Pontormo Show Reveals a Special Masterpiece at Pitti

Portrait of a Halberdier by Pontormo

A Pontormo masterpiece returns to Florence thanks to a new exhibition curated by Bruce Edelstein at Palazzo Pitti, after being sold 30 years ago to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles for a record figure of 32.5 million dollars. The show titled “Miraculous Encounters, Pontormo from Drawing to Painting” will be open until July 29 in the Sala delle Nicchie in the Pitti Palace, part of Florence’s Uffizi Galleries complex.

L’alabardiere (Portrait of a Halberdier), which portrays an elegantly dressed young man is said to portray Francesco Guardi, a young soldier of the Florentine Republic during the siege of Florence (1529-30).  He is, in fact, holding a combined spear and battle axe (halberd).

Other exhibits include a rarely-seen Portrait of a Young Man With a Red Beret from a private collection in London and Pygmalion by Pontormo as well as the preparatory drawings of the several of the pieces.

Also on display is Pontormo’s Visitation normally found in the church of San Michele, Carmignano that will be subsequently be temporarily loaned to the Getty Museum and later to the Morgan Library & Museum before returning to Italy  The funds collected from the admission fee (included in a ticket to visit the Pitti Palace museums) will be used to finance the restoration of the church of San Michele.  

In the Visitation, Pontormo’s masterpiece from the church in Carmignano, the recent restoration by Daniele Rossi has revealed subtleties of color and forgotten details, such as the head of a donkey peering out from behind the wall of the building to the left of the figures.  As for the meaning of the painting, scholars are still perplexed; for instance, why are the over life-size figures of Mary and Elizabeth mirrored in the two figures standing behind them facing the viewer?  One thing is clear: at the Pitti Palace, visitors have the privilege to admire and be inspired by work, which according to an onlooker, “transcends time and space.”

The Pitti Palace is open Tuesday – Sunday 8:15 am to 6:50 pm, entrance fee €16, €8 for students from European Union countries between the ages of 18 and 25  (berfin altinisik & elizabeth wicks)