Francesco Furini (Florence, between 1600 and 1603 – August 19, 1646) was an Italian baroque painter, one of the most important in Florence in the 17th century. He is a peculiar artist, because he produced pictures of a daring eroticism even after becoming a priest.
He was born in Florence to an a poor and numerous artistic family. His father, Filippo, was a portrait painter; his sister Alessandra also became a painter; and another sister, Angelica, was a singer in the court of Cosimo II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Furini’s early training was by Matteo Rosselli (whose other pupils include Lorenzo Lippi and Baldassare Franceschini), though Furini is also described as influenced by Domenico Passignano and Giovanni Biliverti. He befriended Giovanni da San Giovanni.
In 1619 he went to Rome for the first time where he suffered the influence of Caravaggio and his students. He then returned to Florence, enrolling in the Academy of Painters, where Galileo Galilei was among his buyers and admirers.
Furini’s work reflects the tension faced by the conservative, mannerist style of Florence when confronting then novel Baroque styles. He is a painter of biblical and mythological set-pieces with a strong use of the misty sfumato technique. In the 1630s his style paralleled that of Guido Reni. An important early work, Hylas and the Nymphs (1630), features six female nudes that attest to the importance Furini placed upon drawing from life.
Between 1639 and 1642 he made the two frescoes Lorenzo the Magnificent and the Platonic Academy and Allegory of the death of Lorenzo in the Argenti room at Palazzo Pitti affecting the influence of the works that Pietro da Cortona was making in other rooms of the palace .
Furini’s pictorial style was characterized by a soft and sensual painting that transpired in the subjects of his paintings drawn from the Bible and mythology, distinguishing himself from feminine nudes; He then entered religious life, becoming parish priest of Sant’Ansano in Mugello, devoting himself to sacred subjects.
In his paintings, in his frescoes and above all in the numerous and subtle drawings, the Furini clearly demonstrated that he did not move in the Baroque sense, but to participate in the manierist revival that took place in several parts of Italy from 1620.
The painting of Furini met with great success not only in Florence, but also in European Catholic courts, such as that of Spain or Habsburg, as it was based on refined and decadent tastes.
Freedberg describes Furini’s style as filled with “morbid sensuality”. His frequent use of disrobed females is discordant with his excessive religious sentimentality, and his polished stylization and poses are at odds with his aim of expressing highly emotional states. His stylistic choices did not go unnoticed by more puritanical contemporary biographers like Baldinucci. Pignoni also mirrored this style in his works.
One of his masterpieces, and not reflective of the style of his canvases, is the airy fresco in Palazzo Pitti, where on order of Ferdinando II de’ Medici, between 1639 and 1642, Furini frescoed two large lunettes depicting the Platonic Academy of Careggi and the Allegory of the Death of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The frescoes can be seen as a response to Pietro da Cortona, who was at work in the palazzo during these years.