Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


James M. Saslow


Bartolomeo; Bettini; Bronzino; Florence; Michelangelo; Pontormo


This project examines the early art patronage of a sixteenth-century Florentine merchant-banker, Bartolomeo Bettini, an ambitious anti-Medici Republican with aristocratic pretensions. Bettini was a nobleman, but he aspired to join the city's elite patrician class, and about 1532 he commissioned Florence's leading painters to decorate a camera, or private chamber, in his family palazzo. Through his first major commission, a cycle of paintings by Michelangelo, Pontormo, and Bronzino, he began his ascent through the city's slippery social order. Florence's hierarchy was then being redefined by the newly reinstalled Medici in the wake of the siege of Florence and collapse of its two-hundred-and-fifty year Republic. This study takes Bettini's decorative program as a starting point for a comprehensive view of conspicuous consumption and domestic display as social strategies for securing status in early ducal Florence. Chapter 1 addresses Bettini, his life, his social network of friends and neighbors, and his politics; chapter 2 his celebrated painters, their careers, their politics, and their interest in love and language (major themes of Bettini's program); chapter 3 Bettini's program, the extant paintings and preparatory drawings, and the program's iconography; and chapter 4 the social role of a private interior'here, either a bedroom or a private study, both of which will be discussed'in elevating the owner's status in Renaissance Florence.

Current scholarship on Bettini's cycle of paintings has focused on decoding the program's complex inconography, particularly the meaning of the Michelangelo-Pontormo Venus and Cupid panel painting, within the rich context of Florentine artistic and literary circles in the mid-sixteenth century. Indeed, debates about the city's official language (Tuscan versus Latin) and theories of love are at the very heart of Bettini's program. Yet few scholars have successfully addressed the cycle as a whole, including the poet portraits painted by Bronzino to fill the camera's lunettes. Designing an erudite program was essential for this ambitious merchant-banker and his social ascent, but Bettini's patronage also reveals his desire to align himself through the arts with the city's rulers and leading tastemakers, the Medici, regardless of diverging politics. Bettini serves as a case study in understanding how even at home wealthy Florentine Republicans asserted their power and made their identity in a new ducal society.