Pontormo (1494-1556) whose real name is Jacopo was born at Pontorme. His father was Bartolomeo di Jaceopo di Martino Carrucci, who was also an artist. At the age of 18 Pontormo moved to Florence when his father apprenticed him to several painters including Leonardo Davencci, Mariotto  Albertlli, and Piero di Cosimo. By the time he painted “Joseph in Egypt” in 1515, part of a series of paintings he did for patron Pier Francesco Borgherini, he had already formed a distinctive style that later became known as mannerism. When he was about 18 he became an assistant to Andrea del Sarto. His first big commission was a fresco, “The Visitation” c. 1514. It’s located in Saint Annunziata, Florence and was part of a series of scenes from the Life of Marry. Pontormo’s compositions were religious but the painter created many sensitive portraits as well, such as “A Study of a Young Girl” c. 1526 located in Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Another famous portrait is “Portrait of a Halberdier” c. 1528 which is in the Jay Paul Museum, Los Angeles. Portormo “had an equally strange personality. Introspective and shy, he shut himself up in his quarters for weeks on end, inaccessible even to his friends.” P. 374 History of Art, H.W. Janson.

When a plague broke out in Florence in 1522, Pontormo left for a cloistered monastery called the Certosa di Galluzzo, where the monks followed vows of silence. He painted a series of frescos on the passion and resurrection of Christ. Of these frescos, ‘Christ Before Pilate” is the most famous. The figures are very elongated and the perspective is tilted vertically so that the figure in the top center of the painting seems to be directly above Christ. With age Pontormo became more reclusive and introspective. He kept a diary from 1554-1557 that included many drawings related to the frescos in San Lorenzo in which he worked during the last decade in his life. These drawings are the only way we know of the frescos that were later damaged by weather.

Three works of Pontormo that are located in Italy are:

 Madonna with Child & St John”, painting, c. 1523-1525, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Madonna with Child and St. John_Pontormo

Madonna and Child and St. John

“The Visitation”, Fresco, c. 1515 located in Saint Annunziata, Florence.

The Visitation .

 

“The Deposition from the Cross”, painting, c. 1528, Capponi Chapel in the church of Santa Felicita, Florence

  • The Deposition

    The Deposition

“The Deposition from the Cross” was one of his masterpieces created in 1528 and is located in the church of Santa Felicita, Florence. The piece is located in the church because it tells a story from the new testament of the family of Jesus taking his body down from the cross after crucifixion. All though commonly known as the “Deposition from the Cross”, there’s no actual cross in the painting. However, people seem to be lowering Christ’s body and their faces reflect a sudden and profound lost. A multitude of figures filled the arched composition in a detailed and interwoven pattern. Though they are carrying the weight of Christ’s body they don’t seem to be weighed down by it. In fact the lower figure is balanced on his front toes and looking at something in the distance. There has been speculation that the bearded figure of Joseph of Arimathea is actually a self-portrait of Pontormo himself. The perspective is also unbalanced as there is no figure in the center of the composition. All the mourners seem to be moving away from the central point. There’s little structure or background in the painting and you’re left to wonder what is holding up the figures in the back. Pontormo is interested in dramatizing the story being told. The expressions on people’s faces reflect the fact that they are caught up in some overwhelming emotions, while others appear to be tortured by some psychological turmoil.

Pontormo’s style put him in a movement that is now known as mannerism. His contemporaries of his time were Rosso Fiorentino, Andrea del Sarto, and Parmigianino. These painters moved away from the natural and classical ideals of the Renaissance masters. Like earlier Renaissance artists he focused on the figure, but he distorted proportions of skewed space, used unnatural  colors, and his figures were emotional rather than passive.

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