Pontormo (1494-1557)

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Study of a Mans Head

Jacopo Carucci, usually known as Jacopo da Pontormo, Jacopo Pontormo or simply Pontormo, was an Italian Mannerist painter and portraitist from the Florentine school. He was famous for his use of contorted poses, distorted perspective and peculiar, markedly unnatural colors, which appear to mirror his restless, neurotic temperament.

Portrait of a Musician

Jacopo Carucci was born at Pontorme, near Empoli. Vasari relates how the orphaned boy, “young, melancholy and lonely,” was shuttled around as a young apprentice: Jacopo had not been many months in Florence before Bernardo Vettori sent him to stay with Leonardo da Vinci, and then with Mariotto Albertinelli, Piero di Cosimo, and finally, in 1512, with Andrea del Sarto, with whom he did not remain long, for after he had done the cartoons for the arch of the Servites, it does not seem that Andrea bore him any good will, whatever the cause may have been.

Portrait of Halberdier, held the title of the most expensive Old Master portrait between 1989 and 2002

Pontormo painted only in and around Florence, supported by Medici patronage. A foray to Rome, largely to see Michelangelo’s work, influenced his later style. Haunted faces and elongated bodies are characteristic of his work. An example of Pontormo’s early style is The Visitation of the Virgin and St Elizabeth, with its dancelike, balanced figures, painted from 1514 to 1516 for the parish church of St. Michele in Carmignano, a few miles from Florence. In 1519-20 Pontormo also took part in the fresco decoration of the salon of the Medici country villa at Poggio a Caiano, not far from Florence. There he painted frescoes in a pastoral genre style, very uncommon for Florentine painters; their subject was the obscure classical myth of Vertumnus and Pomona in a lunette.

Vertumnus and Pomona

In 1522, when the plague broke out in Florence, Pontormo left for the Certosa di Galuzzo, a cloistered Carthusian monastery where the monks followed vows of silence. He painted a series of frescoes, now quite damaged, on the passion and resurrection of Christ. The large altarpiece canvas for the Brunelleschi-designed Capponi Chapel in the church of Santa Felicita in Florence, portraying The Deposition from the Cross, is considered by many his surviving masterpiece (1528). The decoration in the dome of the chapel is now lost, but four roundels with the Evangelists still adorn the pendentives, worked on by both Pontormo and Agnolo Bronzino.

The Deposition from the Cross

The figures, with their sharply modeled forms and bright, harsh colors are united in a stark and flattened space. Those who are lowering Christ appear as anguished as the mourners. This bleak and tumultuous oval of figures took three years for Pontormo to complete. He collaborated on the rest of its decor so intimately with Bronzino, his chief pupil, that specialist’s dispute which roundels each of them painted.

Deposition Detail

Also by Pontormo is the Annunciation frescoed on adjacent columns, which resembles his Visitation in the church of San Francesco e Michele at Carmignano in both the style and swaying postures.

Visitation

The nearby Uffizi Gallery holds his mystical Supper at Emmaus as well as portraits. Many of Pontormo’s well known canvases, such as Joseph being sold to Potiphar and the Martyrdom of St Maurice and the Theban Legion (c. 1531) depict crowds milling about in awkward contrapposto of greatly varied positions. His portraits, acutely characterized, show similarly Mannerist proportions.

Joseph Being Sold to Potiphar

Many of Pontormo’s works have been damaged, including the lunnettes for the cloister in the Carthusian monastery of Galluzo. Most tragic is the loss of the unfinished frescoes for the church of San Lorenzo which consumed the last decade of his life. His frescoes depicted a judgment day composed of an unsettling morass of writhing figures. The film of Giovanni Fago, Pontormo, a heretical love evokes his lonely and ultimately paranoid dedication to this project, which he often kept shielded from onlookers. The remaining drawings, showing a bizarre and mystical ribboning of bodies, had an almost hallucinatory effect. Florentine figure painting had mainly stressed linear and upright sculptural figures. Jesus in the Sistine Chapel wall is a massive painted block stern in his judgment; by contrast, Pontormo’s Jesus in the Last Judgment squirms sinuously, as if rippling through the heavens in the dance of ultimate finality. Heaps of liquefied angels amass about him. In his Last Judgment Pontormo went against pictorial and theological tradition by placing God the Father at the feet of Christ, instead of above him, an idea Vasari found deeply disturbing:

Pharao with His Butler and Baker 1515

Vasari’s Life of Pontormo, depicting him as withdrawn and steeped in neurosis while at the center of the artists and patrons of his lifetime, makes a fine introduction to the artistic life of the 16th century. A diary of his last two years survives. His personality and idiosyncrasies gave Pontormo a style that few were able to imitate with the exception of Bronzino. He shares some of the mannerism of Rosso Fiorentino and of Parmigianino. In some ways he anticipated the Baroque as well as the tensions of El Greco. His eccentricities also resulted in an original sense of composition. At best, his compositions are cohesive. The figures in the Deposition, for example, appear to sustain each other: removal of any one of them would cause the edifice to collapse. In lesser works, as in the Joseph canvases, the crowding makes for a confusing pictorial melee. It is in the later drawings that we see a graceful fusion of bodies in a composition which includes the oval frame of Jesus in the Last Judgment

Study for the Three Graces, Drawing

Anthology of works:

Leda and the Swan
1512-1513
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Holy Conversation
1514
San Luca Chapel, Santa Annunziata, Florence.
 
Episode of Hospital Life
1514
Accademia, Florence
 
Veronica and the Image
1515
Medici Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence
 
Visitation
1514-1516
Santa Annunziata, Florence
 
Lady with Basket of Spindles(attributed to Andrea del Sarto)
1516-1517
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Marriage bedchamber panels for Pier Francesco Borgherini. (Two others by Francesco Bachiacca)
 
 
 
Joseph reveals himself to his brothers
1516-17
National Gallery, London
 
Joseph sold to Potiphar
1516-17
National Gallery, London
 
Joseph’s Brothers Beg for Help
1515
National Gallery, London
 
Pharaoh with his Butler and Baker
1516-1517
National Gallery, London
 
Joseph in Egypt
1517-18
National Gallery, London
 
*St. Quentin (Also attributed to Giovanni Maria Pichi)
1517
Pinacoteca comunale, Sansepolcro
 
Portrait of Furrier
1517-1518
Louvre, Paris
 
Madonna with Child and Saints
1518
San Michele Visdomini, Florence
 
Portrait of Musician
1518-1519
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
St Anthony Abbott
1518-1519
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Portrait of Cosimo the Elder
1518-1519
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
John the Evangelist & the Archangel Gabriel
1519
Church of S. Michele, Empoli
 
Adoration of the Magi
1519-21
Palazzo Pitti, Florence
 
Vertumnus and Pomona
1519-1521
Villa Medici, Poggio a Caiano
 
Study of Man’s Head (Drawing)
 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
 
 
 
 
 

Leda and the Swan
Mary and Child with Four saints
1520-30
Metropolitan Museum, New York City
 
Portrait of two friends
c. 1522
Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice
 
Madonna with Child & Two Saints (Bronzino?)
c. 1522
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Holy Family with St John
1522-1524
Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
 
Holy Family with St John
1522-1524
Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
 
Madonna with Child & St John {Attributed to Rosso Fiorentino)
1523-1525
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Prayer in Gesthemane (copies by Jacopo da Empoli)
1523-1525
Certosa di Galluzo
 
Walk to Calvary
1523-1525
Certosa di Galluzo
 
Christ before Pilate
1523-1525
Certosa di Galluzo
 
Deposition
1523-1525
Certosa di Galluzo
 
Resurrection
1523-1525
Certosa di Galluzo
 
Supper in Emmaus
1525
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Study of a Carthusian Monk (Drawing)
1525
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Madonna and child & two angels
1525
San Francisco Museum Art, San Francisco
 
Portrait of young man in pink
1525-1526,
Pinacoteca Communale, Lucca.
 
Tabernacle of San Giuliano, Boldrone, Crucifix with Madonna & St. John, and Sant’Agostino
1525-1526:
Accademia, Florence
 
Birth of St. John Baptist
1526
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Saint Jerome Penitent
1526-1527
Landesmuseum, Hannover.
 
Madonna with Child & St John (Bronzino?)
1526-1528
Palazzo Corsini, Florence.
 
Madonna with Child & St John
1527-1528.
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Matthew, Luke, & John (Mark painted by Bronzino)
1525-1526
Santa Felicita, Capponi Chapel, Florence.
 
Deposition
1526-1528
Santa Felicita, Capponi Chapel, Florence.
 
Annunciation
1527-1528
Santa Felicita, Capponi Chapel, Florence.
 
Portrait of Francesca Capponi, as St. Mary Magdalen
1527-1528
Whitfield Fine Art, London.
 
Visitation
1528-1529
Church of San Francesco e Michele, Carmignano
 
Madonna with Child, Saint Anne and Four saints
1528-1529
Louvre Museum, Paris.
 
Eleven Thousand Martyrs
1529-1530
Palazzo Pitti, Florence
 

Madonna and Child with Joseph and St. John the Baptist

Mature works (after 1530)

Martyrdom of San Maurizio and the Theban Legions (Pontormo & Bronzino)
1531
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Noli me Tangere (Bronzino?)
1531
Casa Buonarroti, Florence
 
Portrait of lady in red with puppy, (Bronzino?)
1532-1533
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt
 
Venus and Cupid
1532-1534
Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence
 
Portrait of Alessandro de’ Medici
c. 1534-1535
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
 
Portrait of Alessandro de’ Medici
c. 1534-1535
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
 
Adam and Eve
1535
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Study for the Three Graces (Drawing)
1535
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Portrait of Halberdier
1537
Getty Museum, Los Angeles
 
Portrait of Niccolò Ardinghelli
 
National Gallery, Washington D.C.
 
Portrait of Maria Salviati
1543-1545
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
 
Sacrificial Scene
c. 1545
Capodimonte Museum, Naples
 
My Book (Pontormo’s Diary)
1554-1556
National Library, Florence
 
Portrait of Pontormo (Bronzino)
 
 
 
St. Francis (Drawing)
 
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
 
San Lorenzo (Fresco cartoons)
 
 
 

Portrait of a Lady in Red 1532

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