THE ancestors of Bartolommeo di Jacopo di Martino, the father of Jacopo da Pontormo, whose Life I now write, came, as some declare, from Ancisa of the Valdarno, famous as the home of the ancestors of M. Francesco Petrarca. But whatever their place of origin, this Bartolommeo was a Florentine, and of the family of the Carucci. He is said to have been a pupil of Domenico del Ghirlandajo, and being a painter of merit, who did many things in Valdarno, he ultimately went to work at Empoli, and took a wife at Pontormo nearby, called Alessandra, daughter of Pasquale di Zanobi and Mona Brigida, his wife. the fruit of this union was Jacopo, born in 1493. But the father dying in 1499, the mother in 1504, and the grandfather in 1506, the boy remained in the charge of Mona Brigida, his grandmother, who kept him several years in Pontormo, and had him taught reading, writing and the elements of Latin grammar. At the age of thirteen she took him to Florence, and put him in the Court of Wards, so that his small property might be taken charge of by that magistracy, as was the custom. After leaving him in the house of a cobbler, a distant relation, Mona Brigida returned to Pontormo, taking Jacopo's sister with her. But Mona Brigida dying soon after, Jacopo was forced to bring this sister to Florence and put her in the house of a relation called Niccolaio, who lived in the via de' Servi. But this child died in 1512 before being married. Jacopo had not been many months in Florence before Bernardo Vettori sent him to stay with Lionardo da Vinci, and then with Mariotto Albertinelli, Piero di Cosimo, and finally, in 1512, with Andrea del Sarto, with whom he did not remain long, for after he had done the cartoons for the arch of the Servites it does not seem that Andrea bore him any good will, whatever the cause may have been.
Jacopo's first work was a little Annunciation for a tailor, his friend. The tailor dying before this was finished, it remained in Jacopo's hands, who was then with Mariotto, who boasted of it, and showed it to all who visited his shop. It happened that Raphael came to Florence, and upon seeing this he marvelled, and foretold Jacopo's future success. Not long after, when Mariotto left Florence to do the panel begun by Fra Bartolommeo at Viterbo, Jacopo, who was young, melancholy and lonely, remained without a master, and went of his own accord to Andrea del Sarto at the time when he had completed the series on St. Philip in the court of the Servites. These greatly pleased Jacopo, as did the style, design and everything else of Andrea. Jacopo therefore tried to imitate him, and before long he made marvellous progress in design and colouring, so that he seemed to have followed art for many years. Andrea having finished an Annunciation for the church of the friars of Sangallo, now destroyed, he gave the predella to Jacopo to do in oils. He made a dead Christ, with two little angels weeping and holding torches. At the sides he did two prophets in circles, executed with the skill of a master. But Bronzino has said that he remembers having heard from Jacopo that Rossi also worked at the predella. Jacopo also assisted Andrea in many pictures and works on which he was continually engaged.
On the elevation of Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici to the papacy as Leo X., the friends of the house in Florence made numerous scutcheons of the Pope in stone, marble, canvas and fresco. The Servite friars, wishing to show their devotion to the house and the Pope, had a stone coat-of-arms of Leo made and placed in the middle of the arch of the first portico of the Nuniata, on the piazza, and soon after directed Andrea di Cosimo, 1 the painter, to gild and decorate it with arabesques, of which he was an excellent master, and with devices of the Medici house, adding figures of Faith and Charity on either side. Andrea, feeling that he could not do so much by himself, resolved to give the figures to others, and calling Jacopo, who was not more than nineteen, he gave them to him, although he had some difficulty to persuade him, as the youth was unwilling at first to undertake a work in a place of such importance. However, he took courage, and although he was not so skilful in fresco as in oils, he accepted the work. While still with Andrea del Sarto, he withdrew to make the cartoons in S. Antonio at the Faenza gate, where he lived, and, that done, he one day took his master to see them. And re-appraised them loudly, but, whether through envy or some other cause, he never regarded Jacopo kindly again. Thus, when Jacopo sometimes went to his shop, it was shut, or he was chased away by the apprentices. Accordingly he withdrew and began to reduce his expenses, for he was very poor, and studied with great assiduity. When Andrea di Cosimo had finished gilding the arms, Jacopo began to finish the rest by himself, and moved by his desire to make a name, and aided by his natural grace and fertility, he executed the work with marvelous quickness, and as perfectly as an old and experienced master. With added courage, he felt he could do a much better work, and he had thought of breaking up the old one and making another after a design of his own. The friars, seeing the work was finished and that Jacopo came no more, went to Andrea and persuaded him to unveil his work. Andrea sought Jacopo to ask if he wished to retouch anything, and not finding him, for he was engrossed upon the new design, and would see no one, he removed the scaffolding and uncovered the work. That same evening, when Jacopo left his house to go to the Servites, it being night, to take down what he had done and set to work on the new design, he found the work unveiled and a crowd regarding it. He sought out Andrea, and wrathfully complained of his acting without him, telling him what he intended to do. Andrea answered, “You do wrong to complain, for your work is so good that I am sure you could not do better, and as you will have no lack of employment, use these designs for something else." His work was of such beauty that for its new style and the sweetness of the heads of the two women and the charm of the infants it was the finest fresco ever seen till then. There are two other infants in the air holding a drapery over the Pope's arms, of unsurpassable beauty, while all the figures have the utmost relief, and their colouring cannot be over-praised. Michelagnolo, on seeing it, and knowing it to be the work of a youth of nineteen, said," This youth, if he lives and continues to pursue art, will attain to heaven." The men of Pontormo, hearing of Jacopo's renown, sent for him and employed him to do the arms of Pope Leo over a door on the main street, with two lovely infants, but it has been all but destroyed by water. At the carnival of that year there were great rejoicings in Florence over the creation of Leo, and, among other festivities, two were carried out at the expense of two companies of lords and nobles of the city. The head of one of these, called the Diamond, was Sig. Giuliano de' Medici, the Pope's brother, and .it was so called because the diamond was the device of Lorenzo the elder, his father. That of the other, with a Branch as device, had Sig. Lorenzo, son of Piero de' Medici, as its head, with a dried laurel branch, with new leaves springing forth, to show the revival of his grandfather's name. M. Andrea Dazzi, who was then professing Greek and Latin at the University of Florence, was charged by the Diamond company to devise something for a triumph. He arranged one like those of the Romans, with three beautiful wooden cars richly painted. The first represented Boy- hood, with a row of boys; the second was Manhood, with persons who had done great things at that season of life; the third was Old Age, with men who had done great deeds when old. All the characters were most sumptuously dressed. The architects of these cars were Raffaello delle Viviole, Carota the carver, Andreadi Cosimo the painter, and Andrea del Sarto. The draperies of the figures were designed by Ser Piero da Vinci, Lionardo's father, and Bernardo di Giordano, while Jacopo Pontormo was charged to paint the three cars single handed, with scenes in chiaroscuro, representing the transformations of the gods. These are now in the possession of Pietro Paolo Galeotti, an excellent goldsmith. The first car bore the device Erimus, the second Sumus, the third Fuimus. The canzone began: "Volano gli anni" etc.
Sig. Lorenzo, head of the Branch company, having seen these things and desiring to surpass them, gave the charge of all to Jacopo Nardi, a noble and learned man (to whom his native Florence was afterwards much bound). This Jacopo arranged Six triumphs, double in number to those of the Diamond. The first, drawn by oxen draped with grass, represented the golden age of Saturn and Janus. At the top of the car were Saturn with the scythe and two-headed Janus holding the keys of the temple of Peace, with Fury bound at his feet, and countless things pertaining to Saturn, beautifully coloured by Pontormo. Six pairs of shepherds accompanied this car, dressed in sable and martin’s fur, wearing shoes of antique pattern and with garlands on their heads of many kinds of leaves. The horses on which they rode were without saddles, but covered with the skins of lions, tigers and wolves, the gilded claws of which hung gracefully at the sides. The cruppers had gold cord and the spurs bore the heads of sheep, dogs and other animals. The bridles were made of various kinds of verdure and silver cord. Each shepherd had four footmen dressed as shepherds of a simple kind in other skins, bearing torches made like dry branches and with pine-branches, very beautiful to see. The second car, drawn by two pairs of oxen draped with rich cloth, with garlands at their heads and large beads hanging from their gilt horns, carried Numa Pompilius, second King of the Romans, with the books of religion and all the priestly trappings and necessaries for sacrifice, as he was the first of the Romans to regulate religion and sacrifices. Six priests accompanied the car on handsome mules, their heads covered with cloth hoods embroidered with gold and silver ivy leaves, worked with mastery. They wore ancient sacerdotal vestments, with rich gold borders and fringes, some carrying a censer and some a gold vase or something similar. Their footmen were like Levites, whose torches resembled ancient candelabra. The third car represented the consulship of Titus Manlius Torquatus, consul after the end of the first Carthagenian war, and who governed so that Rome flourished in virtue and prosperity. This car, decorated with many fine ornaments by Pontormo, was drawn by eight fine horses, preceded by six pairs of senators on horseback in togas covered with a gold web, accompanied by lictors with the fasces, axes and other instruments of justice. The fourth car, drawn by buffaloes dressed as elephants, represented Julius Caesar triumphing for his victory over Cleopatra, on a car painted with his most famous deeds by Pontormo. Six pairs of men-at-arms in rich and shining armour accompanied him, having gold fringes, and with their lances at their sides. Their half-armed footmen carried torches in the form of trophies of different kinds. The fifth car, drawn by winged horses like griffins, had Augustus, the ruler of the universe, accompanied by six pairs of poets on horseback crowned like Caesar with laurel and dressed according to their provinces. Each poet bore a scroll inscribed with his name. On the sixth car, drawn by six pairs of heifers richly caparisoned was the just Emperor Trajan, before whose car, richly painted by Pontormo, rode six pairs of doctors of law, with togas down to their feet and cloaks of ermine, such as they anciently wore. The footmen carrying torches were scribes, copyists and notaries with books and writings in their hands. After them came the car of the Golden Age, richly made, with. many figures in relief by Baccio Bandinelli and beautiful paintings by Pontormo, among which the four cardinal Virtues were much admired. In the midst of the car was a great globe, upon which lay a man, as if dead, his arms all rusted, his back open and emerging the refrom a naked gilded child, representing the Golden Age revived by the creation of the Pope and the end of the Iron Age from which it issued. The dried branch putting forth new leaves had the same signification, although some said that it was an allusion to Lorenzo de’ Medici, Duke of Urbino. The gilt boy, the child of a baker, who had been paid 10 crowns, died soon after of the effects. The canzone sung at the masquerade was composed by Jacopo Nardi; the first stanza ran thus:
Colui che da le leggi alla natura,
E i vari stati e secoli dispone,
D'ogni bene e cagione
E il mal, quanto permette, al mondo dura: Onde, questa figura
Contemplando, si vede
Come con certo piede
L'un secol dopo l'altro al mondo viene, E muta il bene in mal e'l mal in bene. 2
From his work for this feast Pontormo won much advantage obtained in the city. Thus when Pope Leo afterwards came to Florence he was much employed on the preparations. With Baccio da Montelupo, a sculptor of the age, who made a wooden arch at the top of the via del Palagio, from the steps of Badia, the painted some beautiful scenes, which afterwards suffered from the negligence of those who had charge of them. One only remained, a Pallas tuning her instrument to the lyre of Apollo with much grace. The excellence of the other scenes may be judged from this.
In the same festivities Ridolfo Ghirlandajo was charged to embellish the Pope’s hall, adjoining the convent of S. Maria Novella, the ancient residence of the pontiffs in the city. Being pressed for time, he was forced to employ assistance. Having decorated all the other rooms, he charged Pontormo to do some frescoes in the chapel 3 where the Pope heard Mass every morning. Jacopo did a God the Father with cherubs, and a Veronica with the face of Christ on a handkerchief, a work that was much admired though done in such haste. In a chapel S. Raffaello, behind the Archives covado of Florence, he painted a Madonna and Child between St. Michael and St. Lucy, and two other saints kneeling, and a God the Father surrounded by seraphim in the lunette of the chapel. Maestro Jacopo, a Servite friar, afterwards allotted to him a part of the Servite cloister, a thing he had greatly desired, because Andrea del Sarto had gone to France and left the work there unfinished. Jacopo made the cartoons with great care, but being in poor circumstances, and as he had to live while striving to acquire honour, he did two beautiful figures above the door of the Women’s Hospital, behind the church of the hospital of the priests, between the piazza of S. Marco and the via di Sangallo, opposite the wall of the sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. These were Christ as a pilgrim receiving some women into the hospital, a work that has always been deservedly praised. At the same time he painted some pictures in oils for the masters of the mint on the car of the Moneta, which goes in procession every St. John's day, the car being made by Marco del Tasso. Over the door of the company of la Cecilia, on the hill of Fiesole, he did a St. Cecilia in fresco, holding roses, one of the most beautiful frescoes in existence. When Maestro Jacopo, the Servite friar, had seen these works, his desire was greatly kindled, and he hoped to get Pontormo to finish the cloister, thinking that the competition with the other masters who had worked there would spur him to produce something extraordinarily fine. Jacopo did a Visitation in a manner somewhat more elegant than his wont, being moved as much by his desire for honour and glory as for gain. This gave his work much greater beauty, for the women, children, youths and old men are rendered so charming, in such harmonious colouring, that it is a marvel. The flesh-colouring of a boy seated on some steps and that of all the other figures is such that it cannot be surpassed for softness. By these and his other works Jacopo took rank beside Andrea del Sarto andFranciabigio, who had laboured there. He finished the task in 1516, only receiving 16 crowns for it. I remember well that Francesco Pucci allotted to him the altarpiece of a chapel which he had erected in S. Michele Bisdomini, in the via de' Servi. Jacopo executed this with marvellous style and in brilliant it colouring. He represents the Virgin seated offering the Infant Jesus to St. Joseph, who is laughing in a wonderfully natural manner. Very beautiful also are the little St. John the Baptist and two other naked boys supporting a canopy. Here also is St. John the Evangelist, a fine old man, and a St. Francis kneeling, with clasped hands, and intently regarding the Virgin and Child, so that he seems to be breathing. No less fine is St. James at the side. It is the finest picture ever produced by this rare painter. 4 I think it was afterwards that he did for Bartolommeo Lanfredini in Lung Arno, between the S. Trinita and the Carraia bridges, in a passage, two graceful boys in fresco above a door supporting a scutcheon. But Bronzino, who deserves credence in these things, declares that they were among the first things executed by Jacopo. If so, Pontormo deserves the more praise, for they are of unequalled beauty.
To continue: Jacopo next did a panel for the men of Pontormo which was placed in the chapel of the Madonna in their principal church of S. Agnolo. It represents St. Michael and St. John the Evangelist. At this time a youth called Giovanmaria Pichi of Borgo a S. Sepolcro was staying with Jacopo, and did very well, becoming a Servite friar afterwards, while he executed some works in the Pieve at S. Stefano. With Jacopo he painted a large Martyrdom of St. Quentin to be sent to the Borgo, but as Jacopo wished him to win honour, here touched it, and being unable to leave it, he thus finished the whole; the picture may therefore be called his, so that it is no wonder that it is very beautiful. It is now in the Observantine church of S. Francesco at the Rorgo. Another apprentice, Giovanni Antonio Lappoli of Arezzo, mentioned elsewhere, drew himself in a mirror while with Jacopo, who did not think the likeness good, and drew an admirable portrait of him himself. This is now at Arezzo in the house of the youth's heirs. Pontormo also portrayed two of his friends in one picture one the son-in-law of Becuccio Becchieraio and another whose name I do not know. For Bartolommeo Ginori he did some hangings for use after his death, according to a Florentine custom. In the upper part he did a Virgin and Child on white taffeta, and the arms of the family beneath. In the middle of the hangings, formed of twenty four pieces of white taffeta, he did two St. Bartholomews, two braccia high. This new style made all the others executed before look poor and insignificant, and led to the large style of to-day which is very light and less costly. At the top of the garden and vineyard of the friars of S. Gallo outside the S. Gallo gate Jacopo did a dead Christ, a weeping Virgin and two cherubs in the air, in a chapel in a line with the entrance. One of the cherubs holds the cup and the other supports Christ's head. On one side is St. John in tears, with his arms open, on the other St. Augustine in the episcopal habit, leaning sadly and thought- fully on his pastoral staff, contemplating the Saviours death. For M. Spina, familiar of Giovanm Salviati, he did the latter's arms, who had been created cardinal by Pope Leo, 5 in a court opposite the principal door of the house, with the red hat and two cherubs, of great beauty and much valued by M. Filippo Spina as Pontormo's work. Jacopo also did the wood decoration for some apartments of Bierfrancesco Borgherini in conjunction with other masters, notably the history of Joseph in small figures of great beauty, on two chests. But his best work, which shows his genius in the vivacity of heads, composition of figures, variety of attitudes and beauty of invention, may be seen in this chamber of Borgherini, 6 a Florentine nobleman, on the left of the side entrance. It is a representation in small figures of Joseph in Egypt receiving his father Jacob and all his brethren. Among these figures he introduced Bronzino, his pupil, then a child, at the foot of the scene, seated on some steps, with a basket, a marvellously life-like and beautiful figure. If this picture had been large I venture to say that it would not be possible to match it for grace, perfection and excellence, and artists consider it Jacopo's best work. No wonder then that Borgherini valued it or that great men wished him to sell it to present to lords and princes.
Bierfrancesco having withdrawn to Lucca because of the siege of Florence, Giovanni Battista della Palla, who desired the ornaments of this room, with other things to be taken to France to present to King Francis in the name of the Signoria, induced the gonfaloniere and Signori to take it and pay the wife of Pierfrancesco; But when he went to the house the lady con- fronted him. "Do you venture to come here, vile bagman,'' she said, "to rob the decorations of noblemen and deprive the city of its richest possessions to adorn foreign countries hostile to us I do not wonder at you, who are a base-born man and the enemy of your country, but I marvel that the magistrates permit such abominable rascality. This bed, which is the object of your lust for money, is my marriage-bed, in honour of which my brother-in-law Salvihad all this decoration prepared, and I honour it in memory of him and for love of my husband, and I will defend it with my life. Leave this house with your baggage, and tell those who sent you that I will not allow any of these things to be removed from their places, and if those who trust in such a vile creature as you wish to present something to King Francis, let them despoil their own houses. If you are so rash as to enter this place again I will teach you the respect due by such as you to the houses of nobles." These words of Madonna Margherita, who was daughter of Ruberto Acciaiuoli, a noble and prudent citizen, being herself a lady of spirit, preserved these treasures for her house.
Giovannimaria Benintendi about the same time decorated an ante-chamber with pictures by various artists, imitating Jacopo's work for the Borgherini. Jacopo, being much encouraged by praise, did an Adoration of the Magi, 7 and by dint of much study and diligence he rendered the heads and other parts varied, beautiful and worthy of all praise. For M. Goro da Pistoia, then secretary of the Medici, he did an admirable three-quarter figure of Cosimo de' Medici the elder, 8 now in the house of M. Ottaviano de’ Medici, in the possession of his son M. Alessandro, a youth of holy life, learned, and a worthy son of his father and of Madonna Francesca, daughter of Jacopo Salviati, and aunt of Duke Cosimo. By these works, especially the last, Pontormo had won the friendship of M. Ottaviano, and he was commissioned 9 to paint the two ends of the great hall of Poggio a Caiano, where the two round windows are, from the usual in such ceiling to the floor. Wishing to do better than a place and in competition with the other painters engaged there, Jacopo showed himself over anxious, as he kept doing and effacing his things, though he was always making new discoveries for the embellishment of the work. Thus he represented a countryman seated with a pruning-knife in his hand for Vertumnus, executed with great beauty, and some infants there are very life-like and natural. In his Pomona and Diana on the other side he perhaps involved their draperiestoo much, though the whole work is beautiful and much praised. But meanwhile Leo died, and the work was left unfinished, like many others at Rome, Florence, Loreto and elsewhere, when the world lost that true Maecenas. On returning to Florence Jacopo did a St. Augustine seated and giving the benediction, with two beautiful nude infants flying in the air. This is over an altar in the little church of the sisters of St. Clemente in the via di S. Gallo. He also completed a Pieta' with some nude angels, a beautiful work, highly valued by the Ragusan merchants, for whom he did it. It contained a fine landscape, mostly copied from a print of Albert Durer. He also did a Virgin and Child with some cherubs, now in the house of Alessandro Neroni, and another Madonna, different in style, for some Spaniards, which Bronzino was commissioned to buy for M. Bartolommeo Panciatichi at a sale many years after.
In 1522, when the plague broke out in Florence, so that many fled to escape the infection, Jacopo took the opportunity to leave the city. The prior of the Certosa, a house built by the Acciaiuoli, three miles from Florence, wished to have some fresco paintings at the corners of a large and beautiful cloister surrounding a lawn, and gave them to Jacopo, who readily accepted the work, and went there, accompanied by Bronzino only. Enjoying the quiet and solitude so dear to him, Jacopo thought it a good opportunity to study and to embellish and vary his style. Not long before a good number of delicate engravings by Albert Durer had come to Florence and among others some scenes of the Passion of Christ, of the utmost perfection in beauty, variety in the costumes and invention. Jacopo proposed to make use of them in the cloister, expecting thus to give satisfaction to himself and to most of the Florentine artists, who with one accord praised these engravings. Jacopo therefore sought to endow his figures with the expressions, vigour and variety possessed by those of Albert, and thus lost the natural sweetness and grace of his first manner by exchanging it for the German style, so that, though his later works are beautiful, his figures lack their former excellence and ace. At the entrance to the cloister he did Christ in the Garden, the darkness illuminated by the moon, so that it seems almost daylight. As Christ prays, Peter, James and John are sleeping, a marvellous imitation of Durer. Not far off, Judas is bringing the Jews, with a curious expression like that of all the soldiers, who are done in the German style, so that they excite our compassion for the artist, who took such pains to learn what others avoid, abandoning a good style which pleased everyone. Was not Pontormo aware that Germans and Flemings come to learn the Italian style which he made such efforts to shake off as if it was bad? Next this is Christ led before Pilate, the Saviour displaying the humility of His innocence abandoned to wicked men, and Pilate's wife her compassion and fear of the divine judgment, and, as she pleads for Christ to her husband, she regards Him with a pitying wonder. Pilate is surrounded by soldiers, German in costume and expression, and anyone who did not know the artist might suppose this the work of an ultramontane. It is true that in the distance there is a servant of Pilate mounting some steps, carrying a basin and jug to wash his master's hands, very life-like, and showing something of Jacopo's old style. For a Resurrection in another corner Jacopo had the caprice to change his colouring, his brain always evolving new things and he made it so sweet and good that if he had adopted another style than the German the work would have been most beautiful, and the soldiers who are in a sleep in various attitudes, like death seeming unsurpassable. He continued in another corner with Christ bearing the Cross, followed by the people of Jerusalem, the two naked thieves going before, between the executioners, some of whom are on foot and some mounted, with ladders, the title of the cross, hammers, nails, ropes and other tools. Behind a hillock is the Virgin with the Maries weeping as they regard Christ, who has fallen to the ground, while the Jews are beating Him and Veronica offers Him the handkerchief, accompanied by Old and young women weeping at the Saviour's sufferings. This scene proved much better than the others, perhaps because Jacopo recognised the harm done to his style by his study of German work, or because he had been warned by friends. Some naked Jews and heads of old men are finely executed in fresco, although he has pre- served the German style for the whole. In the other corners he continued with the Crucifixion and Deposition from the Cross. But he left them, intending to do these last, and did instead a Deposition in the same style, but with harmonious colouring. Besides a beautiful Magdalene kissing Christ's feet, two old men representing Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, although in the German style, have the most beautiful expression imaginable, with downy beards and soft colouring.
As the quiet of the Certosa pleased Jacopo, he devoted several years to this work, and when the plague was over and he had returned to Florence, he continued to frequent the place, and obliged the friars in many ways. Among other things he did the portrait of a lay brother then living, and aged one hundred and twenty, over a door leading into the chapel, so well executed and so life-like that it alone excuses Pontormo for his fancies when in that lonely place far from men. For the prior's chamber he did a Nativity, with a light on Christ's face in the darkness, thrown by Joseph holding a lantern, of the same order of ideas that he derived from the German prints. Let no one blame Jacopo for imitating Albert Durer because many painters have done it and do so still. But he did wrong in adopting that stiff style for everything, the draperies, expression and attitudes, which should be avoided when borrowing the ideas, as he had a graceful and beautiful modern style. For the guest-chamber he did a large canvas in oils, without apparent effort, of Christ with Cleophas and Luke, of life-size, 10 and, as he followed his genius, it proved a marvelous success, for among the servants he introduced the portraits of some friars whom I have known, making marvellous likenesses.
Bronzino, while his master was thus engaged, pursued his study of painting, being encouraged thereto by Pontormo, who loved his pupils. Without ever having seen colouring in oils, he did a fine nude of St. Laurence on the gridiron on the wall over the cloister door leading to the church, showing signs of the excellence to which he afterwards attained, and delighting Jacopo, who already foresaw his future success. Not long after, Ludovico di Gino Capponi having returned from Rome, and having brought the chapel in S. Felicith which Brunnellesco erected for the Barbadori, on the right on entering the church, resolved to have it richly decorated. He accordingly consulted his friend M. Niccolo Vespucci, a knight of Rhodes, who, being a friend of Jacopo, praised his genius, so that Ludovico allotted the chapel to him. He built a screen and shut off the chapel for three years. On the vaulting he did God the Father surrounded by the four Patriarchs, and at the four circles at the angles he did the Evangelists, giving one to Bronzino. I must add that Pontormo hardly ever made use of his apprentices, or allowed them to touch his own work, but when he did, usually for purposes of instruction, he let them do the whole alone, as Bronzino did here. In his works in the chapel Jacopo appears to have returned to this first manner, but not in the picture, as he devised a novelty, executing it in such level colouring that it is hard to distinguish the lights from the half-tints, and the half-tints from the shadows. It represents a dead Christ being carried to the sepulchre, with the Virgin and the other Maries, in an utterly different style from the first, showing how his brain was seeking for new fancies and was not content with holding fast to, one. The composition and colouring are altogether different from the painting of the vaulting, and the four Evangelists, in a different style, are much better. On the window wall are the Virgin and the angel annunciating, showing his curious ideas and how he never rested content. While he was engaged upon this work he would not allow even the patron to see it, in order that he might do it in his own way, and when it was finally uncovered, without his friends knowing anything about it, all Florence marvelled. For a chamber of the same Ludovico he did a Madonna in the same style, and represented a daughter of his, a very beautiful maiden, as St. Mary Magdalene. Near the monastery of Boldrone at the junction of the Cestello road with the one that mounts the hill to Cercina, two miles from Florence, he did in a tabernacle Christ on the Cross, the Virgin weeping, St. John the Evangelist, St. Augustine and St. Julian, all in the German style, for he had not yet rid himself of the fancy, and not unlike those done at the Certosa. For the nuns of St. Anna at the S. Friano gate he did a panel of the Virgin and Child, St. Anne behind, St. Peter, St. Benedict, and other saints. 11 The predella in small figures represents the Signoria of Florence going in procession, with drums, fifes, mace- bearers, commendatories, and the rest of the household, because the panel was commissioned by the captain of the palace. While Jacopo was engaged upon this, Silvio Passerini, cardinal of Cortona, was sent to Rome, with Alcssandro and Ippolito de' Medici, by Clement VII., and Ottaviano the Magnificent,to whom the Pope recommended them, employed Pontormo to paint their portraits 12; he did excellent ones, although he did not depart much from his German style. With Ippolito he drew a favourite dog called Rodon, making it appear alive. 13 He also drew Bishop Ardinghelii, afterwards cardinal, and for his friend Filippo del Migliore he painted a Pomona in his house in the via Larga, where he seems to be attempting to throw off his German style somewhat. Gio Battista della Palla, observing Jacopo to be daily becoming more famous and not having succeeded in getting his paintings and those of others to send to King Francis, resolved to send the king something by Pontormo, as he knew his Majesty desired it. He at length succeeded in inducing him to do a fine Resurrection of Lazarus, one of his best works, and it was sent among others to King Francis. The heads were very beautiful, and Lazarus reviving from the dead is marvellous, having the green about the eyes and dead flesh at the ends of his feet and hands. In a picture of one and a half braccia for the nuns of the hospital of the Innocenti, he did the history of the eleven thousand martyrs crucified in a wood by order of Diocletian, 14 containing a cavalry battle and fine nudes, and some cherubs in the air shooting arrows at the executioners. The emperor is also surrounded by some fine nudes going to their death. This picture, admirable in every part, is now greatly valued by Don Vincenzio Borghini, master of the hospital, and a former friend of Jacopo. He made one like it for Carlo Neroni, with the martyrs only and the angel baptising, and Carlo's portrait. At the time of the siege of Florence he drew the portrait of Francesco Guardi, dressed as a soldier, a fine work. On the cover of this work Bronzino painted Pygmalion praying Venus to make his statue live, as we read in the poets. At this time, after long toil, Jacopo obtained what he had long desired, a house of his own, where he could live as he pleased, for he bought one in the via della Colonna, opposite the nuns of S. Mariadegli Angeli. Whcn the siege was over, Pope Clement directed Ottavianode' Medici to have the hall of Poggio a Caiano completed. Franciabigio and Andrea del Sarto being dead, the care of it was entirely entrusted to Pontormo. After making his scaffolding, he began on the cartoons, but in the midst of his ceaseless fancies he did not begin to work. This might not have happened if Bronzino had been near, but he was then working at Imperiale, a place of the Duke of Urbino, near Pesaro, and although daily summoned by Jacopo he could not leave his post. When he had decorated a vaulting at Imperiale with a fine nude cupid, the Prince Guidobaldo, who knew the youth's skill, commanded him to paint his portrait. But as the prince wished to be painted in some armour which he was expecting from Lombardy, Bronzino was forced to stay longer than he intended. Meanwhile he painted the case for a harpsichord, which greatly delighted the prince. Bronzino afterwards completed the portrait, greatly to the satisfaction of the prince.
Jacopo wrote so many times that at length Bronzino went, but could not succeed in inducing his master to make anything but cartoons, in spite of the entreaties of Ottaviano the Magnificent and Duke Alessandro. One of these cartoons, most of which are now in the house of Ludovico Capponi, represents Hercules crushing Antaeus, another Venus and Adonis, and a sheet of nudes playing ball. Sig. Alfonso Davalo, Marquis of il Guasto, having obtained a cartoon of a Noli metangere by means of Fra Niccolo della Magna, by Michelagnolo, tried every way to induce Jacopo to execute it in painting, for Buonartoti had said that no one could do it better. This work, when completed, was considered marvellous for the grandeur of Michelagnolo's design and the colouring of Jacopo. When Sig. Alessandro Vitelli, then captain of the guard at Florence, had seen it, he made Jacopo do him another from the same cartoon and had it placed in his house at Cittadi Castello. It being seen how highly Michelagnolo esteemed Pontormo and how excellently the latter executed the designs of the former, Bartolommeo Bettini induced his friend Michelagnolo to make a cartoon of a nude Venus with a cupid kissing her, to be painted by Pontormo and put in the middle of a room of his, in the lunettes of which Bronzino had begun to paint Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, intending to represent the other Tuscan lyric poets there. Jacopo executed this cartoon at his ease, in a style known to all the world, so that I need not stop to praise It. These designs led Pontormo to consider the style of Michelagnolo, and he resolved to imitate it so far as he was able. He then saw his mistake in letting slip such work as that of Poggio a Caiano, and he blamed for it a long sickness and finally the death of Pope Clement, which stopped everything there. Jacopo had done a portrait of Amerigo Antinori, a youth very popular in Florence at that time. The portrait being universally praised, Duke Alessandro intimated to Jacopo that he desired a large one of himself. For greater convenience Jacopo made the for- trait on a half-sheet of paper with as much care as an illumination, and besides being a good likeness it contains every requisite it of a good painting. From this, which is now in Duke Cosimo's wardrobe, Jacopo copied another portrait of the duke holding a pen and drawing a woman's head. The duke gave this to Signora Taddea Malespina, sister of the Marchioness of Massa. The duke, wishing to reward Jacopo, told his servant Niccolo da Montaguto to get him to ask what he wanted and it would be granted. But so great was the pusillanimity, respect or modesty of this man that he only asked for enough money to redeem a mantle which he had pawned. When the duke heard this he laughed, and gave him 50 gold crowns and the offer of a pension, though Niccolo had hard work to make him accept it. Jacopo having finished the Venus from Bettini's cartoon with marvellous success, it was not given to Bettini for the price which Jacopo had promised, but was taken out of Jacopo's hands by some fortune-hunters, almost by force, out of spite to Bettini, and then presented to Duke Alessandro, the cartoon being restored to Bettini. When Michelagnolo heard this he was sorry for his friend and bore a grudge against Jacopo, who, though he received 50 crowns from the duke, cannot be said to have defrauded Bettini, for he had only obeyed his prince's command. But some say it was Bettini's fault for wanting too much. With this money Pontormo had a chance of repairing his house. He began to build, but he did not do anything of importance. Thus, though some say he intended to spend a great deal for his state and make a convenient and artistic abode, yet it has rather the appearance of the dwelling of a fantastic and solitary man than a well-considered house. The room where he slept and sometimes worked was approached by a wooden ladder which he drew up after him, so that no one could come up without his knowledge or permission. But what aroused more dissatisfaction was that he would only work when he wished, and being often requested to do things by noble- men, and notably on one occasion by M. Ottaviano de' Medici, he would not serve them, but would then begin something for some plebeian instead at a low price. Thus Rossino, a clever mason, received from him in payment for some building a beautiful Madonna, upon which Jacopo took as much pains as the mason did over his work. Rossino also succeeded in obtaining from Jacopo a fine portrait of Cardinal Giulio de Medici, copied from one by Raphael, and also a beautiful crucifix. But though Ottaviano bought this from Rossino as a work of Jacopo, it is certain that it is by Bronzino, who did by himself while with Jacopo at the Certosa, although it remained in Pontormo's possession, I do not know why. These three paintings are now in the house of M. Alessandro de' Medici, Ottaviano's son. But although these proceedings and this solitary life of Pontormo's are blameworthy, it is easy to excuse him, and he might well do the works which he liked and leave the others without blame. No artist is bound to work except when and for whom he pleases, and he alone suffers from his course of action. As for solitude, I have always heard that it is the friend of study, but even if it were not, I do not think that we ought to blame one who, without offending God and his neighbour, lives after his own fashion in the way best suited to his temperament.
But to return to the works of Jacopo. Duke Alessandro having restored the villa of Careggi, built by Cosimo de' Medici the elder, two miles from Florence, and executed the decoration of the fountain and the labyrinth in the middle of an open court, directed that the two loggias facing it should be painted by Jacopo with assistance, in order that it might be done more quickly, and so that the conversation would render him more cheerful and make him work without troubling his brain with various fancies. The duke himself sent for Jacopo, and asked him to finish the work as soon as possible. Jacopo therefore sent for Bronzino, and in the five compartments of the vaulting made him do figures, namely Fortune, Justice, Victory, Peace and to Fame, and at the sixth Jacopo himself did a Love. He then designed some cherubs in the oval of the vaulting with various animals, foreshortened from below all except one being coloured by Bronzino, who did excellently. While Jacopo and Bronzino were engaged upon these figures, Jacone, Pierfrancesco di Jacopo and others did the surrounding decoration, and so the whole work was soon finished, to the delight of the duke, who wished to have the other loggia painted. But there was not time, for the work being finished on 13 December, 1536, the duke was assassinated by his kinsman Lorenzino on 6 January following. On the succession of Duke Cosimo, followed by the successful affair of Montemurlo, the work of Castello was begun, as related in the Life of Tribolo. The duke, to please Donna Maria, his mother, directed Jacopo to paint the first loggia on the left on entering the palace. Here, after designing the ornaments, he gave it to Bronzino to execute and to the others who had worked at Careggi. He then shut himself up and continued the work at his ease, endeavouring to surpass the work at Careggi, which he had not done entirely by himself. He could easily do so, for he received 8 crowns a month from the duke, whom he drew, young as he was, at the beginning of the work, with Donna Maria, his mother. The scaffolding having stood for five years, and no one being able to see what Jacopo had done, the lady became angry and one day commanded that it should be pulled down. But Jacopo had been warned, and obtaining some days' grace he retouched where he thought it necessary. He then devised a canvas to cover it when the quality was not there so that the air should not damage it, as had happened at Careggi. Great expectations had been raised, as it was thought that Jacopo would have surpassed himself and produced a stupendous work. However, the work did not altogether realise these expectations, for, although many particulars are good, the figures are out of proportion and their attitudes seem strange and ill regulated. But Jacopo excused himself by saying that he did not like the place, because, being outside the city, it was exposed to the fury of the soldiers and other accidents. However, the air and time are gradually destroying it, as he did it in oils on dry lime. In the middle of the vaulting he did Saturn with the sign of Capricorn, and Mars Hermaphroditus in the signs of Leo and Virgo, with some flying cherubs like those at Careggi. He then did large female figures, almost nude, of Philosophy, Astrology, Geometry, Music, Arithmetic and a Ceres, with small circular scenes in various tints appropriate to the figures. But although all this labour did not give great satisfaction, at least much less than was expected, the duke expressed himself as pleased and employed Jacopo at every opportunity, for the artist was much esteemed by the people for his numerous beautiful works in the past.
The duke having brought to Florence the Flemings Giovanni Rosso and Niccolo, 15 excellent masters of arras, to teach the art to the Florentines, directed that gold and silk hangings should be made for the council chamber of the Two Hundred, at a cost of 60,000 crowns, and that Jacopo and Bronzino should prepare cartoons of the history of Joseph. Jacopo having done one of the Death of Joseph announced to Jacob, and another of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, the duke and the masters did not like them, thinking them strange and unsuitable for the medium, and so Jacopo did no more. Returning to his accustomed work, he did a Madonna, presented by the duke to Don, who took it to Spain. The duke, following in the footsteps of his ancestors, has always sought to decorate his city, and he now resolved to paint the principal chapel of the magnificent church of S. Lorenzo, erected by Cosimo de' Medici the elder. He gave this to Jacopo either of his own notion or by means of M. Pierfraneesco Ricei, major-domo, as is said. Jacopo was delighted, because of the importance of the work, he being well advanced in years and feeling that he had such an opportunity to display his talents. Some say that when he heard the work had been allotted to him, notwithstanding that Franceseo Salviati, a famous painter, was in Florence and had decorated the audience-chamber of the palace of the Signoria, he declared he would show how designing and painting in fresco should be done, that other painters were commonplace, and similar insolent speeches. But as I always knew him to be a modest man who spoke well of all, as a good artist should, I do not believe he ever uttered such boasts, which are the sayings of vain and presumptuous men without talent or character. 16 would have preferred not to mention this except that I believe it to be my duty as a veracious historian. If such reports were circulated, they were spread abroad by the malicious, for Jacopo was always modest.
Having, shut himself up alone in the chapel, Jacopo kept the place closed for eleven years, so that not a living soul entered it except himself. It is indeed true that some youths who were drawing in the sacristy of Michelagnolo climbed on to the roof, as boys will, and lifting the tiles and gilt bosses saw everything. When Jacopo heard it he took it very ill, but made no other sign except to cover up everything with more diligence than ever. Some say that he harassed and annoyed the youths greatly. He expected to surpass all the painters, even perhaps Michelagnolo, so it was said. In the upper part he did the creation of Adam and Eve, the Fall, the expulsion from Paradise, Tilling the Soil, the Sacrifice of Abel, the Death of Cain, the Blessing of the Seed of Noah, and the designing of the Ark. He decorated the lower walls, which are fifteen braccia square, with the Flood, containing a mass of drowned bodies, and Noah speaking with God, the general resurrection of the dead, with a universal and general confusion such as will probably take place on the last day. Opposite the altar, between the windows, is a row of nudes forming a ladder from the earth to paradise, many dead being there, and two of them clothed except the legs and arms, and holding lighted torches, forming the ends. At the top and in the middle he did Christ in majesty surrounded by nude angels, and raising the dead for judgment. I have never been able to understand the meaning of this scene, but I know that Jacopo was a genious man and associated with the learned. I mean what he intended by Christ raising the dead, with God the Father beneath him creating Adam and Eve. At one corner are the Evangelists, nude figures with books in their hands, and I do not think he has anywhere observed the order of the scene, measure, time, variety of the heads, changes in the flesh-tints, or any rule, proportion or perspective. The whole is full of nudes, arranged, designed and coloured after his fashion, with so much melancholy as to afford little pleasure to the observer, for even I though a painter, do not understand it, and it seems to me that in this labour of eleven years Jacopo has sought to bewilder both him and those who see the work. It contains some torsos with their shoulders turned forward and sides, done with marvellous study and labour, and Jacopo made clay models for nearly all. However, the work is not in his usual style, and everyone feels it to be without measure, the torsos being mostly large and the legs and arms small, not to speak of the heads, which lack that singular grace and excellence which he used to give and which afford such pleasure in his other paintings. He seems indeed to have taken pains with some parts and neglected others of more importance. Thus, whereas he hoped to surpass all artists, he fell far short of his own previous efforts, and so we see that when men wish to force Nature they ruin their natural endowments. But we cannot fail to pity him, for artists are prone to error like other men, and even Homer is said to have sometimes slept, while all of Jacopo's works contain some good parts, no matter how much he forced Nature. He died shortly before finishing this work, some say of grief and dissatisfaction with himself, but the truth is, he was old and worn out in making portraits, clay models and fresco-work, and he fell into a dropsy, of which he died at the age of sixty-five. After his death many beautiful designs, cartoons and clay models were found in his house and a fine Madonna in good style, apparently executed many years before. It was subsequently sold by his heirs to Piero Salviati. Jacopo was buried in the first cloister of the church of the Servites, below his own Visitation, being followed by all the painters, sculptors and architects. He was a frugal and temperate man, rather wretched in his manner of life and clothing, and he almost always lived alone, without anyone to serve or cook for him. However, in his last years, he adopted Battista Naldini, a youth of good intelligence, who took as much care of Jacopo as the latter would permit. Under Jacopo he made considerable progress in design, and excited the highest expectations. Pontormo's friends: especially at the end of his life, were Pierfrancesco Vernacci and Don Vincenzio Borghini, with whom he relaxed occasionally and dined with them. But he always cherished a great affection for Bronzino, who returned it, being grateful for the benefits received. Jacopo had strange notions, and was so fearful of death that he never allowed it to be mentioned, and he avoided dead bodies. He never went to feasts or to other places where crowds collected for fear of being crushed, and he was solitary beyond belief. Sometimes when he went to work he would fall into such deep thought that he came away at the end of the day without having done anything but think. This frequently occurred while he was engaged at S. Lorenzo, as may readily be believed, for when he had made up his mind he was not deterred by anything from carrying out what he had proposed, like a clever and skilful man. 1 Andrea di Cosimo Feltrini.2 He who makes Nature's laws and disposes of principalities and the ages is the source of all good, and when He allows it evil oppresses the world. Hence, in contemplating this figure you may see how surely one age follows another and how the good changes to ill and the ill to good.3 Done in1513.4 Dated 1518.5 In 1517.6 Now in the National Gallery, London.7 Now in the Pitti Gallery.8 Uffizi Gallery.9 In 1521.10 Painted in 1528; now in the Accademia, Florence.11 Painted 1543; now in the Louvre.12 In 1524.13 Possibly the man with the dog in the Pitti Gallery.14 Now in the Pitti Gallery, with a replica in the Uffizi.15 John Rost and Nicholas Kercker.16 was uncovered in 1558, but all whitewashed over in 1738.