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L'Alabardiere, 1529-1530

Jacopo Carrucci (known as Jacopo da Pontormo or Pontormo) is one of those painters who fully embraced Mannerism in a way that makes him quite likeable in spite of himself. He is not easy to define though. His style ranges from bright colors to a dark, sombre Baroque-like palette; his drawings are exciting to study, full of energy and, like many artists, more accurate than his paintings. As a portraitist, Pontormo is in a category unique to the Florentines, both real and unreal at the same time due to his Mannerism; being the teacher of Bronzino we see strong similarities.

In the above example, we see an Alabardiere (Halbardier) or guard with the distinctive two-handled pole spear but Pontormo focuses on the young man himself, proud and confident, yet with an innocent face. Pontormo bathes him in warm window light against a dark wall of some sort, again to heighten the textures and colours of the guard. In typical Mannerist fashion, his physique is impossibly distorted, with a tiny waist and long arms, small hips...and yet we still believe this is a portrait by the way Pontormo makes this young man's face both noble and naive at the same time, possibly not yet having seen the horrors of battle and fighting. In short, it's a neat portrait.

In the drawings below we see textbook Pontormo, where he really shines and you can see how his mind works. Although fond of distortion in his paintings, he could draw, and very well as we see. One of Pontormo's most prominent signature characteristics was the way he sketched eyes—vertical, crude ellipses, as if pushing into the figure's skull in a rather disturbing, cartoon-like manner. I suspect he probably didn't like drawing eyes that much! And his hands sometimes have that scissor-like point to them...these are not flaws, but just idiosyncrasies that make Pontormo a fun and interesting artist to observe. And to learn from.

Jacopo Pontormo - Two Nudes Compared - WGA18129

Pontormo - Studio affresco Cappella Capponi 001


  1. Pontormo and Bronzino both appear as characters in my historical novel Cupid and the Silent Goddess, which imagines how the Bronzino'a Allegory with Venus and Cupid might have been created in Florence in 1544-5.


  2. Very interesting book Alan, looks like you did your homework! I read the first Chapter...fascinating, although I wasn't aware of sodomy between artists and their servants. Sounds hard to believe...


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