German influences or Florentine tradition
Pontormo and Dürer’s prints
With the panels that he painted for the Borgherini Bedchamber in 1515, shortly after his formative spell with Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo introduced the northern European figurative elements that he had discovered in German prints circulating in del Sarto’s workshop and elsewhere into Florentine painting. This northern style, so eccentric and extravagant by comparison with local tradition, dominates his frescoes in the Great Cloister in the Certosa del Galluzzo, harshly criticised by Vasari on account of their distance from the art favoured at the court of Cosimo de’ Medici – an art with which Vasari felt an affinity at the time he was writing his Lives. In Pontormo’s work in the 1520s we can detect not merely individual references but a full-scale attempt to capture the spirit of this new style by penetrating the technique and emulating broad compositional swathes of Dürer’s narrative cycles, the Small and Large Passion.
Rosso and Republican Florence
Rosso, who never worked for the Medici, painted several altarpieces in the 1520s for noble families for whom the city’s cultural tradition simply confirmed their ancient role in the history of the Florentine Republic. Thus Rosso and Pontormo pursued experimental paths which were alternative to one another in their figurative vocabulary, fleshing out and influencing the artistic debate in Florence during the years when Protestant ideas were starting to circulate, testifying to the freedom of approach to the sphere of religion in the city at the time. Pontormo’s Boldrone Tabernacle and Supper at Emmaus may be contrasted in this section with the Marriage of the Virgin (painted for Carlo Ginori, a follower of Savonarola) in which Rosso introduces important iconographic variations such as the youth of St Joseph, and seeks a horror vacui effect perceived even by Vasari: “He was so rich in invention, that he never had any space left over in his pictures”.