Thursday, 4 September 2008

Pontormo (1494-1557) and his diary

"Deposition (detail)" Oil on Wood, 1528

Jacopo Carucci, normally referred to today as Jacopo da Pontormo, Jacopo Pontormo or simply Pontormo, was an Italian Mannerist painter and portraitist from the Florentine school. He enjoyed many successes during his life but fell seriously out of fashion for several centuries thereafter meaning that many of his works were neglected for long periods and are now in a very poor state.

I first came across Pontormo when I read extracts from his diary in a newspaper. This unusual document, covering the years 1554-56 was discovered in The National Library in Florence at the beginning of the last century. Rather than being a cold document full of alien language, or a complicated treatise on his art, the diary is a reassuringly drab intimate portrait of a painter who very much conforms to the modern stereotype of the depressed and solitary artist. He talks about feeling lonely, irritated and hopeless. One entry describes him hiding as a friend calls at his door. The diary features dry lists of activities and emotions - he obsesses over his diet, his ailments, his moods, the weather and his bowel movements in a kind of matter-of-fact monotone which aligns more closely to a Myspace blog than the great artists of the Florentine School. He also seemed to love omelettes. It's fairly mundane stuff, but reassuringly so - these men weren't from another planet after all. The full diary has been published several times but is now out of print as far as I can tell. It is a novelty worth tracking down.

A large selection of his works
Extracts from Pontormo's diary collected biographies
Pontormo's Diary, published in 1983
The Wikipedia entry on Mannerism

"Annunciation of the Virgin Mary" Church of Santa Felicita, Florence.


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