THE ancestors or rather, the elders of Bartolommeo di Jacopo di Martino, the father of Jacopo da Pontormo, whose Life we are now about to write had their origin, so some declare, in Ancisa, a township in the Upper Valdarno, famous enough because from it the ancestors of Messer Francesco Petrarca likewise derived their origin. But, whether it was from there or from some other place that his elders came, the above-named Bartolommeo, who was a Florentine, and, so I have been told, of the family of the Carrucci, is said to have been a disciple of Domenico Ghirlandajo, and, after executing many works in the Valdarno, as a painter passing able for those times, to have finally made his way to Empoli to carry out certain labours, living there and in the neighbouring places, and taking to wife at Pontormo a most virtuous girl of good condition, called Alessandra, the daughter of Pasquale di Zanobi and of his wife Monna Brigida. To this Bartolommeo, then, there was born in the year 1493 our Jacopo. But the father having died in the year 1499, the mother in the year 1504, and the grandfather in the year 1506, Jacopo was left to the care of his grandmother, Monna Brigida, who kept him for several years at Pontormo, and had him taught reading, writing, and the first rudiments of Latin grammar; and finally, at the age of thirteen, he was taken by the same guardian to Florence, and placed with the Pupilli, to the end that his small property might be safeguarded and preserved by that board, as is the custom. And after settling the boy himself in the house of one Battista, a shoemaker distantly related to him, Monna Brigida returned to Pontormo, taking with her a sister of Jacopo's. But not long after that, Monna Brigida herself having died, Jacopo was forced to bring that sister to Florence, and to place her in the house of a kinsman called Niccolaio, who lived in the Via de' Servi; and the girl, also, following the rest of her family, died in the year 1512, before ever she was married.
But to return to Jacopo; he had not been many months in Florence when he was placed by Bernardo Vettori with Leonardo da Vinci, and shortly afterwards with Mariotto Albertinelli, then with Piero di Cosimo, and finally, in the year 1512, with Andrea del Sarto, with whom, likewise, he did not stay long, for the reason that, after Jacopo had executed the cartoons of the little arch for the Servites, of which there will be an account below, it appears that Andrea never again looked favourably upon him, whatever may have been the reason. The first work, then, that Jacopo executed at that time was a little Annunciation for one his friend, a tailor; but the tailor having died before the work was finished, it remained in the hands of Jacopo, who was at that time with Mariotto, and Mariotto took pride in it, and showed it as a rare work to all who entered his workshop. Now Raffaello da Urbino, coming in those days to Florence, saw with infinite marvel the work and the lad who had done it, and prophesied of Jacopo that which was afterwards seen to come true. Not long afterwards, Mariotto having departed from Florence and gone to Viterbo to execute the panel-picture that Fra Bartolommeo had begun there, Jacopo, who was young, solitary, and melancholy, being thus left without a master, went by himself to work under Andrea del Sarto, at the very moment when Andrea had finished the stories of S. Filippo in the court of the Servites, which pleased Jacopo vastly, as did all his other works and his whole manner and design. Jacopo having then set himself to make every effort to imitate him, no long time passed before it was seen that he had made marvellous progress in drawing and colouring, insomuch that from his facility it seemed as if he had been many years in art.
Now Andrea had finished in those days a panel picture of the Annunciation for the Church of the Friars of S. Gallo, which is now destroyed, as has been related in his Life; and he gave the predella of that panel picture to Jacopo to execute in oils. Jacopo painted in it a Dead Christ, with two little Angels who are weeping over Him and illuminating Him with two torches, and, in two round pictures at the sides, two Prophets, which were executed by him so ably, that they have the appear- ance of having been painted not by a mere lad but by a practised master; but it may also be, as Bronzino says, that he remembers having heard from Jacopo da Pontormo himself that Rosso likewise worked on this predella. And even as Andrea was assisted by Jacopo in executing the predella, so also was he aided by him in finishing the many pictures and works that Andrea continually had in hand.
In the meantime, Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici having been elected Supreme Pontiff under the title of Leo X, there were being made all over Florence by the friends and adherents of that house many escut- cheons of the Pontiff, in stone, in marble, on canvas, and in fresco. Wherefore the Servite Friars, wishing to give some sign of their service and devotion to that house and Pontiff, caused the arms of Leo to be made in stone, and placed in the centre of the arch in the first portico of the Nunziata, which is on the piazza; and shortly afterwards they arranged that it should be overlaid with gold by the painter Andrea di Cosimo, and adorned with grotesques, of which he was an excellent master, and with the devices of the house of Medici, and that, in addition, on either side of it there should be painted a Faith and a Charity. But Andrea di Cosimo, knowing that he was not able to execute all these things by himself, thought of giving the two figures to some other to do ; and so, having sent for Jacopo, who was then not more than nineteen years of age, he gave him those two figures to execute, although he had no little trouble to persuade him to undertake to do it, seeing that, being a mere lad, he did not wish to expose himself at the outset to such a risk, or to work in a place of so much importance. However, having taken heart, although he was not as well practised in fresco as in oil-painting, Jacopo undertook to paint those two figures. And, withdrawing for he was still working with Andrea del Sarto to draw the cartoons at S. Antonio by the Porta a Faenza, where he lived, in a short tune he carried them to completion; which done, one day he took his master Andrea to see them. Andrea, after seeing them with infinite marvel and amazement, praised them vastly; but afterwards, as has been related, whether it was from envy or from some other reason, he never again looked with a kindly eye on Jacopo; nay, Jacopo going several times to his workshop, either the door was not opened to him or he was mocked at by the assistants, insomuch that he retired altogether by himself, beginning to live on the least that he could, for he was very poor, and to study with the greatest assiduity.
When Andrea di Cosimo, then, had finished gilding the escutcheon and all the eaves, Jacopo set to work all by himself to finish the rest; and being carried away by the desire to make a name, by his joy in working, and by nature, which had endowed him with extraordinary grace and fertility of genius, he executed that work with incredible rapidity and with such perfection as could not have been surpassed by an old, well-practised, and excellent master. Wherefore, growing in courage through this experience, and thinking that he could do a much better work, he took it into his head that he would throw to the ground all that he had done, without saying a word to anyone, and paint it all over again after another design that he had in his brain. But in the meantime the friars, having seen that the work was finished and that Jacopo came no more to his labour, sought out Andrea, and so pestered him that he resolved to uncover it. Having therefore looked for Jacopo, in order to ask him whether he wished to do any more to the work, and not finding him, for the reason that he stayed shut up over his new design and would not answer to anyone, Andrea had the screen and scaffolding removed and the work uncovered. The same evening Jacopo, having issued from his house in order to go to the Servite convent, and, when it should be night, to throw to the ground the work that he had done, and to put into execution the new design, found the scaffolding taken away and every- thing uncovered, and a multitude of people all around gazing at the work. Whereupon, full of fury, he sought out Andrea, and complained of his having uncovered it without his consent, going on to describe what he had in mind to do. To which Andrea answered, laughing: "You are wrong to complain, because the work that you have done is so good that, if you had it to do again, you may take my word for it that you would not be able to do it better. You will not want for work, so keep these designs for another occasion." That work, as may be seen, was of such a kind and so beautiful, what with the novelty of the manner, the sweet- ness in the heads of those two women, and the loveliness of the graceful and lifelike children, that it was the most beautiful work in fresco that had ever been seen up to that time; and, besides the children with the Charity, there are two others in the air holding a piece of drapery over the escutcheon of the Pope, who are so beautiful that nothing better could be done/ ot to mention that all the figures have very strong relief and are so ey ;uted in colouring and in every other respect that one is not able to j> aise them enough. And Michelagnolo Buonarroti, seeing the work one day, and reflecting that a youth of nineteen had done it, said: " This young man, judging from what may be seen here, will become such that, if he lives and perseveres, he will exalt this art to the heavens." This renown and fame being heard by the men of Pontormo, they sent for Jacopo, and commissioned him to execute in their stronghold, over a gate placed on the main road, an escutcheon of Pope Leo with two little boys, which was very beautiful; but already it has been little less than ruined by rain.
At the Carnival in the same year, all Florence being gay and full of rejoicing at the election of the above-named Leo X, many festive spectacles were ordained, and among them two of great beauty and extraordinary cost, which were given by two companies of noblemen and gentlemen of the city. One of these, which was called the Diamante,* had for its head the brother of the Pope, Signor Giuliano de' Medici, who had given it that name because the diamond had been a device of his father, the elder Lorenzo; and the head of the other, which had as name and device the Broncone,f was Signor Lorenzo, the son of Piero de' Medici, who had for his device a Broncone that is, a dried trunk of laurel growing green again with leaves, as it were to signify that he was reviving and restoring the name of his grandfather.
By the Company of the Diamante, then, a commission was given to M. Andrea Dazzi, who was then lecturing on Greek and Latin Letters * Diamond. | Trunk or branch. at the Studio in Florence, to look to the invention of a triumphal procession; whereupon he arranged one similar to those that the Romans used to have for their triumphs, with three very beautiful cars wrought in wood, and painted with rich and beautiful art. In the first was Boyhood, with a most beautiful array of boys. In the second was Manhood, with many persons who had done great things in their manly prime. And in the third was Old Age, with many famous men who had performed great achievements in their last years. All these persons were very richly apparelled, insomuch that it was thought that nothing better could be done. The architects of these cars were Raffaello delle Vivole, II Carota the wood-carver, the painter Andrea di Cosimo, and Andrea del Sarto; those who arranged and prepared the dresses of the figures were Ser Piero da Vinci, the father of Leonardo, and Bernardino di Giordano, both men of beautiful ingenuity; and to Jacopo da Pontormo alone it fell to paint all the three cars, wherein he executed various scenes in chiaroscuro of the Transformations of the Gods into different forms, which are now in the possession of Pietro Paolo Galeotto, an excellent goldsmith. The first car bore, written in very clear characters, the word " Erimus," the second "Sumus," and the third "Fuimus" that is, "We shall be," " We are," and " We have been." The song began, "The years fly on. . . ."
Having seen these triumphal cars, Signer Lorenzo, the head of the Company of the Broncone, desiring that they should be surpassed, gave the charge of the whole work to Jacopo Nardi, a noble and most learned gentleman, to whom, for what he afterwards became, his native city of Florence is much indebted. This Jacopo prepared six triumphal cars, in order to double the number of those executed by the Diamante. The first, drawn by a pair of oxen decked with herbage, represented the Age of Saturn and Janus, called the Age of Gold; and on the summit of the car were Saturn with the Scythe, and Janus with the two heads and with the key of the Temple of Peace in the hand, and at his feet a figure of Fury bound, with a vast number of things around appertaining to Saturn, all executed most beautifully in different colours by the genius of Pontormo. Accompanying this car were six couples of Shepherds, naked but for certain parts covered by skins of marten and sable, with footwear of various kinds after the ancient manner, and with their wallets, and on their heads garlands of many kinds of leaves. The horses on which these Shepherds sat were without saddles, but covered with skins of lions, tigers, and lynxes, the paws of which, overlaid with gold, hung at their sides with much grace and beauty. The ornaments of their croups and of the grooms were of gold cord, the stirrups were heads of rams, dogs, and other suchlike animals, and the bridles and reins made with silver cord and various kinds of verdure. Each Shepherd had four grooms in the garb of shepherd-boys, dressed more simply in other skins, with torches fashioned in the form of dry trunks and branches of pine, which made a most beautiful sight.
Upon the second car, drawn by two pairs of oxen draped in the richest cloth, with garlands on their heads and great paternosters hanging from their gilded horns, was Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome, with the books of religion and all the sacerdotal instruments and the things appertaining to sacrifices, for the reason that he was the originator and first founder of religion and sacrifices among the Romans. This car was accompanied by six priests on most beautiful she-mules, their heads covered with hoods of linen embroidered with silver and gold in a masterly pattern of ivy-leaves; and on their bodies they had sacerdotal vestments in the ancient fashion, with borders and fringes of gold all round, and in the hands one had a thurible, another a vase of gold, and the rest other similar things. At their stirrups they had attendants in the guise of Levites, and the torches that these had in their hands were after the manner of ancient candelabra, and wrought with beautiful artistry.
The third car represented the Consulate of Titus Manlius Torquatus, who was Consul after the end of the first Carthaginian war, and governed in such a manner, that in his time there flourished in Rome every virtue and every blessing. That car, upon which was Titus himself, with many ornaments executed by Pontormo, was drawn by eight most beautiful horses, and before it went six couples of Senators clad in the toga, on horses covered with cloth of gold, accompanied by a great number of grooms representing Lictors, with the fasces, axes, and other things appertaining to the administration of justice.
The fourth car, drawn by four buffaloes disguised as elephants, represented Julius Caesar in Triumph for the victory gained over Cleopatra, the car being all painted by Pontormo with his most famous deeds. That car was accompanied by six couples of men-at-arms clad in rich and brightly shining armour all bordered with gold, with their lances on their hips; and the torches that the half-armed grooms carried had the form of trophies, designed in various ways.
The fifth car, drawn by winged horses that had the form of gryphons, bore upon it Caesar Augustus, the Lord of the Universe, accompanied by six couples of Poets on horseback, all crowned, as was also Caesar, with laurel, and dressed in costumes varying according to their provinces; and these were there because poets were always much favoured by Caesar Augustus, whom they exalted with their works to the heavens. And to the end that they might be recognized, each of them had across his forehead a scroll after the manner of a fillet, on which was his name.
On the sixth car, drawn by four pairs of heifers richly draped, was Trajan, that just Emperor, before whom, as he sat on the car, which was painted very well by Pontormo, there rode upon beautiful and finely caparisoned horses six couples of Doctors of Law, with togas reaching to their feet and with capes of miniver, such as it was the ancient custom for Doctors to wear. The grooms who carried their torches, a great number, were scriveners, copyists, and notaries, with books and writings in their hands.
After these six came the car, or rather, triumphal chariot, of the Age or Era of Gold, wrought with the richest and most beautiful artistry, with many figures in relief executed by Baccio Bandinelli, and very beautiful paintings by the hand of Pontormo; among those in relief the four Cardinal Virtues being highly extolled. From the centre of the car rose a great sphere in the form of a globe of the world, upon which there lay prostrate on his face, as if dead, a man clad in armour all eaten with rust, who had the back open and cleft, and from the fissure there issued a child all naked and gilded, who represented the new birth of the age of gold and the end of the age of iron, from which he was coming forth into that new birth by reason of the election of that Pontiff; and this same significance had the dry trunk putting forth new leaves, although some said that the matter of that dry trunk was an allusion to the Lorenzo de' Medici who became Duke of Urbino. I should mention that the gilded boy, who was the son of a baker, died shortly after- wards through the sufferings that he endured in order to gain ten crowns.
The chant that was sung in that masquerade, as is the custom, was composed by the above-named Jacopo Nardi, and the first stanza ran thus:Colui che da le leggi alia Natura E i varii stati e secoli dispone, D'ogni bene e cagione; E il mal, quanto permette, al Mondo dura; Onde questa figura Contemplando si vede, Come con certo piede L' un secol dopo 1' altro al Mondo viene E muta il bene in male, e 'l male in bene.
From the works that he executed for this festival Pontormo gained, besides the profit, so much praise, that probably few young men of his age ever gained as much in that city ; wherefore, Pope Leo himself after- wards coming to Florence, he was much employed in the festive prepara- tions that were made, for he had attached himself to Baccio da Montelupo, a sculptor advanced in years, who made an arch of wood at the head of the Via del Palagio, at the steps of the Badia, and Pontormo painted it all with very beautiful scenes, which afterwards came to an evil end through the scant diligence of those who had charge of them. Only one remained, that in which Pallas is tuning an instrument into accord with the lyre of Apollo, with great grace and beauty; from which scene one is able to judge what excellence and perfection were in the other works and figures. For the same festivities Ridolfo Ghirlandajo had received the task of fitting up and embellishing the Sala del Papa, which is attached to the Convent of S. Maria Novella, and was formerly the residence of the Pontiffs in the city of Florence; but being pressed for tune, he was forced to avail himself in some things of the work of others, and thus, after having adorned all the other rooms, he laid on Jacopo da Pontormo the charge of executing some pictures in fresco in the chapel where his Holiness was to hear Mass every morning. Whereupon, setting his hand to the work, Jacopo painted there a God the Father with many little Angels, and a Veronica who had the Sudarium with the image of Jesus Christ; which work, thus executed by Jacopo in so short a time, was much extolled.
He then painted in fresco, in a chapel of the Church of S. Ruffillo, behind the Archbishop's Palace in Florence, Our Lady with her Son in her arms between S. Michelagnolo and S. Lucia, and two other Saints kneeling; and, in the lunette of the chapel, a God the Father with some Seraphim about Him. Next, having been commissioned by Maestro Jacopo, a Servite friar, as he had greatly desired, to paint a part of the court of the Servites, because Andrea del Sarto had gone off to France and left the work of that court unfinished, he set himself with much study to make the cartoons. But since he was poorly provided with the things of this world, and was obliged, while studying in order to win honour, to have something to live upon, he executed over the door of the Hospital for Women behind the Church of the Priest's Hospital, between the Piazza di S. Marco and the Via di S. Gallo, and exactly opposite to the wall of the Sisters of S. Catharine of Siena two most beautiful figures in chiaroscuro, with Christ in the guise of a pilgrim awaiting certain women in order to give them hospitality and lodging; which work was deservedly much extolled in those days, as it still is, by all good judges. At this same time he painted some pictures and little scenes in oils for the Masters of the Mint, on the Carro della Moneta, which goes every year in the procession of S. John; the workmanship of which car was by the hand of Marco del Tasso. And over the door of the Company of Cecilia, on the heights of Fiesole, he painted a S. Cecilia with some roses in her hand, coloured in fresco, and so beautiful and so well suited to that place, that, for a work of that kind, it is one of the best paintings in fresco that there are to be seen.
These works having been seen by the above-named Servite friar, Maestro Jacopo, he became even more ardent in his desire, and he determined at all costs to cause Jacopo to finish the work in that court of the Servites, thinking that in emulation of the other masters who had worked there he would execute something of extraordinary beauty in the part that remained to be painted. Having therefore set his hand to it, from a desire no less of glory and honour than of gain, Jacopo painted the scene of the Visitation of the Madonna, in a manner a little freer and mffie lively than had been his wont up to that time; which circumstance gave "aiTinnnite excellence to the work, in addition to its other extraordinary beauties, in that the women, little boys, youths, and old men are executed in fresco with such softness and such harmony of colouring, that it is a thing to marvel at, and the flesh-colours of a little boy who is seated on some steps, and, indeed, those likewise of all the other figures, are such that they could not be done better or with more softness in fresco. This work, then, after the others that Jacopo had executed, gave a sure earnest of his future perfection to the craftsmen, comparing them with those of Andrea del Sarto and Franciabigio. Jacopo delivered the work finished in the year 1516, and received in payment sixteen crowns and no more.
Having then been allotted by Francesco Pucci, if I remember rightly, the altarpiece of a chapel that he had caused to be built in S. Michele Bisdomini in the Via de' Servi, Jacopo executed the work in so beautiful a manner, and with a colouring so vivid, that it seems almost impossible to credit it. In this altar-piece Our Lady, who is seated, is handing the Infant Jesus to S. Joseph, in whose countenance there is a smile so animated and so lifelike that it is a marvel ; and very beautiful, likewise, is a little boy painted to represent S. John the Baptist, and also two other little children, naked, who are upholding a canopy. There may be seen also a S. John the Evangelist, a most beautiful old man, and a S. Francis kneeling, who is absolutely alive, for, with the fingers of one hand interlocked with those of the other, and wholly intent in contemplating fixedly with his eyes and his mind the Virgin and her Son, he appears really to be breathing. And no less beautiful is the S. James who may be seen beside the others. Wherefore it is no marvel that this is the most beautiful altarpiece that was ever executed by this truly rare painter.
I used to believe that it was after this work, and not before, that the same Jacopo had painted in fresco the two most lovely and graceful little boys who are supporting a coat of arms over a door within a passage on the Lungarno, between the Ponte S. Trinita and the Ponte alia Carraja, for Bartolommeo Lanfredini; but since Bronzino, who may be supposed to know the truth about these matters, declares that they were among the first works that Jacopo executed, we must believe that this is so without a doubt, and praise Pontormo for them all the more, seeing that they are so beautiful that they cannot be matched, and yet were among the earliest works that he did.
But to resume the order of our story: after these works, Jacopo executed for the men of Pontormo an altar-piece wherein are S. Michel agnolo and S. John the Evangelist, which was placed in the Chapel of the Madonna in S. Agnolo, their principal church. At this time one of two young men who were working under Jacopo that is, Giovan Maria Pichi of Borgo a S. Sepolcro, who was acquitting himself passing well, and who afterwards became a Servite friar, and executed some works in the Borgo and in the Pieve a S. Stefano while still working, I say, under Jacopo, painted in a large picture a nude S. Quentin in martyrdom, in order to send it to the Borgo. But since Jacopo, like a loving master to his disciple, desired that Giovan Maria should win honour and praise, he set himself to retouch it, and so, not being able to take his hands off it, and retouching one day the head, the next day the arms, and the day after the body, the retouching became such that it may almost be said that the work is entirely by his hand. Wherefore it is no marvel that this picture, which is now in the Church of the Observantine Friars of S. Francis in the Borgo, is most beautiful.
The second of the two young men, who was Giovanni Antonio Lappoli of Arezzo, of whom there has been an account in another place, like a vain fellow had taken a portrait of himself with a mirror, also while he was working under Jacopo. But his master, thinking that the portrait was a poor likeness, took it in hand himself, and executed a portrait that is so good that it has the appearance of life; which portrait is now at Arezzo, in the house of the heirs of that Giovanni Antonio.
Pontormo also portrayed in one and the same picture two of his dearest friends one the son-in-law of Beccuccio Bicchieraio, and another, whose name likewise I do not know; it is enough that the portraits are by the hand of Pontormo. He then executed for Bartolommeo Ginori, in anticipation of his death, a string of pennons, according to the custom of the Florentines; and in the upper part of all these, on the white taffeta, he painted a Madonna with the Child, and on the coloured fringe below he painted the arms of that family, as is the custom. For the centre of the string, which was of twenty-four pennons, he made two all of white taffeta without any fringe, on which he painted two figures of S. Bartholomew, each two braccia high. The size of all these pennons and their almost novel manner caused all the others that had been made up to that time to appear poor and mean ; and this was the reason that they began to be made of the size that they are at the present day, with great grace and much less expense for gold.
At the head of the garden and vineyard of the Friars of S. Gallo, without the gate that is called after that Saint, in a chapel that is in a line with the central entrance, he painted a Dead Christ, a Madonna weeping, and two little Angels in the air, one of whom was holding the Chalice of the Passion in his hands, and the other was supporting the fallen head of Christ. On one side was S. John the Evangelist, all tearful, with the arms stretched out, and on the other S. Augustine in episcopal robes, who, leaning with the left hand on the pastoral staff, stood in an attitude truly full of sorrow, contemplating the Dead Saviour. And for Messer Spina, the familiar friend of Giovanni Salviati, he executed in a courtyard, opposite to the principal door of his house, the coat of arms of that Giovanni (who had been made a Cardinal in those days by Pope Leo), with the red hat above and two little boys standing works in fresco which are very beautiful, and much esteemed by Messer Filippo Spina, as being by the hand of Pontormo.
Jacopo also worked, in competition with other masters, on the ornamentation in wood that was formerly executed in a magnificent manner, as has been related elsewhere, in some apartments of Pier Francesco Borgherini; and, in particular, he painted there with his own hand on two coffers some stories from the life of Joseph in little figures, which were truly most beautiful. And whoever wishes to see the best work that he ever did in all his life, in order to consider how able and masterly was Jacopo in giving liveliness to heads, in grouping figures, in varying attitudes, and in beauty of invention, let him look at a scene of some size, likewise in little figures, in the corner on the left hand as one enters through the door, in the chamber of Borgherini, who was a nobleman of Florence; in which scene is Joseph in Egypt, as it were a Prince or a King, in the act of receiving his father Jacob with all his brethren, the sons of that Jacob, with extraordinary affection. Among these figures he portrayed at the foot of the scene, seated upon some steps, II Bronzino, who was then a boy and his disciple a figure with a basket, which is lifelike and beautiful to a marvel. And if this scene were on a greater scale, on a large panel or a wall, instead of being small, I would venture to say that it would not be possible to find another picture executed with the grace, excellence, and even perfection wherewith this one was painted by Jacopo; wherefore it was rightly regarded by all craftsmen as the most beautiful picture that Pontormo ever executed. Nor is it to be wondered at that Borgherini should have prized it as he did, and should have been besought to sell it by great persons as a present for mighty lords and princes.
On account of the siege of Florence Pier Francesco retired to Lucca, and Giovan Battista della Palla, who desired to obtain, together with other things that he was transporting into France, the decorations of this chamber, so that they might be presented to King Francis in the name of the Signoria, received such favours, and went to work so effectively with both words and deeds, that the Gonfalonier granted a commission that they should be taken away after payment to the wife of Pier Francesco. Whereupon some others went with Giovan Battista to execute the will of the Signori; but, when they arrived at the house of Pier Francesco, his wife, who was in the house, poured on Giovan Battista the greatest abuse that was ever spoken to any man. "So you make bold, Giovan Battista," said she, "you vile slop-dealer, you little two- penny pedlar, to strip the ornaments from the chambers of noblemen and despoil our city of her richest and most honoured treasures, as you have done and are always doing, in order to embellish with them the countries of foreigners, our enemies ! At you I do not marvel, you, a base plebeian and the enemy of your country, but at the magistrates of this city, who aid and abet you in these shameful rascalities. This bed, which you would seize for your own private interest and for greed of gain, although you keep your evil purpose cloaked with a veil of righteousness, this is the bed of my nuptials, in honour of which my husband's father, Salvi, made ah 1 these magnificent and regal decorations, which I revere in memory of him and from love for my husband, and mean to defend with my very blood and with life itself. Out of this house with these your cut-throats, Giovan Battista, and go to those who sent you with orders that these things should be removed from their places, for I am not the woman to surfer a single thing to be moved from here. If they who believe in you, a vile creature of no account, wish to make presents to King Francis of France, let them go and strip their own houses, and take the ornaments and beds from their own chambers, and send them to him. And you, if you are ever again so bold as to come to this house on such an errand, I will make you smart sorely for it, and teach you what respect should be paid by such as you to the houses of noblemen." Thus spoke Madonna Margherita, the wife of Pier Francesco Borgherini, and the daughter of Ruberto Acciaiuoli, a most noble and wise citizen; and she, a truly courageous woman and a worthy daughter of such a father, with her noble ardour and spirit, was the reason that those gems are still preserved in that house.
Giovan Maria Benintendi, about this same time, had adorned an antechamber in his house with many pictures by the hands of various able men; and after the work executed for Borgherini, incited by hearing Jacopo da Pontormo very highly praised, he caused a picture to be painted by him with the Adoration of the Magi, who went to Bethlehem to see Christ; which work, since Jacopo devoted to it much study and diligence, proved to be well varied and beautiful in the heads and in and to be truly worthy of all praise. Afterwards he executed for Messer Goro da Pistoia, then Secretary to the Medici, a picture with the portrait of the Magnificent Cosimo de' Medici, the elder, from the knees upwards, which is indeed worthy to be extolled; and this portrait is now in the house of Messer Ottaviano de' Medici, in the possession of his son, Messer Alessandro, a young man besides the distinction and nobility of his blood of most upright character, well lettered, and the worthy son of the Magnificent Ottaviano and of Madonna Francesca, the daughter of Jacopo Salviati and the maternal aunt of the Lord Duke Cosimo.
By means of this work, and particularly this head of Cosimo, Pontormo became the friend of Messer Ottaviano; and the Great Hall at Poggio a Caiano having then to be painted, there were given to him to paint the two ends where the round openings are that give light that is, the windows from the vaulting down to the floor. Whereupon, desiring to do himself honour even beyond his wont, both from regard for the place and from emulation of the other painters who were working there, he set himself to study with such diligence, that he overshot the mark, for the reason that, destroying and doing over again every day what he had done the day before, he racked his brains in such a manner that it was a tragedy; but all the time he was always making new discoveries, which brought credit to himself and beauty to the work. Thus, having to execute a Vertumnus with his husbandmen, he painted a peasant seated with a vine-pruner in his hand, which is so beautiful and so well done that it is a very rare thing, even as certain children that are there are lifelike and natural beyond all belief. On the other side he painted Pomona and Diana, with other Goddesses, enveloping them perhaps too abundantly with draperies. However, the work as a whole is beautiful and much extolled; but while it was being executed Leo was overtaken by death, and so it remained unfinished, like many other similar works at Rome, Florence, Loreto, and other places; nay, the whole world was left poor, being robbed of the true Maecenas of men of talent. Having returned to Florence, Jacopo painted in a picture a seated figure of S. Augustine as a Bishop, who is giving the benediction, with two little nude Angels flying through the air, who are very beautiful; which picture is over an altar in the little Church of the Sisters of S. Clemente in the Via di S. Gallo. He carried to completion, likewise, a picture of a Pieta with certain nude Angels, which was a very beautiful work, and held very dear by certain merchants of Ragusa, for whom he painted it; but most beautiful of all in this picture was a landscape taken for the most part from an engraving by Albrecht Diirer. He also painted a picture of Our Lady with the Child in her arms, and some little Angels about her, which is now in the house of Alessandro Neroni; and for certain Spaniards he executed another like it that is, of the Madonna but different from the one described above and in another manner, which picture, being for sale in a second-hand dealer's shop many years after, was bought by Bartolommeo Panciatichi at the suggestion of Bronzino.
Then, in the year 1522, there being a slight outbreak of plague in Florence, and many persons therefore departing in order to avoid that most infectious sickness and to save themselves, an occasion presented itself to Jacopo of flying the city and removing himself to some distance, for a certain Prior of the Certosa, a place built by the Acciaiuoli three miles away from Florence, had to have some pictures painted in fresco at the corners of a very large and beautiful cloister that surrounds a lawn, and Jacopo was brought to his notice; whereupon the Prior had him sought out, and he, having accepted the work very willingly at such a time, went off to Certosa, taking with him only Bronzino. There, after a trial of that mode of life, that quiet, that silence, and that solitude all things after the taste and nature of Jacopo he thought with such an occasion to make a special effort in the matters of art, and to show to the world that he had acquired greater perfection and a different manner since those works that he had executed before. Now not long before there had come from Germany to Florence many sheets printed from engravings done with great subtlety with the burin by Albrecht Diirer, a most excellent German painter and a rare engraver of plates on copper and on wood; and, among others, many scenes, both large and small, of the Passion of Jesus Christ, in which was all the perfection and excellence of engraving with the burin that could ever be achieved, what with the beauty and variety of the vestments and the invention. Jacopo, having to paint at the corners of those cloisters scenes from the Passion of the Saviour, thought to avail himself of the above-named inventions of Albrecht Diirer, in the firm belief that he would satisfy not only himself but also the greater part of the craftsmen of Florence, who were all proclaiming with one voice and with common consent and agreement the beauty of those engravings and the excellence of Albrecht. Setting himself therefore to imitate that manner, and seeking to give to the expressions of the heads of his figures that liveliness and^variety which Albrecht had given to his, he caught it so thoroughly, that the charm of his own early manner, which had been given to him by nature, all full of sweetness and grace, suffered a great change from that new study and labour, and was so impaired through his stumbling on that German manner, that in all these works, although they are all beautiful, there is but a sorry remnant to be seen of that excellence and grace that he had given up to that time to all his figures.
At the entrance to the cloister, then, in one corner, he painted Christ in the Garden, counterfeiting so well the darkness of night illumined by the light of the moon, that it appears almost like daylight; and while Christ is praying, not far distant are Peter, James, and John sleeping, executed in a manner so similar to that of Diirer, that it is a marvel. Not far away is Judas leading the Jews, likewise with a countenance so strange, even as the features of all those soldiers are depicted in the German manner with bizarre expressions, that it moves him who beholds it to pity for the simplicity of the man, who sought with such patience to learn that which others avoid and seek to lose, and all to lose the manner that surpassed all others in excellence and gave infinite pleasure to everyone. Did not Pontormo know, then, that the Germans and Flemings came to these parts to learn the Italian manner, which he with such effort sought to abandon as if it were bad ?
Beside this scene is one in which is Christ led by the Jews before Pilate, and in the Saviour he painted all the humility that could possibly be imagined in the Person of Innocence betrayed by the sins of men, and in the wife of Pilate that pity and dread for themselves which those have who fear the divine judgment; which woman, while she pleads the cause of Christ before her husband, gazes into His countenance with pitying wonder. Round Pilate are some soldiers so characteristic in the expressions of the faces and in the German garments, that one who knew not by whose hand was that work would believe it to have been_ executed in reality by ultramontanes. It is true, indeed, that in the distance in this scene there is a cup-bearer of Pilate's that is descending some steps with a basin and a ewer in his hands, carrying to his master the means to wash the hands, who is lifelike and very beautiful, having in him something of the old manner of Jacopo.
Having next to paint the Resurrection of Christ in one of the other corners, the fancy came to Jacopo, as to one who had no steadfastness in his brain and was always cogitating new things, to change his colour- ing; and so he executed that work with a colouring in fresco so soft and so good, that, if he had done the work in another manner than that same German, it would certainly have been very beautiful, for in the heads of those soldiers, who are in various attitudes, heavy with sleep, and as it were dead, there may be seen such excellence, that one cannot believe that it is possible to do better.
Then, continuing the stories of the Passion in another of the corners, he painted Christ going with the Cross upon His shoulder to Mount Calvary, and behind Him the people of Jerusalem, accompanying Him; and in front are the two Thieves, naked, between the ministers of justice, who are partly on foot and partly on horseback, with the ladders, the inscription for the Cross, hammers, nails, cords, and other suchlike instru- ments. And in the highest part, behind a little hill, is the Madonna with the Maries, who, weeping, are awaiting Christ, who has fallen to the ground in the middle of the scene, and has about Him many Jews that are smiting Him, while Veronica is offering to Him the Sudarium, accom- panied by some women both young and old, all weeping at the outrage that they see being done to the Saviour. This scene, either because he was warned by his friends, or perhaps because Jacopo himself at last became aware, although tardily, of the harm that had been done to his own sweet manner by the study of the German, proved to be much better than the others executed in the same place, for the reason that certain naked Jews and some heads of old men are so well painted in fresco, that it would not be possible to do more, although the same German manner may be seen constantly maintained in the work as a whole.
After these he was to have gone on with the Crucifixion and the Deposition from the Cross in the other corners; but, putting them aside for a time, with the intention of executing them last, he painted in their stead Christ taken down from the Cross, keeping to the same manner, but with great harmony of colouring. In this scene, besides that the Magdalene, who is kissing the feet of Christ, is most beautiful, there are two old men, representing Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, who, although they are in the German manner, have the most beautiful expressions and heads of old men, with beards feathery and coloured with marvellous softness, that there are to be seen.
Now Jacopo, besides being generally slow over his works, was pleased with the solitude of the Certosa, and he therefore spent several years on these labours; and, after the plague had finished and he had returned to Florence, he did not for that reason cease to frequent that place constantly, and was always going and coming between the Certosa and the city. Proceeding thus, he satisfied those fathers in many things, and, among others, he painted in their church, over one of the doors that lead into the chapels, in a figure from the waist upwards, the portrait of a lay-brother of that monastery, who was alive at that time and one hundred and twenty years old, executing it so well and with such finish, such vivacity, and such animation, that through it alone Pontormo deserves to be excused for the strange and faniaatic new manner with which he was saddled by that solitude and by living far from the commerce of men.
Besides this, he painted for the Prior of that place a picture of the Nativity of Christ, representing Joseph as giving light to Jesus Christ in the darkness of the night with a lantern, and this in pursuit of the same notions and caprices which the German engravings put into his head. Now let no one believe that Jacopo is to blame because he imitated Albrecht Duerer in his inventions, for the reason that this is no error, and many painters have done it and are continually doing it; but only because he adopted the unmixed German manner in everything, in the draperies, in the expressions of the heads, and in the attitudes, which he should have avoided, availing himself only of the inventions, since he had the modern manner in all the fullness of its beauty and grace.*] For ' the Stranger's Apartment of the same monks he painted a large picture on canvas and in oil-colours, without straining himself at all or forcing his natural powers, of Christ at table with Cleophas and Luke, figures of the size of life; and since in this work he followed the bent of his own genius, it proved to be truly marvellous, particularly because he portrayed among those who are serving at that table some lay-brothers of the convent, whom I myself have known, in such a manner that they could not be either more lifelike or more animated than they are.
Bronzino, meanwhile (that is, while his master was executing the works described above in the Certosa), pursuing with great spirit the studies of painting, and encouraged all the time by Pontormo, who was very loving with his disciples, executed on the inner side over an arch above the door of the cloister that leads into the church, without having ever seen the process of painting in oil-colours on the wall, a nude S. Laurence on the gridiron, which was so beautiful that there began to be seen some indication of that excellence to which he has since attained, as will be related in the proper place; which circumstance gave infinite satisfaction to Jacopo, who already saw whither that genius would arrive.
Not long afterwards there returned from Rome Lodovico di Gino Capponi, who had bought that chapel in S. Felicita, on the right hand of the entrance into the church, which the Barbadori had formerly caused to be built by Filippo di Ser Brunellesco ; and he resolved to have all the vaulting painted, and then to have an altar-piece executed for it, with a rich ornament. Having therefore consulted in the matter with M. Niccold Vespucci, knight of Rhodes, who was much his friend, the knight, who was also much the friend of Jacopo, and knew, into the bargain, the talent and worth of that able man, did and said so much that Lodovico allotted that work to Pontormo. And so, having erected an enclosure, which kept that chapel closed for three years, he set his hand to the work. On the vaulted ceiling he painted a God the Father, who has about Him four very beautiful Patriarchs ; and in the four medallions at the angles he depicted the four Evangelists, or rather, he executed three of them with his own hand, and Bronzino one all by himself. And with this occasion I must mention that Pontormo used scarcely ever to allow himself to be helped by his assistants, or to suffer them to lay a hand on that which he intended to execute with his own hand; and when he did wish to avail himself of one of them, chiefly in order that they might learn, he allowed them to do the whole work by themselves, as he allowed Bronzino to do here.
In the works that Jacopo executed in the said chapel up to this point, it seemed almost as if he had returned to his first manner; but he did not follow the same method in painting the altarpiece, for, thinking always of new things, he executed it without shadows, and with a colouring so bright and so uniform, that one can scarcely distinguish the lights from the middle tints, and the middle tints from the darks. In this altar-piece is a Dead Christ taken down from the Cross and being carried to the Sepulchre. There is the Madonna who is swooning, and the Maries, all executed in a fashion so different from his first work, that it is clearly evident that his brain was always busy investigating new conceptions and fantastic methods of painting, not being content with, and not fixing on, any single method. In a word, the composition of this altarpiece is altogether different from the figures on the vaulting, and likewise the colouring; and the four Evangelists, which are in the medallions on the spandrels of the vaulting, are much better and in a different manner.
On the wall where the window is are two figures in fresco, on one side the Virgin, and on the other the Angel, who is bringing her the Annunciation, but so distorted, both the one and the other, that it is evident that, as I have said, that bizarre and fantastic brain was never content with anything. And in order to be able to do as he pleased in this, and to avoid having his attention distracted by anyone, all the time that he was executing this work he would never allow even the owner of the chapel himself to see it, insomuch that, having painted it after his own fancy, without any of his friends having been able to give him a single hint, when it was finally uncovered and seen, it amazed all Florence. For the same Lodovico he executed a picture of Our Lady in that same manner for his chamber, and in the head of a S. Mary Magda- lene he made the portrait of a daughter of Lodovico, who was a very beautiful young woman.
Near the Monastery of Boldrone, on the road that goes from there to Castello, and at the corner of another that climbs the hill and goes to Cercina (that is, at a distance of two miles from Florence), he painted in fresco in a shrine Christ Crucified, Our Lady weeping, S. John the Evangelist, S. Augustine, and S. Giuliano; all which figures, his caprice not being yet satisfied, and the German manner still pleasing him, are not very different from those that he executed at the Certosa. He did the same, also, in an altar-piece that he painted for the Nuns of S. Anna, at the Porta a S. Friano, in which altar-piece is Our Lady with the Child in her arms, and S. Anne behind her, with S. Peter, S. Benedict, and other Saints, and in the predella is a small scene with little figures, which represent the Signoria of Florence as it used to go in procession with trumpeters, pipers, mace-bearers, messengers, and ushers, with the rest of the household; and this he did because the commission for that altar-piece was given to him by the Captain and the household of the Palace.
The while that Jacopo was executing this work, Alessandro and Ippolito de' Medici, who were both very young, having been sent to Florence by Pope Clement VII under the care of the Legate, Silvio Passerini, Bishop of Cortona, the Magnificent Ottaviano, to whom the Pope had straitly recommended them, had the portraits of both of them taken by Pontormo, who served him very well, and made them very good likenesses, although he did not much depart from the manner that he had learned from the Germans. In the portrait of Ippolito he also painted a favourite dog of that lord, called Rodon, and made it so characteristic and so natural, that it might be alive. He took the portrait, likewise, of Bishop Ardinghelli, who afterwards became a Cardinal; and for Filippo del Migliore, who was much his friend, he painted in fresco in his house on the Via Larga, in a niche opposite to the principal door, a woman representing Pomona, from which it appeared that he was beginning to seek to abandon in part his German manner.
Now Giovan Battista della Palla perceived that by reason of many works the name of Jacopo was becoming every day more celebrated; and, since he had not succeeded in sending to King Francis the pictures executed by that same master and by others for Borgherini, he resolved, knowing that the King had a desire for them, at all costs to send him something by the hand of Pontormo. Whereupon he so went to work that he persuaded Jacopo to execute a most beautiful picture of the Raising of Lazarus, which proved to be one of the best works that he ever painted and that was ever sent by Giovan Battista, among the vast number that he sent, to King Francis of France. For, besides that the heads were most beautiful, the figure of Lazarus, whose spirit as he returned to life was re-entering his dead flesh, could not have been more marvellous, for about the eyes he still had the hue of corruption, and the flesh cold and dead at the extremities of the hands and feet, where the spirit had not yet come.
In a picture of one braccio and a half he painted for the Sisters of the Hospital of the Innocenti, with an infinite number of little figures, the story of the eleven thousand Martyrs who were condemned to death by Diocletian and all crucified in a wood. In this Jacopo represented a battle of horsemen and nude figures, very beautiful, and some most lovely little Angels flying through the air, who are shooting arrows at the ministers of the crucifixion; and in like manner, about the Emperor, who is pronouncing the condemnation, are some most beautiful nude figures who are going to their death. This picture, which in every part is worthy to be praised, is now held in great price by Don Vincenzio Borghini, the Director of that Hospital, who once was much the friend of Jacopo. Another picture similar to that described above he painted for Carlo Neroni, but only with the Battle of the Martyrs and the Angel baptizing them; and then the portrait of Carlo himself. He also executed a portrait, at the time of the siege of Florence, of Francesco Guardi in the habit of a soldier, which was a very beautiful work; and on the cover of this picture Bronzino afterwards painted Pygmalion praying to Venus that his statue, receiving breath, might spring to life and become as, according to the fables of the poets, it did flesh and blood. At this time, after much labour, there came to Jacopo the fulfilment of a desire that he had long had, in that, having always felt a wish to have a house that might be his own, so that he should no longer live in the house of another, but might occupy his own and live as pleased himself, finally he bought one in the Via della Colonna, opposite to the Nuns of S. Maria degli Angeli.
The siege finished, Pope Clement commanded Messer Ottaviano de' Medici that he should cause the hall of Poggio a Caiano to be finished. Whereupon, Franciabigio and Andrea del Sarto being dead, the whole charge of this was given to Pontormo, who, after having the staging and the screens made, began to execute the cartoons; but, for the reason that he went off into fantasies and cogitations, beyond that he never set a hand to the work. This, perchance, would not have happened if Bronzino had been in those parts, who was then working at the Imperiale, a place belonging to the Duke of Urbino, near Pesaro; which Bronzino, although he was sent for every day by Jacopo, nevertheless was not able to depart at his own pleasure, for the reason that, after he had executed a very beautiful naked Cupid on the spandrel of a vault in the Imperiale, and the cartoons for the others, Prince Guidobaldo, having recognized the young man's genius, ordained that his own portrait should be taken by him, and, seeing that he wished to be portrayed in some armour that he was expecting from Lombardy, Bronzino was forced to stay with that Prince longer than he could have wished. During that time he painted the case of a harpsichord, which much pleased the Prince, and finally Bronzino executed his portrait, which was very beautiful, and the Prince was well satisfied with it. Jacopo, then, wrote so many times, and employed so many means, that in the end he brought Bronzino back ; but for all that the man could never be induced to do any other part of this work than the cartoons, although he was urged to it by the Magnificent Ottaviano and by Duke Alessandro. In one of these cartoons, which are now for the most part in the house of Lodovico Capponi, is a Hercules who is crushing Antaeus, in another a Venus and Adonis, and in yet another drawing a scene of nude figures playing football.
In the meantime Signor Alfonso Davalos, Marchese del Vasto, having obtained from Michelagnolo Buonarroti by means of Fra Niccolo della Magna a cartoon of Christ appearing to the Magdalene in the garden, moved heaven and earth to have it executed for him in painting by Pontormo, Buonarroti having told him that no one could serve him better than that master. Jacopo then executed that work to perfection, and it was accounted a rare painting by reason both of the grandeur of Michelagnolo's design and of Jacopo's colouring. Wherefore Signor Alessandro Vitelli, who was at that time Captain of the garrison of soldiers in Florence, having seen it, had a picture painted for himself from the same cartoon by Jacopo, which he sent to Citta di Castello and caused to be placed in his house. It thus became evident in what estimation Michelagnolo held Pontormo, and with what diligence Pontormo carried to completion and executed excellently well the designs and cartoons of Michelagnolo, and Bartolommeo Bettini so went to work that Buonar- roti, who was much his friend, made for him a cartoon of a nude Venus with a Cupid who is kissing her, in order that he might have it executed in painting by Pontormo and place it in the centre of a chamber of his own, in the lunettes of which he had begun to have painted by Bronzino figures of Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio, with the intention of having there all the other poets who have sung of love in Tuscan prose and verse. Jacopo, then, having received this cartoon, executed it to perfection at his leisure, as will be related, in the manner that all the world knows without my saying another word in praise of it. These designs of Michel- agnolo's were the reason that Pontormo, considering the manner of that most noble craftsman, took heart of grace, and resolved that by hook or by crook he would imitate and follow it to the best of his ability. And then it was that Jacopo recognized how ill he had done to allow the work of Poggio a Caiano to slip through his hands, although he put the blame in great measure on a long and very troublesome illness that he had suffered, and finally on the death of Pope Clement, which brought that undertaking completely to an end.
Jacopo having executed after the works described above a picture with the portrait from life of Amerigo Antinori, a young man much beloved in Florence at that time, and that portrait being much extolled by everyone, Duke Alessandro had him informed that he wished to have his portrait taken by him in a large picture. And Jacopo, for the sake of convenience, executed his portrait for the time being in a little picture of the size of a sheet of half-folio, and with such diligence and care, that the works of the miniaturists do not in any way come up to it; for the reason that, besides its being a very good likeness, there is in that head all that could be desired in the rarest of paintings. From that little picture, which is now in the guardaroba of Duke Cosimo, Jacopo afterwards made a portrait of the same Duke in a large picture, with a style in the hand, drawing the head of a woman; which larger portrait Duke Alessandro afterwards presented to Signora Taddea Malespina, the sister of the Marchesa di Massa. Desiring at all costs to reward liberally the genius of Jacopo for these works, the Duke sent him a message by Niccolo da Montaguto, his servant, that he should ask whatever he wished, and it would be granted to him. But such was the poor spirit or the exces- sive respect and modesty of the man, I know not which to call it, that he asked for nothing save as much money as would suffice him to redeem a cloak that he had pledged; which having heard, the Duke, not without laughing at the character of the man, commanded that fifty gold crowns should be given and a salary offered to him; and even then Niccolo had much ado to make him accept it.
Meanwhile Jacopo had finished painting the Venus from the cartoon belonging to Bettini, which proved to be a marvellous thing, but it was not given to Bettini at the price for which Jacopo had promised it to him, for certain tuft-hunters, in order to do Bettini an injury, took it almost by force from the hands of Jacopo and gave it to Duke Alessandro, restoring the cartoon to Bettini. Which having heard, Michelagnolo felt much displeasure for love of the friend for whom he had drawn the cartoon, and he bore a grudge against Jacopo, who, although he received fifty crowns for it from the Duke, nevertheless cannot be said to have defrauded Bettini, seeing that he gave up the Venus at the command of him who was his lord. But of all this some say that Bettini himself was in great measure the cause, from his asking too much.
The occasion having thus presented itself to Pontormo, by means of these moneys, to set his hand to the fitting up of his house, he made a beginning with his building, but did nothing of much importance. i Indeed, although some persons declare that he had it in mind to spend largely, according to his position, and to make a commodious dwelling and one that might have some design, it is nevertheless evident that what he did, whether this came from his not having the means to spend i or from some other reason, has rather the appearance of a building erected by an eccentric and solitary creature than of a well-ordered habitation, for the reason that to the room where he used to sleep and at times to work, he had to climb by a wooden ladder, which, after he had gone in, he would draw up with a pulley, to the end that no one might go up to him without his wish or knowledge. But that which most displeased other men in him was that he would not work save when and for whom he pleased, and after his own fancy; wherefore on many occasions, being sought out by noblemen who desired to have some of his work, and once in particular by the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici, he would not serve them; and then he would set himself to do anything in the world for some low and common fellow, at a miserable price. Thus the mason Rossino, a person of no small ingenuity considering his calling, by playing the simpleton, received from him in payment for having paved certain rooms with bricks, and for having done other mason's work, a most beautiful picture of Our Lady, in executing which Jacopo toiled and laboured as much as the mason did in his building. And so well did the good Rossino contrive to manage his business, that, in addition to the above-named picture, he got from the hands of Jacopo a most beautiful portrait of Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, copied from one by the hand of Raffaello, and, into the bargain, a very beautiful little picture of a Christ Crucified, which, although the above-mentioned Magnificent Ottaviano bought it from the mason Rossino as a work by the hand of Jacopo, nevertheless is known for certain to be by the hand of Bronzino, who executed it all by himself while he was working with Jacopo at the Certosa, although it afterwards remained, I know not why, in the posses- sion of Pontormo. All these three pictures, won by the industry of the mason from the hands of Jacopo, are now in the house of M. Alessandro de' Medici, the son of the above-named Ottaviano.
Now, although this procedure of Jacopo's and his living solitary and after his own fashion were not much commended, that does not mean that if anyone wished to excuse him he would not be able, for the reason that for those works that he did we should acknowledge our obligation to him, and for those that he did not choose to do we should not blame or censure him. No craftsman is obliged to work save when and for whom he pleases ; and, if he suffered thereby, the loss was his. As for solitude, I have always heard say that it is the greatest friend of study ; and, even if it were not so, I do not believe that much blame is due to him who lives in his own fashion without offence to God or to his neighbour, dwelling and employing his time as best suits his nature.
But to return, leaving these matters on one side, to the works of Jacopo: Duke Alessandro had caused to be restored in some parts the Villa of Careggi, formerly built by the elder Cosimo de' Medici, at a distance of two miles from Florence, and had carried out the ornamentation of the fountain and the labyrinth, which wound through the centre of an open court, into which there opened two loggie, and his Excellency ordained that those loggie should be painted by Jacopo, but that company should be given him, to the end that he might finish them the quicker, and that conversation with others, keeping him cheerful, might be a means of making him work without straying so much into vagaries and distilling away his brains. Nay, the Duke himself sent for Jacopo and besought him that he should strive to deliver that work completely finished as soon as possible. Jacopo, therefore, having summoned Bronzino, caused him to paint a figure on each of five spandrels of the vaulting, these being Fortune, Justice, Victory, Peace, and Fame; and on the other spandrel, for they are in all six, Jacopo with his own hand painted a Love. Then, having made the design for some little boys that were going in the oval space of the vaulting, with various animals in their hands, and all foreshortened to be seen from below, he caused them all, with the exception of one, to be executed in color by Bronzino, who acquitted himself very well. And since, while Jacopo and Bronzino were painting these figures, the ornaments all around were executed by Jacone, Pier Francesco di Jacopo, and others, the whole of that work was finished in a short time, to the great satisfaction of the Lord Duke. His Excellency wished to have the other loggia painted, but he was not in time, for the reason that the above-named work having been finished on the I3th of December in the year 1536, on the 6th of the January following that most illustrious lord was assassinated by his kinsman Lorenzino; and so this work and others remained without their completion.
The Lord Duke Cosimo having then been elected, and the affair of Montemurlo having passed off happily, a beginning was made with the works of Castello, according as has been related in the Life of Tribolo, and his most illustrious Excellency, in order to gratify Signora Donna Maria, his mother, ordained that Jacopo should paint the first loggia, which one finds on the left hand in entering the Palace of Castello. Whereupon, setting to work, Jacopo first designed all the ornaments that were to be painted there, and had them executed for the most part by Bronzino and the masters who had executed those of Careggi. Then, shutting himself up alone, he proceeded with that work after his own fancy and wholly at his leisure, studying with all diligence, to the end that it might be much better than that of Careggi, which he had not executed entirely with his own hand. This he was able to do very con- veniently, having eight crowns a month for it from his Excellency, whom he portrayed, young as he was, in the beginning of that work, and like- wise Signora Donna Maria, his mother. Finally, after that loggia had been closed for five years, no one being able to have even a glance at what Jacopo had done, one day the above-named lady became enraged against him, and commanded that the staging and the screen should be thrown to the ground. But Jacopo, having begged for grace and having obtained leave to keep it covered for a few days more, first retouched it where it seemed to him to be necessary, and then caused a cloth of his own contriving to be made, which should keep that loggia covered when those lords were not there, to the end that the weather might not, as it had done at Careggi, eat away those pictures, which were executed in oils on the dry plaster; and at last he uncovered it, amid the lively expectation of everyone, all thinking that in that work Jacopo must have surpassed himself and done something altogether stupendous. But the effect did not correspond completely to the expectations, for the reason that, although many parts of the work are good, the general proportion of the figures appears very poor in form, and certain distorted attitudes that are there seem to be wanting in measure and very strange. But Jacopo excused himself by saying that he had never worked very willingly in that place, for the reason that, being without the city, it seemed much exposed to the fury of the soldiery and to other suchlike dangers ; but there was no need for him to be afraid of that, seeing that time and the weather, from the work having been executed in the manner already described, are eating it away little by little.
In the center of the vaulting, then, he painted a Saturn with the Sign of Capricorn, and a Hermaphrodite Mars in the Sign of the Lion and of the Virgin, and some little Angels who are flying through the air, like those of Careggi. He then painted in certain gigantic women, almost entirely nude, Philosophy, Astrology, Geometry, Music, Arithmetic, and a Ceres; with some little scenes in medallions, executed with various tints of colour and appropriate to the figures. Although this work, so fatiguing and so laboured, did not give much satisfaction, or, if a certain measure of satisfaction, much less than was expected, yet his Excellency declared that it pleased him, and availed himself of Jacopo on every occasion, chiefly because that painter was held in great veneration by the people on account of the very good and beautiful works that he had executed in the past.
The Lord Duke then brought to Florence the Flemings, Maestro I Giovanni Rosso and Maestro Niccol6, excellent masters in arras- tapes tries, 1 to the end that the art might be learned and practised by the Florentines, and he ordained that tapestries in silk and gold should be executed for the Council Hall of the Two Hundred at a cost of 60,000 crowns, and that Jacopo and Bronzino should make the cartoons with the stories of Joseph. But, when Jacopo had made two of them, in one of which is the scene when the death of Joseph is announced to Jacob and the bloody garments are shown to him, and in the other the Flight of Joseph from the wife of Potiphar, leaving his garment behind, they did not please either the Duke or those masters who had to put them into execution, for they appeared to them to be strange things and not likely to be successful when executed in woven tapestries. And so Jacopo did not go on to make any more cartoons, but returned to his usual labors and painted a picture of Our Lady, which was presented by the Duke to Signer Don . . . [SIC], who took it to Spain.
Now his Excellency, following in the footsteps of his ancestors, has always sought to embellish and adorn his city; and he resolved, the necessity having come to his notice, to cause to be painted all the principal chapel of the magnificent Temple of S. Lorenzo, formerly built by the great Cosimo de' Medici, the elder. Whereupon he gave the charge of this to Jacopo da Pontormo, either of his own accord, or, as was said, at the instance of Messer Pier Francesco Ricci, his major-domo; and Jacopo was very glad of that favour, for the reason that, although the greatness of the work, he being well advanced in years, gave him food for thought and perhaps dismayed him, on the other hand he reflected how, in a work of such magnitude, he had a fair field to show his ability and worth. Some say that Jacopo, finding that the work had been allotted to him notwithstanding that Francesco Salviati, a painter of great fame, was in Florence and had brought to a happy conclusion the painting of that hall in the Palace which was once the audience chamber of the Signoria, must needs declare that he would show the world how to draw and paint, and how to work in fresco, and, besides this, that the other painters were but ordinary hacks, with other words equally insolent and overbearing. But I myself always knew Jacopo as a modest person, who spoke of everyone honourably and in a manner proper to an orderly and virtuous craftsman, such as he was, and I believe that these words were imputed to him falsely, and that he never let slip from his mouth any such boastings, which are for the most part the marks of vain men who presume too much upon their merits, in which manner of men there is no place for virtue or good breeding. And, although I might have kept silent about these matters, I have not chosen to do so, because to proceed as I have done appears to me the office of a faithful and veracious historian; it is enough that, although these rumours went around, and particularly among our craftsmen, nevertheless I have a firm belief that they were the words of malicious persons, Jacopo having always been in the experience of everyone modest and well-behaved in his every action.
Having then closed up that chapel with walls, screens of planks, and curtains, and having given himself over to complete solitude, he kept it for a period of eleven years so well sealed up, that excepting himself not a living soul entered it, neither friend nor any other. It is true, indeed, that certain lads who were drawing in the sacristy of Michelagnolo, as young men will do, climbed by its spiral staircase on to the roof of the church, and, removing some tiles and the plank of one of the gilded rosettes that are there, saw everything. Of which having heard, Jacopo took it very ill, but took no further notice beyond closing up everything with greater care; although some say that he persecuted those young men sorely, and sought to make them regret it.
Imagining, then, that in this work he would surpass all other painters, and perchance, so it was said, even Michelagnolo, he painted in the upper part, in a number of scenes, the Creation of Adam and Eve, the Eating of the Forbidden Fruit, their Expulsion from Paradise, the Tilling of the Earth, the Sacrifice of Abel, the Death of Cain, the Blessing of the Seed of Noah, and the same Noah designing the plan and the measurements of the Ark. Next, on one of the lower walls, each of which is fifteen braccia in each direction, he painted the inundation of the Deluge, in which is a mass of dead and drowned bodies, and Noah speaking with God. On the other wall is painted the Universal Resurrection of the Dead, which has to take place on the last and final day ; with such variety and confusion, that the real resurrection will perhaps not be more confused, or more full of movement, in a manner of speaking, than Pontormo painted it. Opposite to the altar and between the windows that is, on the central wall there is on either side a row of nude figures, who, clinging to each other's bodies with hands and legs, form a ladder wherewith to ascend to Paradise, rising from the earth, where there are many dead in company with them, and at the end, on either side, are two dead bodies clothed with the exception of the legs and also the arms, with which they are holding two lighted torches. At the top, in the centre of the wall, above the windows, he painted in the middle Christ on high in His Majesty, who, surrounded by many Angels all nude, is raising those dead in order to judge them.
But I have never been able to understand the significance of this scene, although I know that Jacopo had wit enough for himself, and also associated with learned and lettered persons; I mean, what he could have intended to signify in that part where there is Christ on high, raising the dead, and below His feet is God the Father, who is creating Adam and Eve. Besides this, in one of the corners, where are the four Evangelists, nude, with books in their hands, it does not seem to me that in a single place did he give a thought to any order of composition, or measurement, or time, or variety in the heads, or diversity in the flesh-colors, l \ [SIC] or, in a word, to any rule, proportion, or law of perspective; for the whole work is full of nude figures with an order, design, invention, com- position, colouring, and painting contrived after his own fashion, and with such melancholy and so little satisfaction for him who beholds the work, that I am determined, since I myself do not understand it, although I am a painter, to leave all who may see it to form their own judgment, for the reason that I believe that I would drive myself mad with it and would bury myself alive, even as it appears to me that Jacopo in the period of eleven years that he spent upon it sought to bury himself and all who might see the painting, among all those extraordinary figures. And although there may be seen in this work some bit of a torso with the back turned or facing to the front and some attachments of flanks, exe- cuted with marvellous care and great labour by Jacopo, who made finished models of clay in the round for almost all the figures, nevertheless the work as a whole is foreign to his manner, and, as it appears to almost every man, without proportion, the torsi for the most part being large and the legs and arms small, to say nothing of the heads, in which there is not a trace to be seen of that singular excellence and grace that he used to give to them, so greatly to the satisfaction of those who examine his other pictures. Wherefore it appears that in this work he paid no attention to anything save certain parts, and of the other more important parts he took no account whatever. In a word, whereas he had thought in this work to surpass all the paintings in the world of art, he failed by a great measure to equal his own works that he had executed in the past; whence it is evident that he who seeks to strive beyond his strength and, as it were, to force nature, ruins the good qualities with which he may have been liberally endowed by her. But what can we or ought we to do save have compassion upon him, seeing that the men of our arts are as much liable to error as others? And the good Homer, so it is said, even he sometimes nods ; nor shall it ever be said that there is a single work of Jacopo's, however he may have striven to force his nature, in which there is not something good and worthy of praise.
He died shortly before finishing the work, and some therefore declare that he died of grief, ending his life very much dissatisfied with himself; but the truth is that, being old and much exhausted by making portraits and models in clay and labouring so much in fresco, he sank into a dropsy, which finally killed him at the age of sixty-five. After his death there were found in his house many designs, cartoons, and models in clay, all very beautiful, and a picture of Our Lady executed by him excellently well and in a lovely manner, to all appearance many years before, which was sold by his heirs to Piero Salviati. Jacopo was buried in the first cloister of the Church of the Servite Friars, beneath the scene of the Visitation that he had formerly painted there; and he was followed to the grave by an honourable company of the painters, sculptors, and architects.
Jacopo was a frugal and sober man, and in his dress and manner of life he was rather miserly than moderate; and he lived almost always by himself, without desiring that anyone should serve him or cook for him. In his last years, indeed, he kept in his house, as it were to bring him up, Battista Naldini, a young man of fine spirit, who took such care of Jacopo's life as Jacopo would allow him to take; and under his master's discipline he made no little proficiency in design, and became such, indeed, that a very happy result is looked for from him. Among Pontormo's friends, particularly in this last period of his life, were Pier Francesco Vernacci and Don Vincenzio Borghini, with whom he took his recreation, sometimes eating with them, but rarely. But above all others, and always supremely beloved by him, was Bronzino, who loved him as dearly, being grateful and thankful for the benefits that he had received from him.
Pontormo had very beautiful manners, and he was so afraid of death, that he would not even hear it spoken of, and avoided having to meet dead bodies. He never went to festivals or to any other places where people gathered together, so as not to be caught in the press; and he was solitary beyond all belief. At times, going out to work, he set himself to think so profoundly on what he was to do, that he went away without having done any other thing all day but stand thinking. And that this happened to him times without number in the work of S. Lorenzo may readily be believed, for the reason that when he was determined, like an able and well-practised craftsman, he had no difficulty in doing what he desired and had resolved to put into execution.