Florence art guide

Jacopo Carrucci known as Pontormo


Painter and fine portraitist
Pontormo, Empoli 1494-Florence 1556

The pupil and later rival of Andrea del Sarto he was the greatest representative of the early Florentine Mannerist school. He possessed a tormented and introverted spirit, loved experimenting and stands out, not only for his careful research into form and rare colours, but also for his original private life. He lived all alone in a tall house and his bedroom on the top floor could only be reached by a ladder which he could raise with a pulley. His "Diary" (1554-56) shows the depth of his neurosis.
He always lived in Florence under the protection of Medici, apart from the odd visit to Rome to see masterpieces of Michelangelo Buonarroti which were to inspire his work with a vibrant monumental style.

cosimo the elder
Cosimo the Elder

His portrait painting starts out with the Portrait of a Gentlewoman with a basket of spindles (Uffizi), where his interpretation is more aggressive compared to the style of Andrea del Sarto; the Portrait of Cosimo the Elder (Uffizi) contains a tough evocative power, while he also made the most of the delicate techniques of Bronzino, for example in his Portrait of a Lady, now in Frankfurt.
He possessed a nervous and varied graphic style, compared to Andrea del Sarto's measured classicism, and his use of space is almost disturbing for the figures almost seem to be arranged in diminishing order instead of in depth, giving special character to his work; this includes the Visitation (1516), frescoed in the little Cloister dei Voti at the Annunziata, the Holy Family in San Michele Visdomini (1518), where the taut lines of the composition find psychological expression in some of the sardonic grimaces.

hurch of St. Felicita

He also decorated the hall of the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano (Vertumnus and Pomona, 1521), the Stories of the Passion in the Cloisters at the Certosa of Galluzzo (1523-25) inspired by Dürer in an almost provocative northern style, the Supper at Emmaus (Uffizi), where he anticipates El Greco and Caravaggio, the Deposition (1525-28, perhaps his masterpiece) in Santa Felicita and the Visitation at Carmignano.
He developed a style similar to that of Michelangelo after 1530, though using forms that became more and more involved and abnormal as, for example, in the frescos in the choir of San Lorenzo, destroyed in 1738, which Vasari describes as melancholy scenes of piled-up dead bodies.

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