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September 13, 2002

Pontormo and Ingres


I just got a new book on Pontormo (Jacopo Carrucci), the Florentine Mannerist. As I went through it, I was struck less by the similarity between Pontormo's art and that of his contemporaries (e.g., Andre Del Sarto and Agnolo Bronzino) than by the way it seemed to find an echo in the work of J.A.D. Ingres, some 300 years his junior.

I'm not suggesting anything very mystical here; Ingres spent 20 years of his career in Rome and 4 years in Florence, so his opportunities for exposure to Pontormo were significant. But since Ingres' "worship" of Raphael is an art-historical cliche, I think it's useful to examine if his affinities were not closer to the less academically acceptable Pontormo.

Both Ingres and Pontormo were masters of an extremely refined style, and with both painters they caressed the "strings" of style with as much attention, if not more so, than the "music" of their subject matter.

Their palates were so fastidious that neither could really choke down Michelangelo's example, although they both spent time attempting to do so. Raphael, on the other hand, could and would shove everything he could find into his artistic maw (Leonardo, Michelangelo, Gorgione, you name it), burped and went on to the next course.

Both Ingres and Pontormo preferred a rather distant and subdued rhetoric in their treatment of subject matter, while again Raphael is far more of a showman, now refined for the royalty in the gallery, now coarse and playing to the crowd. Neither could remotely be envisioned as the painter of Raphael's "The Transfiguration" which is one of the showiest, "Hey Ma look at me!" paintings ever made. And both Ingres and Pontormo were aesthetes who turned to private visions of sensuality while adrift on the seas of war and turmoil; Ingres (1780 - 1867) experienced the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars as a young man, while during Pontormo's lifetime Italy went from chaotic independence to being dominated by outside powers, with episodes like the Sack of Rome tossed into the mix.

Anyway, just to give you a little visual thrill, I include some examples. The first is "The Grand Odalisque" by Ingres (painted 1814).

Note the similarity of the pose to that of the Pontormo's figure study for the loggia frescos in either Careggi or Castello (drawn sometime after 1530.)

[I'll get back to you shortly on this]

The second is Ingres' "Woman Bathing" of 1807.

Again, although the pose is quite different, notice the Madonna of Pontormo's "Madonna and Child with a Young St. John" (sorry, I don't know the date.) With a little hair coloring, it could be the same woman.



posted by Friedrich at September 13, 2002


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