Olga's Gallery


Jacopo Carrucci, known as

Pontormo


(1494-1557)

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Pontormo’s real name was Jacopo Carrucci, born on May 24 or 25, 1494 in Pontormo, Tuscany, after which he would later be named.

In the year of Pontormo’s birth, Italy was caught in a time of great unrest and upheaval, with King Charles VIII of France invading the peninsula and initiating the Great Italian Wars. As a result the Medici family, which had actively endorsed commissions in fine art and encouraged competition among painters, was cast out of Florence in the same year, ending a golden era of for artists in Italy.

Pontormo’s father, Bartolommeo di Jacopo di Martino Carrucci, was among the Florentine painters who had benefited from the Medici’s influence. Like Michelangelo, he was a student of Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494). He and his wife, Alessandra di Pasquale di Zanobi settled in Pontormo shortly before the birth of their first son, Jacopo. Bartolommeo died five years afterward in 1499, and his wife soon followed in 1504, leaving Jacopo orphaned in the care of his grandmother, Mona Brigida.

Under her watchful eye he was taught to read and write until he was 13, at which point he was sent to live with a distant uncle in Florence. During this part of his life it is unclear what exactly befell him, but allegedly he was made a ward of the court for several months, during which he was apprenticed by a number of different instructors, including Leonardo da Vinci. Around 1512-1513 he studied under and later worked for Andrea del Sarto, whose studio was then considered the most progressive in Florence following the departure of Michelangelo and Raphael.

Most of Pontormo’s life and work took place in this city, and the few journeys he did undertake never took him further than Tuscany. The majority of his early works date back to the 1520s and include some of his most famous frescoes, such as Vertumnus and Pomona (1519-1521), The Agony of the Garden, Christ Standing Before Pilate, The Ascent to Calvary, Lamentation, The Resurrection of Christ (all 1523-1525), Deposition of Christ and Annunciation (both 1527-1528).

By the age of twenty Pontormo was already quickly gaining a reputation as a good painter, with Pope Leo X himself commissioning a painting for the Papal chapel in Santa Maria Novella (1515) during his visit to Florence. According to some historians, at one point Pontormo’s paintings became extremely renowned in Florence, even attracting the attention of some of the greatest painters at the time, like Michelangelo, who praised the young artist’s work and predicted a great future for him in the arts business,

It is speculated that one of the reasons for his success was Pontormo’s almost uncanny ability to very accurately realize his patrons’ wishes, and yet manage to squeeze in a touch of his own innovation. Despite his reputation as a loner, Pontormo is known to have taken part in many commissions which depended on the cooperation of multiple artists, such as an illustration of the Story of Joseph, which was commissioned out to him along with Andrea del Sarto, Francesco Granacci and Francesco Bacchiacca. The project spanned fourteen panels, of which Pontormo contributed four: Joseph Revealing Himself to His Brothers (1515-1516), Joseph Being Sold to Potiphar (1516-1517), Punishment of the Baker (1517) and Joseph in Egypt (1517-1518). These paintings were widely acclaimed, and only two years hence he was commissioned another decorative project, the Adoration of the Magi (1519-1520), which was likewise much admired.

Around this time, the Medici family was back in control of Florence after some clever diplomatic negotiations by Giovanni de’Medici (later Pope Leo X), and Pontormo’s fame quickly earned him numerous commissions from the wealthy family, among these some of his more famous works, Portrait of Cosimo de’Medici Il Vecchio (1518-1519) and Vertumnus and Pomona (1519-1521). Pontormo would remain in service of the Medici until his death.

Very little is known of Pontormo’s life and work between 1530 and the time of his death. Some time around the 1530s and 1540s he was commissioned to make several large pieces of décor works for the Medici villas in Careggi and Castello, as well as a ten-year project for the choir of San Lorenzo. However, these works have since deteriorated and been lost.

After his death, Pontormo fell into obscurity to such an extent that even the exact date of his death is unknown. He was buried on January 2 1557 at the church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence, suggesting that he died either on January 1 of that year or December 31 1556.

Biography by Sergey Mataev
Bibliography:
Pontormo, Bronzino, and the Medici: The Transformation of the Renaissance Portrait in Florence by Carl Brandon Strehlke. Pennsylvania State Univ Pr, 2004.
Pontormo: Paintings and Frescoes by Salvatore S. Nigro. ABRAMS, 1994.
Pontormo, Bronzino, and Allori: A Geneaology of Florentine Art by Elizabeth Pilliod. Yale University Press, 2001.
Pontormo by Marco Dolcetta, Elena Mazour, Federico Zeri. NDE Publishing, 2000.
Jacopo Carucci Da Pontormo, His Life and Work by Frederick Mortimer Clapp. Nabu Press, 2010.

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