PONTORMO (Jacopo Carucci da Pontormo)

(1494-1557)
Pontormo was the leading master of the Florentine Mannerist style of painting in the second quarter of the sixteenth century. Born in a small town outside Florence, Pontormo was trained primarily by Andrea del Sarto* in the High Renaissance style of idealized naturalism. Although he produced a few portraits and mythological paintings, the majority of his works were religious frescoes and altarpieces; in addition, close to four hundred drawings from his hand sur­vive. His early independent works, for example, Visitation (Florence, S. An­nunziata, c. 1515), display his understanding of the Renaissance methods for representing the real world through anatomy, perspective, and lighting effects, but they also reveal an idiosyncratic approach in the choice of asymmetrical compositions, unusual figure types, unexpected palette, and strangely nervous expressions.
By about 1517 a close study of the art of Michelangelo* and northern Eu­ropean artists such as Albrecht Dürer* appears to have led Pontormo to abandon the classicizing approach of the High Renaissance to concentrate on the devel­opment of the more personal aspects of his style. Joseph in Egypt (London, National Gallery, c. 1518) forsakes a spatial and anatomical logic to create oddly unsettling dislocations of setting and form. A series of frescoes of the Passion (Florence, Certosa del Galluzo, 1523-26) creates a haunting impression on the viewer with their compressed space, dissonant colors, and expressive figures. Pontormo's mature style is most effectively seen in his decoration of the Cap-poni Chapel in S. Felicita in Florence (525-28). The Deposition is a supreme example of Mannerist art, in which High Renaissance notions are overturned. Balance and harmony give way to instability and unpredictability. Instead of clarity, there is confusion: scholars are divided on the exact iconography, and sculpturesque forms exist in a setting whose three-dimensionality cannot be es­tablished. Figures are equally irrational: their clothing, whose colors could not be found in the real world, resembles no known costumes, contemporary or historical; their poses are preternaturally graceful; their mood can best be de­scribed as anxious.
In his late works Pontormo continued to experiment with complex poses, indecipherable spaces, and sharp colors. His remarkable originality led him to create images that always had a striking impact on the viewer, but his art was so eccentric that his influence failed to last beyond the end of the sixteenth century.
Bibliography
J. Cox-Rearick, Dynasty and Destiny in Medici Art: Pontormo, Leo X, and the Two Cosimos, 1984.
Jane C. Long

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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