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The visitazion by Pontormo

Visitazione del pontormo

inside the Church of Saint Michael and Saint Francis in Carmignano

The pregnant Mary visited Elizabeth, pregnant as well of her first child, John the Baptist: this is the first public acknowledgement of Jesus in the iconography of the new Testament. Detaching from tradition, instead of accentuating the intimate and tender aspects of the episode, Pontormo focuses on the sense of mystery which surrounds these two extraordinary maternities. It is possible to experience the trepidation with which the two women welcome in their womb, not only physically but also spiritually, the realisation of God’s Will.
It is possible to perceive the atmosphere of waiting for the extraordinary destiny which the new born babies will go towards, taking parts in the same, big divine plan: in an unreal place, because outside and beyond reality, the women’s pregnant wombs, in the restrained astonishment of the maids, are touching each others, like the destiny of their children. The bodies which are monumental and occupy almost all the space, the light which is definitely clear and runs over them underlining the colours, the transparent brightness of the faces, the draperies which blow up almost one by one, converge on making the event exceptional.

The ethereal and iridescent colours recall the permanence of Jacopo, young apprentice at that time, in the studio of Leonardo da Vinci. A short permanence of about one year and at the beginning of his career in 1158, year which will mark his way of making art for ever. The modest and austere tone of the altarpiece, notwithstanding its extreme refinement in the painting draft, was suitable for a Church of Minor Friars: the most active religious order in the diffusion of Mary’s worship, and strong sustainers of an art capable of triggering devotion and reverence. The two mysterious women with their fixed look, have the task of catching the observer’s attention in order to make him/her identify with the sacred event. Their enigmatic and suspended gazes, detached from the sacred event, creak with the serene looks of Mary and Elizabeth: their laconic eyes are important to a humanity waiting of its Saviour, a restless and crepuscular humanity- in a crepuscular atmosphere as well, in dim light and in a space “strangled” by the high external architectures- anyway, visited  by his future mother, who lightens the smile and the brow of her older cousin with her arrival, forecasting a new time of light.

Probabily, the work is the same remembered  in the act of donation for the altar in the Church of Carmignano, drafted on June 28 in 1538 by Bartolomea Pinadori, widow of Pietro di Paolo di Bonaccorso Pinadori, dedicated to Visitation. It is possible that, at that time, the altar could be already provided with its altarpiece, as it wasn’t custom to let too much time pass between the erection of an altar and its equipment.