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

of Jacopo da Pontormo

The village of Pontorme

The exhibition dedicated to the Diary, and therefore to Jacopo Pontormo's (1554-56) last years of life, which was when he was also working on the frescoes in San Lorenzo, can, of course, only conclude in the ancient village that was the artist's birthplace, just outside the walls of the Convent of the Agostiniani and close by the gates of Empoli.

The son of Bartolommeo di Jacopo Carrucci and Alessandra, the daughter of shoemaker Pasquale di Zanobi di Filippo, Jacopo was in fact born on May 24th 1494 in the house of his maternal grandfather (at present being restored and where he is remembered with a plaque with an inscription by Emilio Cecchi), in the middle of the village inside the castle of Pontorme (or Puntormo). Here he spent his early youth and perhaps learnt the rudiments of painting from his father, also a painter, a disciple of Domenico Ghirlandaio.

Saint Michael (particolar)
church of Saint Michael in Pontorme
Bartolommeo died when his son was only five years old; only five years later, in 1504, his mother died too and Jacopo was left an orphan; then his grandfather died and the boy was entrusted to the care of his maternal grandmother, "Mona" Brigida. Placed under the guardianship of Dei Pipilli, a magistrate in Florence (1508), he was sent to live in the city at the house of a relation, another shoemaker, and frequented the workshops of Leonardo, Piero di Cosimo and Mariotto Albertinelli. Later he worked with Andrea del Sarto, but apparently the master sent him away because he was jealous of the success of Jacopo's fresco over the entrance to the church of Santissima Annunziata (1513).

The painter was to return to the ancient castle of Pontorme in 1514 as an already promising artist, to fresco one of the doors of the Armoury of Leo X (of which no trace remains today) and, again in 1519, to paint his two famous saints for the church of San Michele: St. John the Evangelist and St. Michael the Archangel, which can still be admired to this day, the only works by the artist that can still be found on the territory of Empoli. These Saints mark a fundamental moment in Pontormo's, artistic development and show that his work was already completely Mannerist in style, following his early period of training which was spent in the workshop of Fra' Bartolomeo and Andrea del Sarto. The figures are at this point unmistakeably his, with formal detail prevailing over the quality of the content: this is noticeable in the St. John the Evangelist, portrayed in a twisted position, the body turning from the tip of the left foot up to the head which is inclined in a parallel but opposite direction. The pose of the St. Michael Archangel is also beautifully articulated and balanced (perhaps influenced by Michelangelo), which does not lean against the traditionally used dragon but against a small cupid-cum-devil wearing a dreamy expression.

The two panels, whose preparatory drawings are contained in the Lille Museum and in the Uffizi Gallery of Prints and Drawings, were restored for the first time in 1955, which was when the drawings of the Deposition and a figure (possibly studies for a lunette that was to be placed above but never carried out) were first noticed on their rear, After their return to Empoli in 1956, they were placed in the Museum of the Collegiata, where they stayed until 1980. Restored again between 1980 and 1986 (when various analyses of the drawings on the back were carried out), "Pontormo's Saints" are today preserved in their original location, near the right-hand transept of the parish church of San Michele, an extremely ancient church which can be found mentioned in the "parish" records of Empoli from 1192. The interior contains several important works such as the Allegory of the Immaculate Conception by Ludovico Cigoli (1589) and the Tabernacle with the Saints Michael and John the Baptist by Girolamo Macchietti.

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