Saturday, December 4, 2010


Title: Visitation
Artist: Jacopo Pontormo
Medium: Oil on wood
Size: 202 x 156 cm
Date: 1528-29
Location: San Michele, Carmignano, Florence.

Luke 1:39-45: At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in Judea's hill country. There she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby inside her jumped. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she called out, "God has blessed you more than other women. And blessed is the child you will have! But why is God so kind to me? Why has the mother of my Lord come to me? As soon as I heard the sound of your voice, the baby inside me jumped for joy. You are a woman God has blessed. You have believed that what the Lord has said to you will be done!"

In this passage we read of John's very early response; he is a forerunner even as he responds in Elizabeth's womb. This note of fulfillment of the angelic promise comes from one filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. The fact that Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit as she reports the response indicates how Luke views her response: she expresses the mind of God. This sign sets the mood for the passage, that the basic response to the arrival of Jesus should be one of joy.

Pontormo’s lozenge-shaped arrangement of the four figures represented in the foreground of the painting was probably suggested to Pontormo by Dürer's engraving portraying the Four Witches (1497). Entirely original, on the other hand are the intertwining arcs of arms and fabric that firmly unites the two protagonists whose distinctly enlarged bodies dominate the painted surface. The monumental scene is depicted in a frozen fashion against the background of a roughly painted, funereally gloomy town. The profile portrayal of the two main figures embracing each other with extreme delicacy and exchanging looks of intense mutual affection is set against the rigidly frontal positions of the two bystanders in the background. Immobile, almost petrified, the latter keep their eyes fixed on something outside the scene, revealing their total lack of emotional participation in the event. The age difference between these two women and their facial resemblance with the protagonists invite an interpretation of the two maidservants as the doubles of Mary and Elisabeth. Their expressions convey a rather melancholic tone to the scene's general atmosphere of high spirituality.

Jacopo Carucci (May 1494 – January 1557), usually known as Jacopo da Pontormo, Jacopo Pontormo or simply Pontormo, was an Italian Mannerist painter and portraitist from the Florentine school. His work represents a profound stylistic shift from the calm perspectival regularity that characterized the art of the Florentine Renaissance. He is famous for his use of twining poses, coupled with ambiguous perspective; his figures often seem to float in an uncertain environment, unhampered by the forces of gravity. In some ways he anticipated the Baroque as well as the tensions of El Greco. His eccentricities also resulted in an original sense of composition.

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