Hidden Pontormo found in Florence
According to ArtDaily, a previously unknown sketch by the 16th century Italian painter Jacopo Pontormo was found on this sacra conversazione (left) when the painting was taken down in November 2012 for restoration from its altar in Florence’s San Michele Visdomini.
[Restorers found] a charcoal drawing of a male figure, wearing a long tunic belted at the waist and bending over a work table, is clearly visible at the top of the altarpiece. Pontormo’s hand is identifiable in the rapid and unhesitant definition of the figure, seen from behind, in a style that is compatible with the preparatory drawings for the altarpiece, painted in 1518. This drawing from life, depicting an apprentice probably at work in the artist’s studio, highlights Jacopo da Pontormo’s freedom and skill as a draughtsman and represents both an addition to the corpus of his drawings and an interesting discovery which will be explored in greater depth in the forthcoming exhibition catalogue.
The altarpiece was commissioned by Francesco di Giovanni Pucci for the church of San Michele Visdomini , where it has remained to this day. Modern critics have often highlighted the innovative aspects of the work, for which several preparatory drawings still exist both in Italy and abroad. Yet this approach does not seem to have been shared by the artist’s contemporaries, if we consider that Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) was struck most of all by the “colouring, so vivid that it seems almost impossible to credit it”, and praised its execution “in so beautiful a manner”. The tendency to see the Pucci altarpiece as a work still linked to the circles in which Pontormo first trained appears to be more pertinent, and indeed one can still detect echoes of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Fra Bartolomeo and Andrea del Sarto. However, the restless disposition of the figures and their psychological isolation suggest that the breaking point was fast approaching, and that this altarpiece marks the peak of Pontormo’s first period of activity.