"…being carried away by the desire to make a name, by his joy in working, and by nature, which had endowed him with extraordinary grace and fertility of genius, [Pontormo] executed that work with incredible rapidity and with such perfection as could not have been surpassed by an old, well-practised and excellent master…And Michelangelo Buonarroti, seeing the work one day, and reflecting that a youth of nineteen had done it, said: ‘This young man, judging from what may be seen here, will become such that, if he lives and perseveres, he will exalt this art to the heavens."
- Giorgio Vasari, on Pontormo’s frescoes for the convent of the Servite Friars in Florence, 1568
Pontormo’s art combined the glowing colours and stylized design of Mannerism with a naturalism which inspired later Italian artists. His many surviving drawings testify to his skill in drawing and design, and to his creativity: the disegno much prized in 1500s Florence.
According to the Renaissance art historian Giorgio Vasari, Pontormo studied with Leonardo da Vinci (1508), Piero di Cosimo, and (c. 1510) Mariotto Albertinelli. His first frescoes showed the influence of Fra Bartolommeo and Andrea del Sarto, whom he assisted c. 1512. Pontormo studied Northern European art, incorporating ideas from Albrecht Dürer’s Passion prints in his work. In the 1530s, he executed two paintings from cartoons (designs) by Michelangelo. Pontormo contributed tapestry designs in 1545 to the Story of Joseph series for Cosimo I de’Medici (as did Bronzino). In 1546, Pontormo wrote in support of the disegno tradition of Florentine art, contributing to the contemporary debate on the primacy of painting or sculpture (the ‘Paragone’).
Pontormo (Jacopo Carucci) initially painted frescoes in the manner of del Sarto before experimented with more dramatically emotional designs, beginning with his painted wall panel The Story of Joseph (c. 1518; London, National Gallery). His innovative design and startlingly realistic figures in his fresco Vertumnus and Pomona (1520-21; Medici Villa, Poggio a Caiano) marked Pontormo out as an original, an impression confirmed by his painted altarpiece, The Lamentation (1525-28; Florence; S. Felicita, Capponi Chapel). In this restless, busy composition, Pontormo combined luminous colours and graceful drawing, as in his other works of the 1520s, notably his Visitation (Carmignano, S. Michele). Meanwhile, he set a pattern for Florentine Mannerist portraits by elongating the bodies of his sitters (Portrait of a Halberdier, 1528-35; Malibu, Getty Museum). His last major commission, frescoes for Cosimo I de’Medici (1546-56; Florence, S. Lorenzo) was completed by Bronzino, who studied under him in the 1520s.