Who was Pontormo?
Pontormo, who was born as Jacopo Carucci, was an Italian painter who went on to become one of the leading lights of the Florentine Renaissance of the 16th century and created frescoes as well as paintings across Italy that brought about a dramatic shift in the art of the era. One of the most important things to point out with regards to Pontormo is the fact that after he was orphaned he learnt the craft from the masters of the era like Leonardo da Vinci and Piero di Cosimo that immediately gave him an in depth understanding of the artist’s mind. Pontormo’s work displayed the sort of vision that was unique and in addition to that, his work was famous for the expressions of the figures, pose as well as the fact that the figures often seemed to float. Pontormo also came in direct contact with the Medici family and even worked on a fresco at one of the houses belonging to the family. Many of his paintings are lost or damaged but the many more which are housed in museums and churches at different parts of the world can still give people a glimpse into the neurotic genius of Pontormo.
Childhood & Early Life
Jacopo Carucci, who later came to be known as Jacopo Pontormo or just Pontormo was born on May 24, 1494 in a place called Pontorme near Empoli in Italy. His father, Bartolomeo di Jacopo di Martino Carucci, was a painter by profession and his mother’s name was Alessandra di Pasquale di Zanobi.
Pontormo was orphaned at an early age as per the accounts of his biographer Giorgio Vasari. Although not a lot is known whether Pontormo received any formal education or not; his biographer has stated that he apprenticed as a painter under the guidance of the great Leonardo da Vinci, Mariotto Albertinelli and Piero di Cosimo.
In 1512, at the age of 18, Pontormo started as an apprentice under the guidance of the painter Andrew del Sarto and according to most art experts, Sarto seems to have had the most telling influence on his works as a painter. The 1518 altarpiece Pontormo did at the San Michele Visdomini in Florence is often cited as an example of this influence. Pontormo had also travelled to Rome in order to have a look at Michelangelo’s work.
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Pontormo primarily worked in and around the city of Florence, where the painters and artists had the patronage of the House of Medici. One of his earliest works was the ‘Visitation of the Virgin and St. Elisabeth’ which took two years to complete and was completed in 1516. The figures painted in the fresco became his discernible style.
By the time the year 1519 came along, Pontormo’s name had spread far and wide as a painter of rare gifts who had perfected the art of depicting the agitated emotions in the paintings. In the same year, he started working on the fresco at the country Villa of the Medici located at Caiano. It ended three years later and was appreciated by the powers that be.
Pontormo had to leave Florence in the year 1522 when the plague spread across the city and the painter made his way to Certose di Galluzzo. He painted frescos at the Carthusian monastery.
In 1528, Pontormo created his greatest ever work when he painted the altarpiece at the Capponi Chapel in Florence and the canvas titled ‘The Deposition from the Cross’ remains one of his most famous pieces of work that survives to the present day.
Although lots of paintings done by Pontormo have been damaged, plenty survive and are housed at different museums and galleries in Italy and parts of Europe. Pontormo is known to have shrunk away from public life in the last 10 years of his life but his last great work was the frescoes of San Lorenzo, Florence. The work remained unfinished and partly damaged, however it showed the profound influence Michelangelo had on his mind.
Pontormo is rightly regarded as one of the significant painters of the Florentine Renaissance and although many of his works have been damaged or lost; a significant number of them survive. The most important work of his career was certainly ‘The Deposition from the Cross’ at the Capponi Chapel in Florence.
Personal Life & Legacy
The details of his personal life and whether he had a wife or ever had a relationship are unknown.
Pontormo died at the age of 62 on January 2, 1557 in Florence.