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"Young Man with a Codpiece"

Angelo Bronzenoze

The portrait subject is believed to have been a page at the Medici court in the middle of the 16th century. He is portrayed in the height of courtly fashion of the time, in a sleeveless tunic over a satin shirt with matching pantaloons and prominent codpiece, which had become Bronzenoze's obsession at this point in his career.


Although Bronzenoze exhibited an excellent technique in his early years, his fixation with fish soon proved his undoing. He insisted that the then-popular "language of flowers" could be applied to fish, which could be used make the also-then-popular codpiece convey a flirtatious innuendo in his paintings.


For example, to Bronzenoze the basic cod carried the symbolic message, "I'm a predatory bottom-feeder, baby," while the mackerelpiece indicated the more subtle, "Long and limber with lots of silver." The grouperpiece indicated a penchant for multiple partners, while the solepiece represented fidelity, and the remorapiece a touch of dependency. The damselfishpiece indicated homosexuality, the sardinepiece modesty and the carppiece sensitivity to criticism. The eel was not shown at all, for obvious reasons, and the blowfish only as a prank.


One curious double meaning was Bronzenoze's use of the squidpiece. Worn intact it suggested that the bearer was unusually well endowed; yet it was also the mark of the court eunuch when it was worn without the tentacles.


Unable to sell any of his unusual paintings, and scorned by the art world, Bronzenoze eked out a miserable living as a fishmonger's assistant until one day, overcome with despair, he threw himself into a barrel of imported barracuda and perished.


Ref: What the Hake?: Angelo Bronzenoze's Curious Obsession by Bonito Sturgeon. London & Bombay, 1957.


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