Descent of Jesus Christ, Pontormo

Descent of Jesus Christ, Pontormo
Descent of Jesus Christ, Pontormo

The classicist aesthetics of the Italian Renaissance was running out at the same time that artists were looking for new forms of creation, increasingly personal, in their own “maniera” that gave rise to the Mannerist movement. Undoubtedly, Pontormo was one of the great artists of the Cinquecento aesthetics, with works of great quality that were soon applauded among the most outstanding patrons of his time.


Pontormo (1494 – 1557), whose real name was Jacopo Carrucci, was born in the town that bears his nickname near Empoli. The artist was left alone and orphaned at a very early age passing through the workshop of various artists such as Albertinelli or Cosino, however, it was Andrea del Sarto with whom the young man would learn the most. In spite of everything, their relationship with del Sarto did not end on good terms – the young apprentice had made some cartoons for a commission that the master did not finish accepting – and Pontormo suddenly decided to separate himself from his master. All in all, the young artist achieved a certain fame and thanks to the patronage of the Medici family he never lacked work in Florence, an area in which he worked throughout his life.

However, in his works, more than the influence of his masters, the particular study that the artist carried out on some of the most outstanding figures in the world of painting such as Dürer or Michelangelo is appreciated

In the late 1920s, in the year 1528,Pontormo carried out what would be one of his most important commissions and surely the most ambitious work of his production that has come down to us, The Descent of Jesus Christ. The commission came into his hands three years earlier in 1525; it was about making the decoration of the Capponni chapel devised by Brunelleschi in the church of Santa Felicitá (Florence), the decoration of the chapel on which Bronzino also worked has now been lost but the main altar has come down to us.

This is a large-format work, measuring more than three meters high and almost two meters wide, in which the artist represents the tragic moment in which the body of Jesus Christ, already dead, is lowered from the cross and carried to the grave. The scene is tragic and dramatic, the gestures of the characters convey their feelings in such a loquacious way that they are closer to baroque drama than to Renaissance aesthetics.

The figure of the body of Jesus Christ, languid and lifeless marking a serpentine line, is carried by two men, one of whom looks directly at the viewer and has identified himself with Nicodemus. On her part, the VirginMary witnesses horrifiedat such a cruel scene while she screams and stands up with great monumentality. A figure with a female back comes to her aid by giving us her back.

In the outstanding work, above all, the Mannerist coloring with pinkish and blue, yellow and orange tones that contrast and even change hue depending on the lights and shadows of the composition.

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