I joined a small group of art historians to see the great Pontormo e Rosso Fiorentino exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi, taken round by Carlo Falciani, one of the curators.   The idea of the exhibition is to explore the differences between the two artists:  both pupils of Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo remained in Florence, doing work for the Medici (he did the decoration for their villa in Poggio a Caiano), whereas Rosso travelled widely in Italy, to Naples, Volterra and Sansepolcro, dying in Fontainebleau in 1540.   Pontormo’s style is already evident in his Joseph Sold to Potiphar in the National Gallery, painted when he was only 21:  the etiolated figures, the movement in the composition, influenced, according to the argument of the exhibition, not by maniera, but by his knowledge of German engravings.   There’s a room full of Pontormo’s portraits, including a Portrait of Two Friends from the Cini Foundation in which one of them is pointing to a passage in Cicero’s De Amicitia.   Then a room of nearly all the portraits known to have been painted by Rosso.   The greatest pictures in the exhibition are Rosso’s Ginori Altarpiece from the basilica of San Lorenzo, newly cleaned for the exhibition, full of fiery colours and an equally fiery sense of pictorial invention, in which all the figures are crushed together;  and Pontormo’s Visitation, borrowed from Carmignano.   Afterwards, we went on a pilgrimage, which I do whenever in Florence, across the Ponte Vecchio to S. Felicita, to see Pontormo’s Deposition in a side chapel.   Nothing equals it.




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