Comune di Empoli
Provincia di Firenze Regione Toscana
Soprintendenza per i Beni Artistici
e Storici di Firenze presents

of Jacopo da Pontormo

The diary

Pontormo, diary
Discovered at the beginning of this century, the so-called "Diary" displayed at the exhibition in the Convent of the Agostiniani at Empoli is the only surviving written document by Jacopo Pontormo and is in actual fact a composite text, not only codilogically and structurally, but also from the conceptual point of view.

We should immediately make it clear that this document by the great painter from Pontorme is the most valuable part of a manuscript preserved in the National Central Library (Magl. VIII 1490 ms.), a voluminous codex that contains heterogeneous manuscripts from modern epochs with a total of 32 pamphlets. Pontormo's diary is made up of two slim pamphlets (one formed of three sheets and the other of five, comprising a total of 16 pages), later numbered as pages 63 to 78, as a result of being bound together with the other texts contained in the Magliabechian manuscript, though only 23 sides of the pages are written on, and two of these only partially. The papers are arranged in a very different order from the original version of the diary as it was written by Pontormo. The chronological order of each individual note has in fact been altered considerably: pages 65v-73r go from January 30th 1555 to October 23rd 1556; page 73v from December 17th 1554 to January 27th 1555; pages 74r-75r contain prescri ptions for his diet interlaced with occasional memoirs (January 7th-February 6th 1554, November 5th 1554, April 22nd 1555 are placed in a disordered succession up to page 75r-v); while pages 76r-78r form another part of the diary from March 11th to October 23rd 1554.

An unknown hand wrote the main title on page 63r in the early decades of the 17th century, calling it the "Diary of Jacopo da Pontormo carried out while he was painting the choir of San Lorenzo", thus confirming that the diary as we see it today dates from at least the first half of the 17th century. The artist used the various sheets of paper that he had about him to write the diary, the same as he used for his drawings, and folded them up into a notebook (measuring about 220 x 150 cm. today, though the original was slightly larger).

Diary of Pontormo,
florentine painter written
by Filippo Baldinucci
Analysis of the individual sheets of paper shows clearly that the diary was originally divided up into one simple booklet of 8 pages: if we want to reconstruct it today, we must open all the folds and then reverse fold them along the line of the binding. When the diary is put back in its original order, it is easier to understand its chronological sequence and it can be seen that it is not a daily note-book at all but a sort of "calendar" that the artist assembled - with several gaps - from January 7th 1554 to October 23rd 1556. It appears to have been a sort of memorandum that he carried about with him when he was working on some important painting like the frescoes in San Lorenzo, with notes on the most suitable methods (including his daily habits and personal diet) for its completion.

However the diary is not one single document but is apparently composed of several elements. The part that originally opened the sequence starts out with a series of "prescriptions" or advice on how to live a sober life, followed, with later additions in different handwriting and inks, and some "memoirs", two to be exact. This part seems to show a Pontormo who realises that he was capable of composing more interesting reflections at a higher intellectual level. It is followed by the day to day accounts in the diary.

The philological studies carried out in preparation for the publication of the fac-simile have made it possible to establish that it was Florentine art historian Filippo Baldinucci (1625-1696) who, in around the middle of the 17th century, carried out a partial copy of Pontormo's manuscript: it was more an attempt to carry out a critical analysis than a mechanical copy, with copies of 19 of the 40 drawings. This manuscript is also preserved in the National Central Library in Florence (Pal. 621, eight pages 267 x 198 mm.). At the end of the 18th century it came into the possession of Gaetano Poggiali (759-1814), book lover and editor from Livorno, and later (1816) became part of the Palatine Library, the ancient library of the Grand Dukes at the Pitti Palace which, with the Magliabechian Library, was to create the main historical nucleus of the National Central Library.

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