Sonnets for Laura Battiferri

Agnolo Bronzino, 1560

[Editor’s note: Bronzino’s portrait of the poet Laura Battiferri, though unusually abstracted, seems typically chilly and distance - a hallmark of Bronzino’s portraits. This emotional distance would hardly hint at the profound intellectual crush these two peots had for each other. The following sonnets were a correspondence by Bronzino to Battiferri and an explination of the portrait.]

I swear to you by that living bough, whose
Plant you were at the sacred font, and by that flame
Courteous and holy, of him who rules the heaven
Earth, and waves,

That in its happy shadow I saw such a one
Singing of purity in so joyous notes that I now hold
Base whoever most vaunts himself, and nowhere
Else does greater sweetness ever come to me;

For it the world honors the fortunate Oretta
And Bice, we should give vaunt to another’s wisdom
And work no less than to the ladies’ merit:

You, through your own valor, vanquish
Laura and Beatrice, and you are above them in
Worth, and perhaps their lovers in style and song.

[In response to a sonnet by his friend Anton Francesco Grazzini, Bronzino composed another sonnet which describes his painting of Battiferri in more detail.]

Kind Lasca, the favor from on High that put the stylus
In my hand, so that courteous and warm affection impels
You to set pen to paper and makes you stray in part from
The truth because of too much love,

Is apportionated to me not because I am worthy. Or
Because there might not be another human better then I,
Not by merit or art, but as a gift wholly from Him, who
Holds all grace at his full disposal.

He alone guides me, and so may He never be divided
From me, but sustain my hand and my mind until I happily
Reach the preordained end,

But this I swear to you, seated before so great a work,
That of my own power my soul feels incapable of arising,
But can only follow it humbly and reverently.

[Battiferri herself joins the poetic correspondence with a sonnet complementing Branzino’s skill as an instrument that reveals her soul to the world.]

Just as your shepherdess, in her shining and vague face
Openly shows you, bright Crisero,
All that her chaste and sincere heart desires,
Be you then content and satisfied.

As my own new image, lofty work of your skilled
Hand, discloses my every affection and every thought,
However my heart would
Prefer to keep them hidden.

And thus may the sapling, which you love so much,
Worthy rival of Apollo, tended by you, grow high and
Ever green up to the sky.

Just as I, thanks to you, gird with double honor my
Lowly, little-known, humble stem, so that South Wind or North
Wind may not blow it away.

[Finally, Branzino replies to Battiferri with a short verse]

And I who am changed through her, as the winged magician
Wishes, do not see or ask anything
But virtue and beauty, whence I could perhaps
Discern your whole soul.
More about
Agnolo Bronzino, The ArtistsPortrait of Agnolo Bronzino

Agnolo Bronzino

A butcher's son swept off his feet by a renaissance master.

1503 – 1572

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