Alessandro Allori
(Florence 1535 – 1607)


Portrait of Tommaso de’ bardi  


oil on panel
102 x 83.1 cm. (40.2 x 32.7 in.)
c. 1558 – 1560

“Alessandro has shown in many pictures and portraits […] that he is seeking by diligence and continual study to arrive at that rarest perfection which is desired by beautiful and exalted intellects.”

Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors & architects, Vol. X, (London; Macmillan, 1912-1915), p. 12.

Alessandro Allori was born in Florence in 1535. After his father’s death in 1540, he was adopted by one of his father’s friends, the painter Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572), and Allori trained in his studio. Allori lived in Rome from 1554 to 1560 where, like many young artists, he studied antique sculpture and works by Michelangelo. The trip served as an opportunity to also broaden his patron base, and Allori successfully made a name for himself in the capital as a portrait painter.1 This trip to Rome was mentioned by Raffaello Borghini (1537-1588) in 1585 in his book Il Riposo. In this text, Borghini also described specifically this Portrait of Tommaso De’ Bardi, which Allori painted during his time in Rome.2 It has been suggested that the pendant to Tommaso’s portrait is that of his wife, Ortensia de Bardi di Montauto, now at the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence.3 Allori often incorporated allusions to Michelangelo’s sculptures in his paintings, yet the sculpture of Fame in this Portrait of Tommaso de’ Bardi also hints at his family’s relationship to the Medici.4


Allori’s popularity in Rome as a portrait painter also landed him his first important commission upon his return to Florence – the Montauto family chapel in the Church of Santissima Annunziata, Florence.5 Throughout his career, Allori worked for important Florentine patrons including the renowned Medici family, who awarded Allori grand commissions for the Palazzo Vecchio, Santa Maria Novella, and the Medici villa at the Poggio a Caiano.6 He died in Florence in 1607.

1. Jack J. Spalding IV, “Allori Family,” last modified May 26, 2010, accessed on November 25, 2020,
2. “At the age of 19 he moved to Rome, where he remained for two years studying the ancient statues and the works of Michelangelo and other great men, and in the same time painted several portraits such as that of Tommaso de’ Bardi, and of Lady Ortensia Montauto his wife, and these today are in Florence in the homes of the Bardi’s.” From: R. Borghini, Il Riposo di Rafaello Borghini, Florence, 1585.
3. Simone Giordani, Bronzino, Artist and Poet at the Court of the Medici, eds. C. Falciani and A. Natali (Florence: Mandragora, 2010), 332.
4. Ortensia’s family, the Montauto, were an important banking family, active in both Rome and Florence. In 1554, the Montauto schemed an unsuccessful uprising against the Florentine Cosimo I de Medici and the family was exiled to Rome. The statue of Fame next to De’ Bardi holds the palle of the Medici insignia in her left arm, and blows into a broken trumpet, signifying infamy and scandal, alluding to the fractured relations between the Medici and the Bardi and Montauto families. See: Ibid.
5. P. L. Reilly, “Grand Designs: Alessandro Allori’s discussions on the Rules of Drawing, Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artist and the Florentine Visual Vernacular” (doct. diss., Berkeley, 1999), 21.
6. Spalding, “Allori Family.”