Summary of Jacopo da Pontormo
Pontormo was one of the most radical individuals in the history of Italian Renaissance art. Recognized primarily as a religious painter, he received widespread praise too for a number of perceptive portraits. Rubbing shoulders with some of the great masters of the High Renaissance, including his friend Michelangelo, Pontormo (unlike his esteemed compatriots) looked towards the art of northern Europe where he found inspiration in the engravings and woodcuts of German and Dutch art. The hallmarks of his mature Mannerist style were evident in the spiritual, rather than physical, presence of his figures; in his vivid use of color; his fluid contoured lines; and in his ambiguous approach to pictorial space. During the last decade of his life Pontormo became increasingly reclusive and troubled, leading him to refuse the company even of the great Bronzino, who had been like an adopted son to him.
- Pontormo's early work demonstrates his mastery of the principles of control and compositional distribution that characterized the Renaissance style. Yet even early on, when Pontormo carried forward the chiaroscuro and sfumato effects he took from his early master Leonardo da Vinci, Pontormo's elongated "floating" figures hinted at a new dawning for Italian art that would see it move towards a less naturalistic, more expressive, style.
- Leaving behind the compositional disciplines of his former masters, Pontormo introduced a rhythmic quality to Italian art that took its influence from Northern Europe and specifically Albrecht Dürer's woodcuts and Lucas van Leyden's engravings. The advance towards a full Mannerist style was further enhanced by Pontormo's refusal to situate his figures in naturalistic settings. His swirling, serpentine, figures occupy the whole of his frame bringing a heighted psychological aspect to his painting.
- In addition to his religious paintings, Pontormo proved a highly accomplished and adept portraitist. His sophisticated depictions, most notably those he made for Florence's ruling Medici dynasty, are packed with subtle departures from the current "heroic" conventions for portraiture. His sitters possess a rare psychological dignity that is enhanced by the artist's fine eye for symbolism (which, in the case of the Medici's, alluded to their political and economic power).
- Pontormo's mature works were brought to life by his crisp, sumptuous, palette which served to give drapery and clothing a vibrancy all of their own. His non-naturalistic style also extended to his ensemble of twisting elongated figures none of whom seemed tethered by the rules of gravity. This later Mannerist phase is seen as the forebearer of the Baroque period.
Biography of Jacopo da Pontormo
Jacopo Carucci (later known as Jacopo da Pontormo) was born in Pontorme, near Empoli, in Tuscany to the painter Bartolomeo di Jacopo di Martino Carrucci and his wife Alessandra di Pasquale di Zanobi. He is known to have had one sister. Pontormo was orphaned at a young age, losing his father, mother, and grandfather in rapid succession. Having already been raised to appreciate the values of the High Renaissance by his father, Pontormo came into the care of his grandmother Mona Brigida who educated the boy in reading, writing, and rudimentary Latin. At the age of nine, he was taken to Florence and placed in the care of a distant relative by the name of Battista. Given these early upheavals, it is little surprise that Pontormo's contemporary, the art historian Giorgio Vasari, described Pontormo as a "young, melancholy and lonely" boy.