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Jacopo Carucci, called Jacopo Pontormo (Pontormo, near Empoli 1494-1556 Florence)
THE AGE OF VASARI The Age of Vasari is a useful if broad catch phrase for the period in Italian art from c. 1520-1580, when the so called Mannerist style, as developed in Florence and Rome in painting, sculpture, and architecture, was diffused throughout Italy and all Europe. Vasari, born in Arezzo in Tuscany, was himself a leading Mannerist painter, but is best known for his great biographical work, the Lives of the Artists, in which he chronicles the careers of Italian masters past and present in unprecedented depth, anticipating modern art history. According to Vasari, the arts in Italy had evolved to perfection in the work of Michelangelo, and the High Renaissance of the early Cinquecento, dominated by Raphael and Leonardo as well as Michelangelo, still seems from today's perspective to have achieved exemplary harmony in an Italy otherwise beset by political strife and foreign incursions. Indeed Raphael's fresco of The School of Athens in the Vatican (1509-1510; fig. 1), though the philosophers are Greek, evokes in monumental form the stability of a long-vanished Roman imperium that had lasted well over a millennium. But just as the Roman Empire was undermined by internal disruption, so the High Renaissance point of balance was not destined to last. Indeed the seeds of change were already present in one of its greatest achievements, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (fig. 2). Here the energetic and complex body language and the bright aggressive color contrasts adumbrate the more restless style of the next generation where sophisticated artifice and virtuosity were prized over naturalism, and abstruse compositions and subject matter were preferred to narrative clarity. In Rome, all the arts were dominated by the juggernaut figure of Michelangelo. To imitate him was not condemned as uncreative eclecticism but honored as appropriate homage to an unsurpassable exemplar. In Michelangelo's Last Judgment, completed in 1541, the whole company, both damned and elect, seem weighed down by the gross physicality of the human condition. We live in a world of sin and can only be saved by divine fiat. The helplessness of man in the face of the Almighty is a somewhat Protestant concept from a Roman point of view, so the Last Judgment, also criticized for indecorous nudity, excited unease as well as reverence and awe. In Florence, the other principle fount of the Mannerist style, Michelangelo's unsettling influence was also pervasive and in a masterpiece of the first generation of Florentine Mannerism, Pontormo's Deposition (fig. 3) of 1528, the Christ immediately recalls Michelangelo's canonical sculpture of the Pietà in Saint Peter's. The balletic grace of the figures, the pale surreal colors and the trance-like but very dead Christ with leaden eyelids and lips, conjure up a dreamlike atmosphere from which the anthropo-centric certainties of Renaissance humanism have been banished in favor of something approaching the transcendental Christianity of Byzantium and Hagia Sofia. In the Deposition by Rosso (fig. 4), the other great master of this generation of Mannerism in Florence, there is by contrast something devilish and infernal in the vicious angular poses, the razor-sharp draperies, and the aggressive Michelangelesque colors which evoke the dismal agony of earthly grief rather than the otherworldly promise of redemption in the Pontormo. In the group of paintings on offer, the influence of Rosso is clearly apparent in the confrontational and angular Madonna and Child by Carlo Portelli and that of Pontormo in the balletic grace of Mirabello Cavalori's Entombment. In the latter, form dominates content in a typical display of Mannerist complexity, and the subject matter is swamped by the graceful drift of the figures. The same sort of effect can be seen in a fresco by Bronzino, Pontormo's pupil, of the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (fig. 5) in the eponymous church in Florence where the saint on the grill is overwhelmed by the other figures in a riot of athletic visual gymnastics. At the height of the age of Vasari, in the mid-16th century, Rome was fully theocratic under a papacy enriched by tribute from all over Europe and the New World. In Florence, the rule of the Medici was less oligarchic than in times past and firmly autocratic under the Grand Duke Cosimo, who came to power in 1537. The Medici had risen to prominence through the wool trade and banking, and gilded the lily by magnificent patronage of the arts. They had their ups and downs, including periods of exile, but by the end of the 16th century, were secure in the European political pantheon, furnishing four popes and two Queens of France. The court of Cosimo was conspicuously splendid but he could never have survived without the backing of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and predominant power in Italy. His glittering court will be forever identified with the cold elegance of Bronzino's portraits, which are raised to greatness by a hint of the tensions burgeoning beneath the polished carapace of 16th-century high life. Bronzino rated as a portrait specialist but his master Pontormo painted portraits on a more occasional basis. His portrait of Cosimo shortly after his accession forms a remarkable contrast with his Getty Halberdier (fig. 6), thought by some to represent an idealized, adolescent Cosimo, rigged out in the smartest para-military gear, romantically defending his native city. The work here on offer shows him in sober civilian guise but with a sense of mastery appropriate to his aristocratic role and the claims of the Medici to primacy. As with Velasquez's early portraits of Spanish royalty, he has no need of showy costume to demonstrate his authority. Few people would rate Vasari himself on the same level as Pontormo, Rosso, or Bronzino, and he never painted anything so attractive as the luscious tapestry-like fresco decorations by his friend Francesco Salviati. As an architect he is more original, and his Uffizi, designed as government offices, anticipates the 20th-century office block in its dry, modular style. However, as the Pietà in the present group shows, he is often a more expressive artist than his somewhat academic reputation suggests. Vasari was a highly influential artistic impresario and in 1570-1572 he helped design a key Mannerist project, the studiolo of Francesco dei Medici (Cosimo's successor) in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. This cycle of small paintings, inspired by Francesco's collections of minerals and curiosities, is the epitome of Mannerist elitism in its ultra-sophisticated refinement and abstruse pseudo-scientific subject matter. Unfortunately, for the Council of Trent, established in 1545 to reform the church in the face of the Protestant challenge, the studiolo set a bad example. An art of greater clarity was called for, especially in religious paintings, where the message and stories of the scripture could be more accessible to the layman. Inevitably the Tridentine mandate achieved mixed results. Religious art became easier to read but much of it was pedantic and formulaic. The chief culprit here was Federico Zuccaro, the doyen of late Mannerism in Italy. Zuccaro redeemed himself by his brilliance as a draftsman but it remains a mystery why he and his followers failed to translate the incisive virtuosity of their drawings into the more formal medium of painting and fresco. A more successful response to Tridentine ideals is represented in the present group by Alessandro Allori's Noli me tangere. Allori was Bronzino's adopted nephew but here he has outgrown his Mannerist origins in favor of a much more realistic style, which is easier to read. Typical of this new emphasis is the costume of the Magdalen, which is not generalized like Christ's but based on contemporary fashion. On close inspection, Christ's right arm is unusually long and his hands, like the Magdalen's, exceptionally large. This adroit exaggeration, in an age where rhetoric still mattered, gives gesture a leading role in a way that was soon to be spectacularly exploited by Caravaggio in his Supper at Emmaus in London (fig. 7). In this very fine late work, Allori has embraced the realism of the early Baroque in a foretaste of 17th-century Baroque classicism. PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF BARBARA PIASECKA JOHNSON PROCEEDS TO BENEFIT THE BARBARA PIASECKA JOHNSON FOUNDATION
Jacopo Carucci, called Jacopo Pontormo (Pontormo, near Empoli 1494-1556 Florence)

Portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici (1519-74), half-length, in a black slashed doublet and a plumed hat, holding a book

Details
Jacopo Carucci, called Jacopo Pontormo (Pontormo, near Empoli 1494-1556 Florence)
Portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici (1519-74), half-length, in a black slashed doublet and a plumed hat, holding a book
oil (or oil and tempera) on panel
39½ x 30¼ in. (100.6 x 77 cm.)
Provenance
Riccardo Romolo Riccardi (1558-1612), before 1612, Florence, and thence by descent until at least 1814.
Charles T.D. Crews, London; (+), Christie's, London, 2 July 1915, lot 144, as Bronzino, where acquired by the following.
with Pawsey & Payne, London.
Sir Thomas Merton, Winforton House, Hereford (according to Witt Library Mount).
with F.A. Drey, London.
Lord Burton, England.
with Wildenstein & Co., New York, by 1952, from whom acquired in 1980 by the present owner.
Literature
MS., Archivio di Stato, Florence, Carte Riccardi, fil. 258, n. 1.
MS., Archivio di Stato, Florence, Carte Riccardi, fil. 278, c. 15.
B. Berenson, I Pittori italiani del rinascimento, Milan 1948, p. 272, no. 133, reproduced.
H. Keutner, "Zu einigen Bildnissen des frühen Florentiner Manierismus," Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz, VIII, 1959, p. 152.
G. Rosenthal, 'Bacchiacca and his friends. Comments on the exhibition', The Baltimore Museum of Art News, XXIV, no. 2, 1961, pp. 14-15, 58, no. 56.
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Florentine School, London, 1963, I, p. 181.
K.W. Forster, 'Probleme um Pontormos Porträtmalerei (I)', Pantheon, XXII, 1964, p. 380, as by workshop of Bronzino, datable to c. 1540-41.
L. Berti, Pontormo, Florence 1964, p. 101.
R.B. Simon, Bronzino's Portraits of Cosimo I de' Medici, Ph.D., Columbia University, 1982, pp. 181-187, 343, as close to Pontormo.
P. Costamagna and A. Fabre, Les portraits florentins du début du XVI siècle à l'avènement de Cosimo I: catalogue raisonné d'Albertinelli à Pontormo, II, Paris 1986, pp. 384-388, no. 98.
J. Cox-Rearick, 'The Influence of Pontormo's Portrait', in Christie's sale catalogue, New York, 31 May 1989.
L. Berti, 'L' Alabardiere del Pontormo, Critica d'Arte, LVI, 1990, p. 46, as workshop of Bronzino.
P. Costamagna, Pontormo, Milan 1994, pp. 242-244, no. 79.
A. Forlani Tempesti and A. Giovannetti, Pontormo, Florence, 1994, p. 142, no. 48, repeats earlier attributions.
E. Cropper, L'Officina della Maniera, exhibition catalogue, Florence, Uffizi, 1996, p. 380, no. 142.
E. Cropper, Pontormo. Portrait of a Halberdier, Los Angeles 1997, pp. 100-105, no. 52.
A. Pinelli, La bellezza impure: Arte e politica nell'Italia del Rinascimento, Rome 2004, p. 129.
F. Russell, 'A Portrait of a Young Man in Black by Pontormo', The Burlington Magazine, CL, October 2008, p. 676.
Exhibited
Burlington House, 1888.
Houston, Allied Arts Association, Masterpieces of Painting through Six Centuries, 16-27 November 1952.
Baltimore, Museum of Art, Bacchiacca and His Friends: Florentine Paintings and Drawings of the Sixteenth Century, 10 January-19 February, 1961, no. 56.
Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Style, Truth, and The Portrait, 1 October-10 November 1963, no. 2.
Florence, Uffizi, L'officina della maniera, 18 September 1996-6 January 1997, no. 380.

Condition Report

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Lot Essay

The great Florentine artist Jacopo Pontormo painted this imposing portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici around 1537-1538, just after he was elected Duke of Florence in January 1537 at the age of 18. A work of the artist's mature phase, the portrait typifies Pontormo's approach to the genre, in which the elegantly elongated and haughtily posed sitter is intensely alive as a psychological presence yet at the same time "hauntingly inaccessible" (Cox-Rearick, op. cit., p. 38). Shown in the sober dark costume in the Spanish style which Cosimo is described as wearing soon after becoming Duke (D. Mellini, Ricordi intorno ai costumi, azioni, e governo del serenissimo gran duca Cosimo I, 1820 ed., p. 2), he stands within a palazzo flanked by doors framed in pietra serena, the famous blue-grey stone used for architectural detailing in Renaissance Florence. His head set high in the picture field, the handsome young Duke stands holding a book--the attribute of the literary man in Florentine portraiture--thus embodying, as Simon has noted, the ideal prince (Simon, op. cit., p. 183). Indeed, the book and the sword, which the sitter also bears, allude to the Neoplatonic notion of wisdom and power, virtues exalted as those of the ideal prince by Castiglione in his enormously influential Il Cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier), published in Venice in 1528 (Costamagna, 1994, op. cit., p. 243). Costamagna has suggested that this portrait--the only one in which the young Cosimo is shown wearing civilian clothing--is in all probability that sent to Naples for presentation to his fianceé, Eleonora of Toledo, in advance of their nuptials. In this instance, the present portrait might have been displayed in the palace of the Viceroy of Naples on the occasion of their proxy wedding, which took place on 29 March 1539 (ibid.).

The earliest secure record of this picture is found in the inventory of Riccardo Romolo Riccardi, drawn up in Florence in 1612, where it is described as a portrait of the Duke Cosimo wearing a beret with white feather, sword and black garment:

Alla undecima lunette à lato alla porta/Un ritratto conforme agli altri ritratti dell'altre lunette si crede di mano di Jac.o da Puntormo con berrettino in testa, penna bianca, et arme à canto con saio dell'Ecc.mo Duca Cosimo con ornam.to (MS., Archivio di Stato, Florence, Carte Riccardi, fil. 258, n. 1; quoted Keutner, op. cit. p. 152).

The portrait was listed again in the Riccardi inventory of 1814, in which more details about the sitter's attributes and attire, such as his "dark costume in the Spanish style" and the fact of his holding a book, are included.

Un quadro in cornice dorata rappresenta un ritratto di un giovane mezza figura in abito nero alla spagnola con spada e pennacchio bianco sul cappello, tenando in mano un libro mezzo servato stima scudi sessanta (MS., Archivio di Stato, Florence, Carte Riccardi, fil. 278, c. 15; see Costamagna, 1994, op. cit., p. 242).

Although Cosimo's name is not repeated in the latter document, the identification of the sitter as Cosimo has been endorsed by Keutner, who first published the 1612 inventory; Forster (1964); Simon (1982); Cox-Rearick (1989); and Costamagna (1994). Cropper, on the other hand, has proposed an alternative identification of the sitter as the Florentine nobleman Carlo Neroni, although no certain image of him is known to exist (Cropper, 1996, op. cit., p. 380).

Comparison with other portraits of Cosimo argue strongly in favor of identifying the present sitter as the newly-elected Duke. Ridolfo Ghirlandaio's Cosimo I de Medici, aged 12 of 1531 (Florence, Uffizi; fig. 1) shows much younger Cosimo, but with a similar round face, wide eyes and small mouth. Bronzino's allegorical portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici as Orpheus of c. 1537-39 (Philadelphia Museum of Art; fig. 2), painted around the same time as the present picture, provides clearer evidence for Cosimo's physiognomy at this stage, which, as Costamagna has observed, is very close to that of the present sitter. Although Berti pointed out that Cosimo always wore a beard after 1537 (Berti, 1990, op. cit., p. 96), the Philadelphia picture suggests that the beard was not yet fully grown, as does a sketch of the Duke, executed in 1543 by Baccio Bandinelli, which shows a rather uneven beard (whereabouts unknown; see Costamagna, 1994, op. cit., p. 242).

Although the picture was attributed to Pontormo in the Riccardi inventory of 1612, its authorship was the subject of some debate earlier in the last century. It was offered at Christie's, London in 1915 and again in 1930 as by Bronzino, an attribution also put forth by Berti in 1964, though Forster assigned it to Bronzino's studio in that same year. It was exhibited in Baltimore in 1961 as Pontormo, and published as such by Berenson two years later. While Simon judged it "close" to Pontormo on the basis of a photograph in 1982, Fabre and Costamagna included it as Pontormo in full in their 1986 catalogue of 16th-century Florentine portraits. More recently, Cox-Rearick, Cropper and Fahy have all decisively endorsed Pontormo's authorship. In his 1994 catalogue raisonné of Pontormo's paintings, Costamagna reconfirmed its autograph status, referring to it as a "splendid portrait...in which the spirit is incontestably that of Pontormo's works...Above all, the modeling of the face and hands, and no less the expression of his gaze" recall the style of the artist (ibid.).

Scholars have remarked on the striking similarities in format and pose which the picture bears to Pontormo's Portrait of a Halberdier in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, traditionally called a portrait of Cosimo de' Medici, but recently published by Cropper as possibly representing the Florentine nobleman Francesco Guardi and datable to c. 1529-30 (see fig. 6 on p. 187; Cropper, 1997, op. cit., pp. 23f.). Although she similarly dates the present picture to the end of the third decade of the 16th century, both circumstantial and stylistic evidence clearly support a dating toward the late 1530s, which the majority of scholars, including Forster, Simon, Costamagna, and Cox-Rearick, have endorsed.

The present picture shares commonalities with other of Pontormo's portraits of the 1530s, such as the Portrait of Alessandro de' Medici of c. 1534-35 (Philadelphia Museum of Art), which shows a similar angular architectural background, format, and figural proportions. As Costamagna was first to suggest, Pontormo most likely re-used the cartoon for the earlier Getty picture in the genesis of the present portrait, making slight adjustments to the pose as the picture progressed (1994, op. cit., p. 242; see also Cropper, 1997, op. cit., p. 104). The Portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici also relates to certain of Bronzino's portraits, in particular, the Portrait of Ugolino Martelli of c. 1536-37 (Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Gemäldegalerie), which seems to have inspired its architectural setting (Costamagna, 1994, op. cit., p. 244). The figure's pose in Bronzino's Portrait of a Young Man in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (fig.4) is in turn closely based on that of Cosimo in the present portrait, which Costamagna refers to as the pivotal connection (il cardine) between Pontormo's portraits of the first third of the century and those of Bronzino and his school (ibid.).

Although the history of the picture before its mention in the Riccardi inventory of 1612 has yet to be established, Costamagna has hypothesized that, like the Getty Halberdier and Pontormo's Portrait of Maria Salviati with Cosimo de' Medici as a Baby (Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery), it might have entered the collection of Ottaviano de' Medici (1484-1546), possibly in 1540, and later, that of his son Alessandro, who could have in turn sold the picture to the wealthy banker, Riccardo Romolo Riccardi, its first documented owner (1994, op. cit., p. 244). Well-established within the Medici court by the end of the 16th century, Riccardi was an avid collector of books, antiquities and Italian pictures, among them works by Raphael, Titian, Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo, Bronzino and Rosso Fiorentino. His collection was especially rich in portraits from the Medici collection: the 1612 inventory of his collection lists "Ventidue ritratti di Casa Medici" (Keutner, op. cit., p. 151).


(fig. 1) Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, Cosimo I de Medici, aged 12, 1531, The Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

(fig. 2) Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici as Orpheus, c. 1538-1840. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Gift of Mrs. John Wintersteen, 1950 /Art Resource, NY.

(fig. 3) Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.16). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY.


(fig. 1) Raphael, School of Athens, from the Stanza della Segnatura Vatican Museums and Galleries, Vatican City Giraudon The Bridgeman Art Library.

(fig. 2) Michelangelo Buonarroti, Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Libyan Sibyl Vatican Museums and Galleries, Vatican City Alinari The Bridgeman Art Library.

(fig. 5) Agnolo Bronzino, The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy.

(fig. 3) Jacopo Pontormo, The Deposition of Christ Capponi Chapel, Santa Felicita, Florence, Italy The Bridgeman Art Library.

(fig. 4) Rosso Fiorentino, The Descent from the Cros Pinacoteca, Volterra, Italy The Bridgeman Art Library.

(fig. 6) Jacopo Pontormo, Portrait of a Halberdier J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, The Bridgeman Art Library.

(fig. 7) Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, The Supper at Emmaus National Gallery, London, UK The Bridgeman Art Library.

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