The Artist Birthday Series

Jacopo Pontormo

"Portrait Of A Halberdier," by Jacopo Pontormo, 15
“Portrait Of A Halberdier,” by Jacopo Pontormo, 1530

Regardless as to the veracity of Vasari’s account, it is certainly true that Pontormo’s artistic idiosyncrasies produced a style that few were able (or willing) to imitate, with the exception of his closest pupil Bronzino. As for his alleged temperament, the diary that Pontormo kept the last two years of his life reveal that Vasari may have exaggerated some of Jacopo’s characteristics, but probably not by much. Most of the diary consists of tracking his bowel movements and other bodily functions, as well as a clear need to avoid humanity whenever possible, writing things like, “15th Sunday – Bronzino knocked at my door and then during the day Daniello; I know not what they wanted.” Pontormo also seemed to have had a ladder to his bedroom which he would draw up after him, making contact with the Master even more difficult.

"Trinity," marking the final resting place of the great Pontormo, painted by his pupil and friend, Agnolo Bronzino
A page from Pontormo’s diary, now kept by the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, in Florence, Italy.

In his declining years, it seems he descended into a kind of madness and spent most of his time shut up in his studio “chatting with angels” that he claimed lived in a tree outside his window. Old friends tried to intervene and often left him baskets of food and coins on the doorstep. He ignored the intentions of friends and fellow artists that wanted to help, believing they were in league with the devil.

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