Cristofano dell’Altissimo (Florence, 1525-1605) was not one of the great masters of painting: after studying under Bronzino and Pontormo, he created portraits that are known to be almost exclusively copies of other artists’ works. Or even copies of other copies.
He made at least two hundred and eighty reproductions of portraits that had been painted of poets, scholars, and dignitaries, for what would become a valuable collection belonging to Paolo Giovio (1483-1552), a high-ranking prelate and art collector. The 484 pieces in the so-called Giovio Series are now in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.
In 1552, Cosimo de’ Medici invited Cristofano to Giovio’s villa to select the best pieces in the “Universal Gallery of Men” the bishop had put together over the years.
The Florentine painter’s style was not particularly appreciated by critics in his time. However, museums would be quite empty if they only had room for the best and the most loved – and thanks to that, today we can still enjoy Cristofano’s talent.