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The Cover
December 15, 2004

Portrait of a Woman With a Book of Music

JAMA. 2004;292(23):2813. doi:10.1001/jama.292.23.2813

Among the many luminaries practicing their art in Cinquecento Florence were many lesser lights, some whose names have been lost, others who, though their names in some of their works have survived, are lumped together by the art historians under the general rubric of “lesser Florentines.” Sometimes they are also known as “the eccentrics,” not so much because of any peculiar behavior characteristics they may have exhibited (though there seems certainly to be no lack of evidence for that—witness Jacopo Pontormo, for one), but because they seemed to be “off center” when it came to the mainstream art style, which in 16th-century Florence was Mannerism. Rather these “eccentrics” or lesser lights are of interest mainly because of the elucidation they give to the works of their more famous colleagues. They also make interesting reading. Such a one was Francesco Ubertini, called Il Bacchiacca (1494-1557). Born in Florence, he was, give or take a few months, an exact contemporary of the Florentine Mannerist Pontormo. He and Pontormo even collaborated briefly, but Bacchiacca never embraced the Mannerist style. Like Raphael, he had been trained in the classical style by Perugino, but unlike Raphael, he did not adopt the classical (later, Renaissance) style. The most that can be said of him is that he developed a highly personal, idiosyncratic style that was sometimes Mannerist, sometimes classical, often neither. Because of his lack of consistency, he has escaped categorization except perhaps that of “eclectic.” The one characteristic for which he is universally praised, however, is his color, in which he was unconventional, even daring, in his choices and unlikely juxtapositions.

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