Bronzino. Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo, wife of Cosimo I de' Medici. c. 1545. Oil on panel. Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Online lectures

Style in the Service of Power: portraits at the court of the Medici in Florence

  • Tuesday 12 October 2021
    (5-6pm )
  • Lecturer: Dr Kevin Childs

As the political structures in Florence shifted from a republic to a hereditary monarchy in the middle decades of the sixteenth century, portraiture began to take on further symbolic value. Artists, merchants and bankers became courtiers, and a group of painters, led by Pontormo, Bronzino and Salviati, created the look of the newly coined Medici court, gleaned from recommendations on behaviour, dress and deportment from writers such as Baldassare Castiglione (The Book of the Courtier) and Pietro Bembo (The Asolani).

This lecture will explore that relationship between style and power while considering in detail some of the greatest portraits ever painted for an elite who were both conscious of their image and the need to reinvent themselves.


Kevin Childs is a freelance writer and lecturer on culture and the arts in the UK and Italy, where he leads specialised tours of Rome, Venice and Florence. As well as leading several courses at the V&A Academy he has also taught at Exeter University. He has written regularly for The Independent and Huffington Post and has published articles and reviews in The New Statesman and The Times, amongst other publications.

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