Tuesday, March 15, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Pontormo

I would describe Jacopo da Pontormo as perhaps the greatest Renaissance painter that no one knows about.  Many of his paintings have been damaged, and very few surviving paintings are as beautifully preserved as that of his surviving masterpiece, The Deposition.  It is the altarpiece for the Cappella Capponi in Florence.
Pontormo's style of painting is classified as mannerist, a style of the late Renaissance that seemed to begin the transition into Baroque.  There was an artificial feel to the compositions, and had a much more dramatic and theatrical style of lighting and posing.  This is clear as we look at Pontormo's altarpiece.  The figures seem to float in space, and almost melt into each other like a jigsaw puzzle.
What also stands out in Pontormo's painting style is his use of color.  He uses so many odd and intensely vibrant pastels that are simply not seen in any other painting of the time.  That coupled with the gazes and facial features of his figures draw the viewer in.  At first glance, it looks like just another Italian Renaissance painting, but once one gets beyond the glance and begins to truly look at the painting, it sucks the viewer in and does not let go.  It becomes an almost surrealistic, dreamlike image.  It is as if Pontormo has painted spiritualism into the painting.
Giorgio Vasari featured Pontormo in his Lives, and is one of the most bittersweet biographies featured because Vasari gives vast descriptions of paintings that no longer exist by Pontormo.  He is among the many tragically neglected painters in all of art history.  Thankfully for Pontormo's case, though many of his paintings are lost, it only takes one surviving masterpiece to gain great respect and appreciation for this forgotten master.

 Jacopo da Pontormo
The Deposition
oil on wood panel
313x192 cm
c. 1528

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