Syphilis as a Moral Pandemic: Of Agnolo Bronzino's Œdipus Tyranus.Pdf

Ralph Hage
Bronzino's so-called London Allegory (c.1545), one of art history's most reinterpreted images, has long been misunderstood as a textually unanchored painting. This has led to varied, contradictory and equally unverifiable interpretations. A rereading of it as referencing Sophocles' and Seneca's Œdipus and Aristotles' Poetics provides the natural key for understanding all its elements and situating it within its particular cultural and political contexts. The fairly new availability of these
more » ... bility of these text and the crucial role they were playing in determining the theoretical frameworks for Italian theater led to Bronzino's use of them as the subject of a pictorially expressed commentary upon tragedy. Politically, the choice of a syphilitic man as one of the central figures of the painting is argued as reference to both the Theban plays and the outbreak of this epidemic during the Italian of War of 1494 - 1498, a repetition of which was reoccurring between 1542 – 1546, contemporary to Bronzino's execution of this painting. The image functioned as Cosimo de' Medici's message of moral condemnation to Francis the First, King of France, and as a prediction of his coming demise.
doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.13353266.v3 fatcat:dlkevx4gurggdf33ribx42jn7a