“Lifelike and natural”. Pontormo’s portraits
Pontormo painted portraits not only of many members of the Medici family – he was one of their favourite portrait artists until Bronzino supplanted him in the 1540s – but also of Florentine nobles, who preferred his eccentric, innovative approach to the tradition in portraiture established by Raphael and Andrea del Sarto earlier in the century. Pontormo’s portraits allow us to track both the development of portraiture as a genre, and Florentine political affairs up to the middle of the century. Pontormo’s hallmark was his meticulous study of his subjects from life, and it is to this that he owed his extraordinary ability to capture and to convey the sitter’s inner personality.
“Harshness of features”. Rosso’s portraits
Probably referring to Rosso’s early years before he left for Piombino, Naples and Volterra in 1519, Vasari notes that “in the houses of citizens may be seen several of his pictures and many portraits”, thus hinting at the favour the artist enjoyed with the aristocratic families that subscribed to the values of the republic and of Savonarola – loyal to a specific cultural rather than political environment – but also at his youthful talent as a portrait artist. Yet not a single one of Rosso’s sitters has been identified with certainty: an anomaly which confirms his role as the champion of a political and religious faction defeated by the return of the Medici in 1530 and destined to be ostracised and consigned to oblivion.