Pontormo : biography
Pontormo : the works
Vasari speaks of this fresco in the Florentine church of San Raffaello or Ruffillo from which it was removed during the late eighteenth century suppression of religious orders and churches. It was taken to the painters’ chapel of San Luca, – where Pontormo was interred in 1562 – in the church of the Santissima Annunziata. This may have been the young artist’s first important commission. The language is classical and monumental, inspired by Andrea del Sarto as well as Fra Bartolomeo, representative of the “School of San Marco”, after the Florentine monastery where it developed. In its original setting the painting was surmounted by a lunette with God the Father in Glory Among Angels that was destroyed when the fresco was detached. The Virgin and Child are flanked on the left by Saint Lucy and another who may be Saint Agnes and on the right by the kneeling prophet Zechariah and the Archangel Michael.
Stories of Joseph. The Punishment of the Baker
This is one of four panels Pontormo painted with Stories of Joseph that were in the Camera Borgherini. The paintings were ordered by Salvi Borgherini around 1515 to decorate the bridal chamber in the family palazzo in Borgo Santi Apostoli when his son Pierfrancesco married Margherita Acciaioli. Andrea del Sarto, Bachiacca and Granacci also worked on the decorations of the room. In this painting Pontormo shows himself to be fully autonomous with respect to his teacher Andrea del Sarto. In the composition he favors the theatrical and both movements and poses are livelier. The life of Joseph was considered a prefiguration of the life of Christ and emphasized the virtuous aspect of the biblical hero, his mercy and generosity in spite of the wrongs he had suffered. In this panel we see the scene in which the pharaoh rehabilitates the cupbearer (who on the left gives the cup to the pharaoh) and orders the baker, whom Joseph had unmasked, to be decapitated.Iconography
Stories of Joseph. Joseph in Egypt
Pontormo painted four panels at different times for the “Camera Borgherini.” In the first three that were done between 1515 and 1517 we witness a gradual separation from the figurative teachings of his master, Andrea del Sarto. In this fourth panel, that was painted between 1518 and 1519 the artist is completely independent and achieves one of the highest levels of his art. In chromatic terms it is updated in accordance with Michelangelo’s brilliant colors in the Tondo Doni and the Sistine Chapel. In his handling of the figures and the landscapes we see a clear northern influence, Lukas of Leiden and Albrecht Dürer, but in some figures he pays tribute to the great masters of the Florentine tradition, from Giotto to Masaccio to Botticelli and Michelangelo. Notwithstanding these references the picture is a typical example of Pontormo’s painting characterized by a strong anti-classical vein. In the child seated on the steps in the foreground, whom we recognize because of his contemporary clothing, Pontormo portrayed his favorite pupil, Agnolo Bronzino. The panel depicts the final scenes of Joseph’s life. Joseph appears four times, with a purple cape and red cap. On the left he is with the pharaoh, his father Jacob, seated on the steps; on the right he distributes food to the Egyptians from a cart while a messenger brings him news of his father’s illness; on the stairs Joseph accompanies one of his sons to receive the grandfather’s blessing; on the upper right Jacob gives his blessing to Ephraim instead of the elder Manasseh; Joseph thinking that his father erred, takes his hand to guide it to Manasseh, but Jacob explains Ephraim’s descendants will be “a whole nation in themselves.”Iconography
Portrait of Cosimo the Elder, Pater Patriae
The portrait of Cosimo the Elder was commissioned on request of Pope Leo X in relation to the birth of Cosimo de’Medici the future duke of Florence. He was born on 12 June 1519 and after the death of the last member of the main branch of the family he embodied the hope of continuing the dynasty. This is all symbolized by the bough next to the old Cosimo Pater Patriae who launched the family into glory and was also the tutelary numen of Florentine power, the new shoot growing from the broken stump, and the scroll with a quotation from the Aenied that is elegantly wound around the branch. In this elegant portrait that is filled with profound symbolic meanings, dominated by the dark red of Cosimo’s robes Pontormo delves realistically into the features of the subject’s face seeking to reveal his innermost feelings.
Vertumnus and Pomona
As instructed by his cousin, Pope Leo X, Ottaviano de’Medici commissioned Pontormo to decorate the lunettes in the great hall of the Villa at Poggio a Caiano. Only one of these was done, and it portrays the myth of Vertumnus and Pomona. The decorations, that painters such as Andrea del Sarto and Franciabigio were engaged to do, were to be a celebration of the Medici. And specifically the lunette was to commemorate the birth of Cosimo, the future Grand Duke of Florence, in June 1519. In the complex symbolism of the period, the painting aimed at illustrating the horoscope cast on the birth date. The characters are depicted with a natural and even casual tone that was unknown in Florentine painting and the gods are portrayed according to the ideals of the serene rustic life as proclaimed by Poliziano and Lorenzo the Magnificent, father of Leo X.Iconography
Supper at Emmaus
This painting, dated 1525 was done for the refectory of the guest quarters at the Certosa of Florence. As in the lunette in the cloister depicting the Passion, the artist drew his inspiration from a print by Dürer. He dedicated particular attention to the detailed description of the items on the table, the pitcher, glasses, plate and the effects of light reflected from them, achieving a naturalism that can be defined as pre-Caravaggio. Even the domestic animals under the table confer a normal, familiar tone to the scene. The monks serving at the table (actually portraits of some of the brothers at the Certosa) render the event even more human. These elements make the scene particularly agreeable and human, in accordance with the monastic environment where it was painted and that been shaken by the great ideals of reform. The eye in the triangle, a symbol of the Trinity was added some time after the Council of Trent (1545-1563); it replaced Pontormo’s original symbol a three-faced head the attribute of the Trinity prior to the Counterreformation.Iconography
Deposition of Christ
This panel was done for the Chapel of Santa Felicita, purchased by the banker Ludovico Capponi in 1525. In the chapel there is a fresco of the Annunciation, also by Pontormo and four tondos in the vault portraying the evangelists he worked on with his young pupil, Bronzino. The altarpiece deals with the Deposition in a totally innovative manner. It is characterized by light, acidy colors that give a tone of serenity to the composition associating the theme of resurrection to the drama of the death. The figures are set in a universal dimension without any spatial-temporal references. With his use of light colors and accentuated brilliance Pontormo paid homage to Michelangelo and mainly the refined chromatics of the Sistine Chapel that emerged in their full splendor after restoration.Iconography
Pontormo probably painted the Visitation for the Pinadori family. Vasari does not mention this painting because it was probably hidden in one of the family’s villas to escape destruction in view of the fact that it alludes to Savonarolian reformist tendencies. In the context of the Florentine political-religious situation, the meeting of the two women, the Virgin Mary and Saint Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, the traditional symbol of the transition from the Old to the New Testament could have been interpreted as an embrace between the old Roman Church and the new reformed Catholicism. The scene is a Florentine street that can be recognized by the architecture. The four women are dressed in clothes created with great chromatic elegance, and through the alternation of light and dark colors with refined sparkling effects, and their monumental figures they dominate the entire composition.Iconography
Martyrdom of the Theban Legion
In this painting Pontormo portrays the martyrdom of the 10,000 Roman legionnaires who were slaughtered on orders from the emperor because they had converted to Christianity. For part of this composition that comprises several scenes depicting the various moments of the martyrdom, the artist used a drawing he had prepared for another painting of the same subject that he never did – commissioned by the Confraternità dei martiri di San Salvatore di Camaldoi around 1522-23. This painting was done for the Ospedale degli Innocenti between 1529-30, a period of great trials for the Florentines: the republic had fallen and surrendered after a long siege. The painting has been interpreted as an apocalyptic prefiguration of the fate of Florence. The work reveals the influence of Michelangelo, especially the Battle of Cascina and the statues in the Medici Chapels.n this painting Pontormo portrays the martyrdom of the 10,000 Roman legionnaires who were slaughtered on orders from the emperor because they had converted to Christianity. For part of this composition that comprises several scenes depicting the various moments of the martyrdom, the artist used a drawing he had prepared for another painting of the same subject that he never did – commissioned by the Confraternità dei martiri di San Salvatore di Camaldoi around 1522-23. This painting was done for the Ospedale degli Innocenti between 1529-30, a period of great trials for the Florentines: the republic had fallen and surrendered after a long siege. The painting has been interpreted as an apocalyptic prefiguration of the fate of Florence. The work reveals the influence of Michelangelo, especially the Battle of Cascina and the statues in the Medici Chapels.
Portrait of Amerigo Antinori
This portrait is the one of Amerigo Antinori, a member of the anti-Medici faction and friend of Pontormo, mentioned by Vasari. It was probably painted in 1531 shortly before Alessandro de’Medici assumed power in Florence and Antinori was exiled. When his property was confiscated the portrait became part of the Medici collections. The artist picked up on the tradition of Roman portraiture developed by Raphael, in fact the composition is grandiose and the subject extremely dignified.
Portrait of Cosimo I
There is some controversy as to the identity of the subject in this beautiful portrait by Pontormo. The medal on the cap showing Hercules strangling Antaeus makes an identification with the young Cosimo de’Medici quite likely since he chose this mythological episode as his personal emblem. Cosimo probably had the portrait done in 1573 when received the title of Duke of Florence from the emperor. He is portrayed against the background of a fortress dressed as a halberdier to present himself as the defender and guarantor of Florentine freedom.
Maria Salviati with the young Cosimo de’Medici
The painting portrays Maria Salviati, granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent and mother of Cosimo I, Duke of Florence with a little boy, generally believed to be the young Cosimo. It was Cosimo himself who commissioned the painting shortly before he became duke of Florence in 1537. He is portrayed as a seven-year-old child, his age when his father, Giovanni dalle Bande Nere died in 1526. His mother wears widow’s dress and holds a medallion. Mother and son are shown holding hands, as if to emphasize the bond between them and political legitimacy. Even though his father, Giovanni dalle Bande Nere belonged to a collateral branch of the family, through his mother, granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Cosimo was a direct descendant of Cosimo the Elder. The painting is extremely important from an iconographic standpoint, as it marked the “beginnings” of the double portrait that Bronzino would develop more fully within the context of the Medici family.