Excursion to Parmigiano


I drove to Carmigiano to see the magical painting by Pontormo. At the church a man called Alessandro offered to be a guide and presented a very colourful interpretation of the painting. This is what he said: The Visitation was commissioned by the matriarch of the well-to-do fiorentine family who had a villa in Carmigiano, a lady called Bartolomea Pinadori, and placed at the family altar on the side wall of the nave in the church - Pieve - di San Michele and San Francesco. One of the later inventaries did not find it there, so apparently family took the picture to their private Chapel for a while. it was neglected by the art historians starting with Vasari, who didn't care for anything that would't fit into his idea of progress in painting - he didn't like Pontormo and his new style and did not include the Visitation in his Lives. First who looked properly at this painting and Pontormo was an Italian scholar ...* Eventually, the preparatory drawing was found, now in Uffizi, and the painting was properly attributed. Jacopo Carucci was born in the village of Pontorme near Empoli close to Florence. Pontorme - Pont on the Orme river - later he was given the sopranome deriving from the name of his village. Orphaned by both parents at the age of ten, he was taken by his maternal grandmother to Florence and placed in various painters studios - bottegas - he was with Albertinelli, with Piero di Cosimo, with Leonardo, where he met and befriended Rosso Fiorentino and with Andrea del Sarto. There are few hypotheses as to the identity of the two persons facing the viewer from behind the two profiled saints. one is that they are servants, the other one that they represent the same women, Mary and Elisabeth en face, but with the colours of their dresses swapped, like the colours of the socks, wings and dresses in the angels of Piero's Madonna del Parto, and, the third that they are the sponsors, Bartolommea Pinadori and her daughter. Our guide said as well that the tiny seated figures on the left of the picture were Pontormo himself and his pal and apprentice Bronzino, recognizable by his pale face and the colour of his hair. Mary, aged 14 and 3 months pregnant to Elisabeth's, who was Mary's older cousin, 6 months, came from Nazareth some 150 km on foot to Ain Karem in the hills outside Jerusalem where Elisabeth lived to help her with the birth. The famous dialogues ensued. (- "blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear...why am I so favoured that a mother of my Lord should come to me?") Pontormo painted visitation twice in the space of ten years the first time as a 20-year-old lad in fresco for the church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence. Placing the two paintings side by side throws Pontormo's artistic development into sharp relief. His mature work shares some of the mannerism of Rosso Fiorentino and of Parmigianino. In some ways he anticipated the Baroque as well as the tensions of El Greco. Pontormo painted a lot in and around Florence, often supported by Medici patronage.

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