piscem mulier formosa"] . . . ?" Then the answer might be that once such an abnormality [desconformidade] is made properly proportioned in all its parts, then it becomes normal [esta muy conforme, that is, it conforms in its own autonomous terms]. A painter is worthy of great praise when he paints impossible things with artifice and discretion [arteficio e descricao], so making them seem to live and thus possible. Then he makes men wish that such things actually did exist . . . . It would be harder to discover among the works of Nature anything more perfect than a beautiful woman with wings or the tail of a fish.(32)

In any event, all these authors prove the enduring attraction of Horace's hybrid during the period in which Bronzino's unquestionably synthetic "Sphinx" was conceived.


It will now be useful briefly to sketch in some of the cultural foreground belonging to the Horatian motif opportunely resurrected by Lodovico Dolce in 1557, as however preceded by Gauricus and Michelangelo.(33) The subject embracing these "poetic hybrids," with Horace supplying the most prominently displayed motif, is what I might call "perverse poetic zoology." At least in the Cinquecento, the understood theoretical premise underlying some mostly didactic textual illustrations of heterogeneous anatomical aberrations was the topos of "ut pictura poesis," an often repeated tag also initially announced by Horace.(34) Besides their obvious classical affiliations, the individual motif and its generating idea had both enjoyed a vigorous Nachleben during the Middle Ages. A few examples will suffice to make that point, with the first citation grounding the topos within actual art practice in an essentially unprecedented way. We have, for instance, an important prehumanistic affirmation (ca. 1390) regarding the exemplary function, even the prestige, already attached to the Horatian kind of anatomical-combinatory fantasy. According to Cennino Cennini, in the first chapter of his Libro dell'Arte, there is a certain

occupation known as Painting [la pittura], which calls for [both] imagination and skill of hand in order to discover things not seen, hiding themselves under the shadow of natural objects, and [then] to fix them with the hand, so presenting to plain sight what does not actually exist. And [so] Painting justly deserves to be enthroned next to Theory and to be crowned [alongside] Poetry. The justice [for this unprecedented claim] lies in this [assumption]: that the poet with his Theory, though he have but one [such theory], it makes him worthy: he is [thereby] freed to compose and bind together, or not, as he pleases, according to his inclination [volonta]. Similarly, the painter [presumably following the same theory] is given the freedom to compose a figure upright, seated, [or a hybrid] half man, half horse, just as he pleases, according to his fantasia.(35)

Nonetheless, as Cennino's famed Trecento contemporary, the poet Petrarch, might have admonished this humble (and then somewhat presumptuous) artist-author, "You delight in brush and colors, both the worth and art of which are pleasing, together with variety and novel arrangements [curiosa disparsio] . . . but there is danger in this, because it is the greatest lure of ingenium; whereas the rustic bumpkin [agrestis] passes by with but little amazement [stupore], there will linger he of the ingenium, sighing and reverent."(36)

Cennini's bold assumption about an arresting stupore stirred by the painter's ingenium boldly leading him to "discover" fantastic hybrid-combinations does, however, have a precedent. Even though the core idea certainly antedates, even in antiquity, Horace's statement, nonetheless his was by far the example most often cited by medieval author-critics, along with its very specific and most vividly expressed verbal "painting [tabula]" of the impossible "piscem mulier formosa" combination. Put briefly, having been so often bruited about, it is only logical to assume that Horace's striking motif would seem to call out during the Renaissance for some speedy ekphraseis, those commonplace pictorial reconstructions of celebrated textual verbalizations all'antica.(37) In any event, a preliminary listing of a variety of pre-Horace hybrid-monsters, specifically meaning of the kind that would naturally go along with the issue of combinatory fantasia, was probably first so noted by Plato. As Socrates observed in the Phaedrus (229c-d), "One should not bother to try to explain the fictions of the poets in scientific terms." Accordingly, Plato had him announce that "I don't altogether envy the man who devotes himself to this sort of [interpretive] work, if only because, when he has [for example] finished with Oreithyia, he must then go on to put the Hippocentaurs into proper shape and, after them, the Chimaera. In fact, he finds himself overwhelmed by a host of Gorgons and Pegasuses and other such [composite] monsters, whose numbers create no less a problem than their grotesqueness, and a skeptic who proposes to force each one of them into a plausible shape with the aid of a sort of rough ingenuity will need a great deal of leisure."(38)

As proof of the powers of the human imagination, Philoponus, a late antique commentator of Aristotle, specifically used a "super-hybrid," the hippocentauros or horse-man-bull combination previously cited by Plato.(39) One of Philoponus's immediate followers, Themistius, observed how "the activity of phantasiare [an evidently most active verb] depends upon ourselves; it includes not only possible things but also some utterly impossible things, such as many-headed men, like Geryon, or others winged, like Boreas, also hippo-centaurs and monsters, like the Chimera." His conclusion was that "as it is conceded to painters to paint what they will [a licence shown by their hybrids], so too is it also conceded to the soul."(40) As Plato and the other (lesser) authors made clear, all these examples of the power of the poet's combinatory fantasia, which certain painters might try to "ape," have a common trait: they are combinations of parts of animals, and sometimes even of human beings (as a particularly "perverse poetic zoology") that exist in the sensory world.

The often dangerous lures of painterly illusion (as alluded to by Petrarch), for it represents the sensory art par excellence, had long since been recognized by unapproving Christians. For instance, in the early seventh century Saint Isidore of Seville cited hybrid motifs as examples (in malo) of the radically fictive arts of, equally, painting and poetry. In the Etymologiae (19:16), we read that painting is like fiction: "Pictura may almost be called fictura; indeed it is a feigned image, not truth, neither faithful nor true, whence some paintings go beyond representing truthful bodies [corpora veritatis] through the application of color and relief. When they strive to make things more real, they bring forth falsehood, as when they paint there a three-headed Chimera or here a Scylla, human above, girded with the heads of dogs below."(41) In the ninth century, Isidore's observation was further extended in the anonymous Libri Carolini, not however by reference to Horace but instead by observing with distaste the very omission of such grotesque combinations in the Holy Writ. Also noteworthy here is a catalogue of most of the hybrids that presumably would have been depicted by pagan painters earlier in the classical period. As this Carolingian scholar questioned, "Is it not alien to Scripture that they paint how the three-headed Chimera is killed by Bellerophon? . . . Or is it not alien to Scripture if one paints how Scylla is girded with the heads of dogs [or] how the Sirens are, in part, young women and, in part, birds . . . . If any painter dares to paint two heads on one body or one head on two bodies, or the head of one creature on the body of another, like a Centaur, a being who had the body of a horse and the head of a man, or the Minotaur, who is half bull and half man, is this practise not admittedly contrary to Scriptures?"(42)

Of all those medieval rumblings against the painters' and sculptors' increasing penchant for perverse, largely poet-inspired, pseudo-zoology, surely the best known today is that pronounced (ca. 1150) by Bernard of Clairvaux. His polemic included condemnations of the "monsters" of contemporary Romanesque sculpture, most vividly citing for disapproval a certain "four-footed beast with a serpent's tail" and that obnoxious "fish with a beast's head." As may be believed, Bernard (like Dolce much later) very much had Horace on his mind(43) and unquestionably his remarks about coeval cloister embellishments make those remarks by the earlier author of the Libri Carolini pale in righteous rhetorical wrath. As Bernard wondered, "What profit is there in those ridiculous monsters, in that marvellous and deformed comeliness, that comely deformity [mira quaedam deformis formositas ac formosa deformitas]? To what purpose are those . . . monstrous centaurs, those half-men? Many bodies are there seen under one head, or again, many heads to a single body. Here is four-looted beast with a serpent's tail; there, a fish with a beast's head. Here again the forepart of a horse trailing half a goat behind it, or a horned beast bearing the hinder quarters of a horse . . . For God's sake, if men are not ashamed of these follies, why at least do they not shrink from the expense of it?"(44)

Accordingly, we see how the willfully contrived composite creatures pictured by sculptors as well as painters, those inevitably grotesque and monstrous hybrids wholly engendered by their vocational fantasia, had long since implicitly become a standard symbol for artistic license and freedom. Nonetheless, before the Renaissance such imaginatively motivated composite iconography had always to be negatively evaluated due to an essentially vain pursuit by both kinds of visual artists of a mutually perverse fictura.(45) Evidently, to the devout Christian such licentious practice could often then (as now) be viewed as a potential threat to good order and right thinking. As we have seen, Renaissance art theory, particularly as voiced by Michelangelo, actually came to celebrate the very same perceived threat. As is equally understood, the Mannerist writers and painters often came to extol both narrative inscrutability and formal complexity for their own sake.(46) According to this mentality, a sphinx could become a central emblem for the Mannerist approach. Only one earlier but widely read spokesman for the use of the sphinx motif in its specifically Renaissance context need be cited. As Pico della Mirandola remarked in his commentary on Benivieni's Canzona d'amore, "It was the opinion of the ancient theologians that divine subjects and the secret Mysteries must not be rashly divulged . . . That is why the Egyptians had sculptures of sphinxes in all their temples, that is, to indicate that divine knowledge, if committed to writing at all, must be covered with enigmatic veils and poetic dissimulations."(47)


I additionally see Bronzino's "Sphinx," itself an enigmatically veiled poetic dissimulation, as contextually embodying a third aspect. This other latent component is, rather than strictly a motif like the archetypal Horace-to-Dante hybrid configuration, instead much more broadly, even literally, "rhetorical" in its essential function. In this case, the real theoretical issue expressed by the artists' combinatory bestiary becomes, beyond humanist-poetic pseudo-zoology, one of metaphorical "antithesis." Its proper background belongs, therefore, to routine operations traditionally associated with the classical discipline of rhetoric.(48) Accordingly, our subject now expands to cover a subtopic best called "rhetorical contrapposto."(49) Its later, strictly artistic workshop counterpart would of course be called contrapposto, of which practice, among others, Leonardo da Vinci was recognized to be one of the acknowledged pioneers, even during his lifetime. In his Exposure of Luxury Bronzino likewise exhibits himself as a competitor to Leonardo, in this case as a virtuoso, nearly exhibitionist performer of contrived contrapposto. As arranged by Bronzino, Venus's limbs are composed in artificial V-patterns so as to make her seem almost an angular but flattened pretzel, while a sinuously compliant Eros twining about her in snake-like fashion develops an opposing visual canon of half-circles with a half-blocked, overlapped torso. The rose-pelting putto to the right (who covers up the crouching "Sphinx") in turn appears to represent a third alternative, a classic dimostratione of the figura serpentinata currently in vogue among Maniera painters. In a much broader perspective, such an overtly virtuoso "demonstration" should itself be seen as a concrete sign of technical and theoretical "progress," and so it becomes emblematic of a new, later Renaissance historical self-awareness.(50)

As everybody recognizes, the Renaissance theory of human movement was essentially based on perceived operations of "counterposition," which as a standard workshop practice, even routine, is usually called, even today, by its old Italian name, "contrapposto." This practice of twisting anatomical manipulation was itself a commonplace in the artist's workplace, at least since 1435 when Leon Battista Alberti published his De Pictura. Here it was remarked (book 2:40, 43) that there should be "some [figures] visible full-face, with their hands turned . . . and resting on one foot; others should have their faces turned away, their arms by their sides and feet together, and each one of them should have his own particular flexions and movements . . . We see how, with one foot fixed like the axis of a balance, the rest of the body is counterpoised to balance the weight [etc.]."(51) As is equally well-known (so obviating the need for a list of specific references), in his various manuscripts Leonardo illustrated and developed in detail many written descriptions of human movement based upon the common postulate of counterpositioning.

As sort of equally visual and didactic dimostratione of these essential counterpositional principles (somewhat in the manner of Polykleitos's "Doryphoros-Canon," a celebrated fifth-century B.C. hybrid, text-and-sculpture, illustration of ideal proportionality),(52) Leonardo contrived his own mythological exemplum. That pictorial dimostratione was the lost but often copied painting of the Leda, a widely praised work that was indeed taken by some of his contemporaries as an exemplary demonstration of contrapposto. As known to us today through various copies, Leonardo's Leda demonstrated counterpoise to perfection, so doing by bringing the arm above the weight-bearing leg of a seemingly didactic contrapposto figure and then across the torso so that the opposing shoulder and knee were thrust forward. According to this all-inclusive anatomical demonstration, one having the advantage of being consistent with the mechanics of human movement, all the symmetrically related parts, legs and arms, were in opposition, as well as the other parts put on each side of the swan-lover's sinuous body.(53) Much the same anatomical brio can be seen displayed throughout Bronzino's Exposure of Luxury.(54)

It may now be forgotten, however, that the Italian word "contrapposto" - now exclusively used in the strictly visual-artistic sense for a figural posture in which the weight of the body is shifted to one leg with a consequent axial adjustment or displacement of the other parts of the body - was originally taken from the Latin contrapositum. More significant is our general ignorance of the fact that in the early Renaissance the term originally had no particularly graphic applications. Contrapositum in turn was directly translated from the Greek antithesis, which was then a term solely used to describe a rhetorical (or wholly verbal) figure, a "trope." In purely rhetorical "antithesis" opposites, as ideas, were directly set against one another, "in opposition." This conventionalized rhetorical confrontation was, for instance, explained by Quintilian (Institutio oratoria 9:3, 81), noting that "antithesis is what [we] Romans call either contrapositum or contentio." Likewise, Saint Augustine observed that (according to his chapter heading) "the beauty of the universe is made richer by God's providence through the opposition of contraries" (De civitate Dei 9:18). He expanded upon this provocative idea, seemingly describing God as a conscientious artist consciously employing didactically polarized contrasts, as follows:

For God would never have created a man, let alone an angel, in the foreknowledge of his future evil state, if He had not known at the same time how He would put such [potentially evil] creatures to good use, and how He would thus enrich the course of the world history by the [same] kind of antithesis which gives beauty to a poem. "Antithesis" provides the most attractive figures in literary composition: the Latin equivalent is "opposition," or, more accurately, "contraposition" ["Antitheta enim quae appellantur in ornamentis elocutionis sunt decentissima, quae Latine ut appellantur opposita, vel, quod expressus dicitur, contraposita"] . . . The opposition of such contraries gives an added beauty to speech; and, in the same way, there is beauty in the composition of the world's history, one arising from the antithesis of contraries - a kind of eloquence in events instead of in worlds. This point is made very clearly in the book Ecclesiasticus [33:14 ff]: "Good confronts evil, life confronts death" [etc.].(55)

Even into the early Renaissance the term "contrapposto" was used in this way, that is exclusively as a rhetorical, or wholly verbalized device in which dramatically disparate counterparts were set directly against one another, "in opposition." At this time it could accordingly be used generically to refer to any "opposition," and so even including strictly pictorial oppositions. As David Summers observes, the wholly painterly oppositions commonly included "chiaroscuro, for example, or the juxtapositions of old and young, male or female . . . . The pattern for contrapposto composition was thus rhetorical; the setting of visual contrasts created vividness, just as the setting of opposites in rhetoric or poetry created a memorable and convincing vividness." Therefore, Summer notes, "antithesis was [both] a major means of elocution and a major means of pictorial composition from Alberti onwards, and, once again, was defined with special care by Leonardo."(56) This point is made clear in Renaissance art theory, particularly in a somewhat obscure passage belonging within an extended argument reiterating that old chestnut of liberal arts polemics, the "ut pictura poesis" paragon.

As prima facie evidence for the enduring utility of Horace's oft-cited phrase, "the right to take liberties of almost any kind has always been enjoyed by painter and poets alike," we have, for instance, the example of Gregorio Comanini in his Il Figino, ovvero del fine della pittura, 1591, observing: "Just as the poet plays with antitheses - one of the major ornaments of diction - or with counterpoise, so likewise, within a single composition, the figures of men and women are counterpoised by the painter, contrasting the figures of ladies to men, of infants to old men, the sea to the land, valleys to mountains, and so other similar counterpositions are fabricated, from which effects there arises no less grace in painting than that which, by contrary means, we may see being born in the best poetry."(57) This antithetical statement also contextually fits in with a recent interpretation of Bronzino's Exposure of Luxury as a composition making a broadly antithetical reference to a commonly conjoined Renaissance topic, that of piacere e dispiacere, or "pleasure and displeasure."(58)

In another related passage, most likely Comanini had more specifically in mind Leonardo's so-called grotteschi, those famous drawn (and often copied) "caricatures," commonly opposing an epicene youth to a withered old man.(59) However it was, Comanini was drawn to observe the contemporary problem of what he saw in 1591 to be an excess of essentially polemical (or merely virtuoso) "contrapposti," leading such painters to "make an indecent and affected thing." What he described as the subject matter of these contrapposti is unquestionably "Leonardesque" in character, and specifically of the "grotesque" sort with which we are presently dealing in the more particularized case of Bronzino's "Fraud/Sphinx." In short, the object of Comanini's attentions was that contemporary contrapposto artist "who always, once he has painted the image of an infant, will place next to him [for expressive contrast] an old man; or next to a man, a woman; or next to a giant, a dwarf; or next to a beautiful girl, an ugly old crone."(60) Curiously, Comanini's comments seem not (at least to my knowledge) to have been previously related directly to Leonardo's widely known, so-called (I think erroneously) "caricatures" - and most certainly not ever to Bronzino's sphinx-like figure of "la Fraude."

In the broader sense, whether the Mannerist painter's antithetical composite represents the fabulous classical-period concoction called "Sphinx" or the personified medieval concept dubbed "Fraud," Bronzino's anatomically contrasting hybrid clearly belongs to the same reigning mind-set cited by Comanini with some dismay. Retrospectively viewed as an art historical (kunstwissenscbaftliche) construct, this is an elitist Cinquecento mentality now collectively referred to as "Mannerism."(61) Nonetheless, one of Bronzino's presently unrecognized, but now contextually logical theoretical applications of those venerable contrapositum/antithesis rhetorical devices was likely embodied in his much discussed, but obviously still problematic peripheral figure, Vasari's so-called "Fraud." To this figure there has just now been restored its unmistakable Dantesque pedigree. In itself that "literary" suggestion is additionally only logical, particularly in the context of Cinquecento "fitness" (decorum) - especially in this or any other specifically "rhetorical" context of the sort now recognized as paramount for Renaissance aesthetic judgment. Yet there is an even more overt link between Bronzino and Dante, one even including a lascivious Venus [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. According to Vasari, in his youth Bronzino had painted a portrait of Dante on a wall in the house of Bartolommeo Bettini, who for the same room "had induced his friend Michelangelo to make a cartoon [now lost] of a nude Venus with Cupid kissing her."(62)

In the end we can certainly now better appreciate the complexity - and as well the innate ambiguity - of various contexts and interpretations potentially applicable, even by the most well-informed Cinquecento connoisseurs, to Bronzino's diversely fraudulent "Sphinx." For all of its diversity of applications, Bronzino's Fraud certainly remains what Erwin Panofsky dubbed it over half a century ago, namely, "the most sophisticated symbol of perverted duplicity ever devised by an artist, yet curiously [but scarcely so!] it is a symbol not rapidly seized upon by the modern observer."(63) One hopes with the preceding to have indicated some of the erudite, and evidently pleasurable, perplexity inherently attached by a representative Cinquecento cognoscento to Bronzino's recondite motif. Although probably we shall never know for sure, we may nonetheless guess at the intention of Bronzino's hybrid figure, now perceiving it (as a colleague recently put it) to have been conceived "to remain a hybrid of two diverse hybrids, and so it remains an enigma; I believe that the painting in toto was to serve as a conversation-piece, so leaving room for ambiguous identities" to amuse the cognoscenti.(64)

Another recent evaluation of Bronzino's Exposure of Luxury would now have us view the entire composition as an ironico ed artificioso courtly exercise, a jocular and mocking, ludere ed eludere, treatment of moral allegory. From this revisionist point of view, it is particularly Bronzino's figure of la Fraude that needs elucidation strictly according to a contemporary Cinquecento, cortegiano vocabulary. In this case, it has been recently recognized that the most applicable period terminology should include the following key terms: ambiguita, arguzia, burla, beffa, dissimulo, disinganno, facezia, giuoco, grazia, inganno, motto, sottili, sprezzatura, uccellare, and so forth.(65) Among these characteristic period terms, for Vasari's designation of Bronzino's figure as "la Fraude," itself the very personification of "Deceit," obviously the most direct synonyms, as active verbs, become burlare, dissimulare, and especially ingannare. Perhaps the most appropriate period-response to Bronzino's fraudulent hybrid is that one postulated by Ludovico Dolce: "A veder cosa tal, sendo chiamati, potreste amici ritener il riso?" We can, however, rest assured that such "not rapidly seized upon" perplexity - in itself, qua enigma, as much ambiguous as it is playful, even amusing - should have provided a rather pleasant frisson for our reconstructed, Mannerist era, art amateur.(66)


1 Moffitt, 1993. For the royal collection in France acquiring Bronzino's Allegory as due to Medici patronage, see now Cox-Rearick.

2 The previous bibliography specifically relevant to Bronzino's painting, particularly that discussing its much remarked upon duplicitous motif, includes Anderson; Barolsky, 145-49; Barolsky and Ladis; Bosch; Cheney; Conway; Frangenberg; Gould, 41-45; Hope; Keach; Levey, 1967; Lossow; McCorquodale, 87-90; Mendelsohn; Panofsky, 1962, 86-91; Smith.

3 Vasari, 1906, 7:598-99, as appearing in an appendix to the Vite, "Degli Accademici del Disegno": "una Venere ignuda con Cupido que la bacciava, ed [significa] il Piacere da un lato e il Giuoco con altri Amori: e dall'altro la Fraude, la Gelosia ed altre pasioni d'amore" (emphasis mine; alas, the index in the standard Vasari-Milanesi edition does not list specific subject matter, such as "Sfinge," and/or "Fraude"). For a review of diverse previous interpretations of the possible contextual significance of Bronzino's motif (as listed in note 2), see Moffitt, 1993, 282. There is still much confusion about Vasari's description (whence the interpolations in my English version); for instance, although Levey, 1967, identifies Vasari's "Fraud" with the woman in the upper left of the painting (whom I would instead take to represent Vasari's "La Gelosia," if only for its unmistakable resemblance to "Invidia" as pictured in Alciati and Ripa, among others), I concur with Panofsky's conclusion (1962, 89) that this figure I am referring to, in the right center, "is unquestionably identical with what Vasari terms La Fraude, or Deceit." Since I am now mainy pursuing the source of Vasari's terminology, Bronzino's published poetry proves not really germane to this topic.

4 As was first proposed in Moffitt, 1993, 277, n. 3.

5 For Vasari's literary sources and narrative strategies, see Alpers; Cast, 1993; Frey; Rubin - none of whom, however, deal with this particular textual topos, la Fraude.

6 For a much more exhaustive examination of Cinquecento fantasia (Latin verb: phantasiare), see Summers, 1981, 103-43, 196-97, 364-65.

7 Ripa, 186-88: "Dante dipinge nel suo Inferno la Fraude con la faccia di huomo giusto, & con tutto il resto del corpo di serpente, distinto con diverse macchie, e colori, e la sua coda ritirata in punta di scorpione, ricoperta nell'onde di Cocito, overo in acqua torbida, e nera, cosi dipinta [Dante] la dimanda Gerione, e per la faccia d'huomo giusto si comprende l'estrinseco degli huomini fraudolenti, essendo di volto, & di parole benigne, nell'habito modesti, nel passo gravi, ne'costumi, & in ogn'altra cosa piacevoli; nell'opere poi nascoste sotto il finto zelo di religione, & di charita, sono armati d'astutia, & tinti di macchie de sceleragine, talmente, che in ogni loro operation alle fine si scopre piena di mortifero veneno." On other occasions, Ripa adds, Fraud is pictured as a "donna con due faccie, una di giovane bella, l'altra di vecchia brutta . . . e [con] la coda di scorpione." The rest of Ripa's commentary, dealing exclusively with Geryon, makes reference to a different textual source, Boccaccio's Geneologia Deorum Gentilium 1:21: "Si dice esser Gerione, perche regnando costui presso a l'Isole Baleari, con benigno volto, con parole carezzevoli, e con ogni familiarita, era uso a ricevere I viandanti, e li amici, poi sotto color di quella cortesia, quanto dormivano l'uccideva, come raccontanto molti scrittori antichi, e fra' moderni il Boccaccio nella Geneologia de I Dei." See also Ripa, 248-49, "Inganno," another hybrid, male in this case, with "due code di serpente . . . pero ha imagine di sembiante humano." But, Ripa adds, Trickery can likewise appear here as an old woman, masked as a girl: "Donna, con una maschera di bellissima giovane."

8 For a catalogue of Vasari's citations from Cartari, see Seznec, 289-95.

9 Cartari, 473-74: "La spositione di questa imagine e che la natura degli huomini ingannatori e di mostrarsi nell'aspetto, & in parole benigni, piacevoli, e modesti, ma di essere altrimente in fatti poi, si che tutte le loro opere alla fine si mostrano piene di mortifero veneno . . . . La Fraude poi, quale fece Apelle [nella sua Calumnia] in forma di donna, fu disegnata da Dante con faccia solamente di huomo da bene, e giusto, e che habbia il resto del corpo tutto di serpente macchiato di diversi colori, e che termini, e finisca in coda di Scorpione. Le parole sue [del Dante] sono queste . . ." (as taken from the second, illustrated, edition). For the "Fraud" painted by Apelles, with its own vigorous pictorial Nachleben, see Cast, 1981; Massing. Apelles' figure of Fraud could not however have been known to Dante, since its textual source, Lucian, was not then available in Latin.

10 Ottaviano Zuccaro (Federigo's son), as quoted in Cast, 1981, 222: "La fraude [che Federigo] figuro [era] un mezo huomo, et un mezo serpa, che con un mazzo di vipere percoteva." See also Cast's fig. 31, Zuccaro's painting, where the background figure of la Fraude appears to be mostly male, but as it is aligned with a female harpy, which has bat-like wings and a poisoned [?] tail.

11 See Vasari, 1963, 2:52, 108, 333; 3:81; 4:202, for his other citations from Ariosto's Orlando Furioso.

12 Ripa, 188: "Fraude dell'Ariosto[:] Havea un piacevol viso, habito honesto, / Un'humil volger d'occhi, un'andar grave, / Un parlar si bengno, e si modesto / Che parea Gabriel, che dicesse Ave. / Era brutta, e deforme in tutto il resto: / Ma nascondea queste fatezza prave / Con lungo habito, e largo, e sotto quello / Attossicato havea sempre il cottello" (Orlando Furioso 14:87).

13 Ariosto, trans. B. Reynolds, 432. Ariosto's figure of Fraud must have something to do with the malevolent "Duessa" appearing in book 1 (cantos 2.13, 7.16; 8.46-56) of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene; but while Spenser's reliance upon Ariosto is well-known, the modern editor, T.P. Roche, makes no reference to this particular connection (especially clear, I think, in FQ 1:8.46ff); see Spenser, 1080, 1095, 1099.

14 For this translation, see Dante, 150.

15 For Dante's often bewildering variety of textual sources for the Fraud (Geryon) portrayed in canto 17, see Brieger et al, 1:136-38, noting that Dante's hybrid "has nothing in common with the Geryon of classical poetry: Vergil, Aeneid 8. 202"; see also Grandgent, 137-38; see also Durling, Kleinhenz, Scott; for a wide variety of artistic images later derived from Dante, see Volkmann. In particular, Dante's Fraud-Geryon figure was itself often depicted; see Brieger et al., 2: figs. 188-206 (mostly illuminations in Florentine manuscripts), the visual appearance of which further bolster the argument that Vasari, who must have seen at least some of these, specifically had Dante in mind when he called Bronzino's motif "la Fraude."

16 Vulgate (Revelations 9:7-10): "facies earum tanquam facies hominum et habebant capillos sicut capillos mulierum et dentes earum, sicut dentes leonum erant . . . et habebant caudas similes scorpionum, et aculei erant in caudis earum; et potestas earum nocere hominibus mensibus quinque . . . et in caudis eorum, nam caudae eorum similes serpentibus, habentes capita: et in his nocent."

17 I give these further sources as initially listed by Grandgent, 138 (cf. 1972 rev. ed., 151). Given these particular loci - so explaining Dante's singular divergence from classical authority (mostly Vergil), and thus the essential post-classical "originality" of his iconographic contribution - his Geryon will naturally not be so described by Natalis Comes (1551, 1576), for that author was a "scientific" mythographer, and thus he describes (Conti, 205: Mythologiae 7:1) the strictly Vergilian, or premedieval, standard.

18 White, 51. In regard to sphinxes (cf. Moffitt in note 1), all this essentially "popular" medieval source has to say is that (White, 35): "Sphinxes also are reckoned as monkeys. They are shaggy, defenceless, and docilely ready to forget their wild freedom."

19 For Bronzino's proper family name, di Cosimo and not "Allori," see Pilliod.

20 For a bibliography (up to 1972) of studies dealing with Horace's considerable influence on the development of equally literary and artistic theory, see Graham.

21 For the citations following, see Horace, 1966, 450 (with the Latin); Horace, 1965, 79 (for the parts in English).

22 Horace, De arte poetica, 1-5: "Humano capiti cervicem pictor equinam lungere si velit, et varia inducere plumas undique collatis membris, ut turpiter atrum designat in piscem mulier formosa superne."

23 Ibid., 6-8: "Isti tabulae fore librum persimilem, cuius, velut aegri somnia, vanae fingentur species, ut nec pes nec caput uni reddatur formae."

24 For the historical components leading to an unprecedented notion of the "sovereignty of the artist" in the Renaissance, see Blunt, chap. 4: "Social Position of the Artist"; Cast, 1977; Hauser 2, chap. 3: "Social Status of the Renaissance Artist"; Kantorowicz; Nahm; Panofsky, 1962; Wittkower; Zilsel, 1918 and 1926.

25 I can, of course, only speculate as to whether Dolce had any (in)direct knowledge of Bronzino's painting; no matter, had he actually seen (or heard described) the fraudulent motif, I suspect he likely would have then viewed it through Horatian spectacles.

26 Concerning certain "capricci e cose varie e fantastiche," as in Federico Zuccari (L'Idea, 1607), see Panofsky, 1968, 92, 232 (n. 46), 237 (n. 69); see also Ossola, 179 ff for various usages of capriccio appearing after 1550.

27 Italian text, as given in Roskill, 124 (the English version in the text is mine): "Se collo di cavallo a capo humano / Alcun Pittor per suo capriccio aggiunga, / Quello di varie piume ricoprendo: / E porga al corpo suo forma si strana, / Che fra diverse qualite di membra / Habbia la coda di difforme pesce, / E la testa accompagni un dolce aspetto / Di vaga e legggiardrissima Donzella: / A veder cosa tal, sendo chiamati, / Potreste amici ritener il riso?"

28 For the humanist significance of "invention," see Lee, 16-23. For an exemplary Renaissance textual illustration of pictorial invention - Apelles' Calumny, with an attendant figure of Deceit (Fraus, Fraude) - see Alberti, 88-89; for its subsequent artistic recreations, see Cast (1981), Massing.

29 For the humanist significance of the "sister arts," see Praz.

30 Gauricus, 59, 61 (my translation of the Latin).

31 For the evidence supporting Holanda's reliability regarding Michelangelo's statements, see Summers, 1981, 26-27, 466 (n. 60), later citing the passages following, 135-37.

32 Holanda-Vasconcellos, 102-06; Holanda-Denis, 188-90; Holanda-Bell, 60-63 (which is awkwardly stated for following much too literally the original, somewhat chaotic order of Holanda's phrasing); on the discovery of the grotteschi, and their diffusion and fame in the Renaissance, see Dacos.

33 For what follows I am greatly indebted to David Summers's exhaustive historical analyses of the basic premises of Cinquecento art theory; see particularly Summers, 1981, esp. chap. 7, "L'alta fantasia"; also useful for the broader theoretical interests of the period is Blunt; see also Barasch (esp. chaps. 4, 5).

34 Horace, De arte poetica, 361 ff: "Ut pictura poesis: erit quae, si propius stes, / te capiat magis," etc. The standard study of the topos "Painting is like poetry" - but not of the anatomically heterogeneous motif that so often concretely illustrated it - remains Lee; see also Graham, "A Bibliography." The family tree of the Horace's striking hybrid motif, only briefly examined here, still awaits a definitive monographic examination.

35 Cennini, as cited (with minor adjustments) in Holt, 137-38; cf. Cennini, chap. 1 (providing the Italian text).

36 Petrarch, as cited in Venturi, 240-43.

37 For the literature on Renaissance (and earlier) ekphraseis, to which Horace's text (among others) was so often subjected, see Alpers; Baxandall, esp. 78-96; Cast, 1981; Downey; Forster; Friedlader; Harlan; Harris; Hohlweg; James and Webb; Konecny; Kurman; Land; Maguire; Mango; Marek; Massing; Moffitt, 1991; Pernice; Rosand; etc.

38 Plato, 24-25; see also a variant citation in Summers, 1981, 129.

39 For this author (also citing this passage), see Bundy, 85, n. 11.

40 Themistius, 204: "Sicut enim pictoribus in potestate est pingere quae volunt, ita et animae." According to the modern editor, Themistius's arguments were based on such Aristotelian precedents as Poetics (1448b), Rhetorica (1371b), and also De memoria et reminiscentia (450a), De insomniis (460b ff), to which I must add the clear influence of Horace (De arte poetica, 1-10).

41 Isidore, 272-73; for an analogous, pseudo-anthropological rather than "painterly", recital, see Augustine, De Civitate Dei 16:18 (as quoted below), which contains a catalogue of "recorded monstrosities" derived specifically from Pliny's Natural History (esp. 7:2).

42 Libri Carolini, as cited in Davis-Weyer, 101-03.

43 For this connection, see Gage.

44 Bernard, as cited in Friedman, 254, n. 23 (Latin); Holt, 21 (English).

45 For many illustrations of numerous "fantastic" hybrids proliferating in medieval imagery (none, however, being specifically related to the literary polemics examined here), see Baltrusaitis. More useful are three art historical surveys of medieval materials appearing in the marginalia to illuminated manuscripts, particularly the kind that were formerly called "droleries," for which see Friedman; Poesch; Sandler.

46 In this context, my definition of "Mannerism," its theoretical impulses and its formal means of expression, follows that of Shearman; Smyth. For the modern (art) historiography of Mannerism, see Elizabeth Cropper's introduction to the new edition (1992) of Smyth; see also Henri Zerner, "Observations on the Use of the Concept of Mannerism," in Robinson and Nichols, 105-21.

47 Pico, as quoted in Wind, 17.

48 For the generally "rhetorical" basis of art theory and criticism during the early Renaissance period, see especially Baxandall; for the classical rhetorical roots and various literary strategies characterizing "Mannerism" in particular, see Curtius, 273-301.

49 For the historical sources of strictly "rhetorical" (or verbal) contrapposto, see Weise, 1974; Summers, 1977 and 1981, 76-80, 489-90.

50 For the artistic dimostratione as a sign of Renaissance "progress," see Gombrich, 1966, 1-10.

51 Alberti, 76, 79.

52 Although the extensive text originally belonging to Polykleitos's Canon is now lost, I am assured that the best surviving paraphrase is to be found in Vitruvius's famous treatise, De Architectura 3:1, ii - which is immediately followed by a statement (3:1, iii-iv) that Leonardo copied in his own Italian translation as a sort of extended caption to his famous drawing known as the "Vitruvian Figure."

53 Pedretti, 1957, 152-53.

54 For such anatomical virtuosity as the formal sign of "Maniera," see especially Smyth (including diagrammatic drawings). Most of these figures with angular silhouettes conform to what I call the "flattened pretzel" syndrome.

55 Augustine, 449.

56 Summers, 1981, 76. Although not mentioned here by Summers, the overall impulse was for "enargeia," which practice I have already explained and then applied to Leonardo's broader Weltanschauung; see Moffitt, 1991; see also Hazard.

57 Comanini, Il Figino, as transcribed in Barocchi, 1978, 2:439: "E come il poeta scherza con gli antiteti, overo coi contraposti, cosi dal pittore sono contraposte dentro una stessa tavola le figure delle donne alle figure degli uomini, quelle de' fanciulli a quelle de' vecchi, I seni del mare alia terra, le valli ai monti, et altre simili contraposizioni son fatte, dalle quali non nasce minor vaghezza nella pittura, di quello che da' contrarii veggiam nascere ne' buoni poemi."

58 Such as was initially suggested in Moffitt, 1993, 277, n. 3.

59 Gombrich, "Leonardo's Grotesque Heads," reprinted in Gombrich, 1976, 157-75 (citing Leonardo's Trattato, making more or less explicit physiognomical references); see also Klaiber; Juynboll; Pedretti, 1962; Moffitt, 1994.

60 Comanini, Il Figino, as transcribed in Barocchi, 1978, 2:440: "[Pittore] che avra dipinta l'imagine d'un fanciullo, vorra porle appresso quella d'un vecchio, overo al fianco d'un uomo vorra formare una donna, et appo un gigante un nano, et appo una bella giovane una brutta vecchia." Barocchi also cites "simili contrapposti figurativi" to be found in Paolo Pino and Lodovico Dolce (Barocchi, 1978, 2:440, n. 3; emphasis mine). Ergo, Comanini was not the only Cinquecento connoisseur to have had in mind what I take specifically to be those "contrapposti leonardeschi."

61 For Mannerism as an elitist and erudite "mentalite," see especially Shearman.

62 Vasari, 1963, 3:249; for Bronzino's portrait of Dante, see also Nelson.

63 Panofsky, 1962, 89-90.

64 I owe this particular observation (in litteris: October, 1993) to Prof. Patrik Reutersward, emeritus, Stockholm.

65 For an extended discussion of these Cinquecento topoi in relation to Bronzino's Allegory, particularly as applications for its key figure of la Fraude, see Barolsky and Ladis; for Bronzino as the consummate artista-cortegiano, see Levey, 1971, 104-08; Pope-Hennessy, 182-86, 234-36, 244-45.

66 For the mentalite of that putative period amateur-cognoscento, again see Shearman, also Summer, 1981; for his formalist expectations, again see Smyth.


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