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Giovanni della Casa, who is in all likelihood the subject of this portrait, belonged to a wealthy Tuscan family and rose to prominence in the service of the church. As poet, humanist, and political theorist, he circulated at the highest levels of Italian intellectual life. Della Casa also wrote a book on manners, and in this portrait of the early 1540s displays the sober self-possession espoused in that work. When Pontormo painted this image, della Casa was in his early thirties and acting in Florence as Apostolic Commissioner of taxes. Pontormo shows the monsignor in a dim interior, and although the architectural details are few, they suggest that the building is Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral of Florence.


Pontormo's mannerist style was a brilliantly expressive synthesis of fantasy and acute observation of nature. Here the balance is tilted in favor of visible reality, but a reality intensified by plausible exaggerations. For example, the monsignor's small head is made to look even smaller by the huge conical bulk of his caped torso looming so close to the picture plane and brushing the sides of the frame.

Details

  • Title: Monsignor della Casa
  • Creator: Pontormo
  • Date Created: probably 1541/1544
  • Physical Dimensions: overall: 102 x 78.9 cm (40 3/16 x 31 1/16 in.) framed: 134 x 112.4 x 10.2 cm (52 3/4 x 44 1/4 x 4 in.)
  • Provenance: Marchese Bargagli [family of the sitter], Florence. (Trotti et Cie., Paris, by 1909, as by Sebastiano del Piombo);[1] on joint account 1912-1922 with (M. Knoedler & Co., London, New York, and Paris); (Trotti et Cie., Paris), from 1922. (Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi, Florence and Rome). (D'Atri, Paris and Rome). (Pinakos, Inc., New York) on joint account with (M. Knoedler & Co., London, New York and Paris); sold 6 February 1952 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[2] gift 1961 to NGA. [1] The painting was exhibited at Galerie Trotti in 1909. [2] M. Knoedler & Co. Records, accession number 2012.M.54, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: Series II, Box 76, Paintings, 1945-1953, Sales book no. 16 (copy in NGA curatorial files, see also The Kress Collection Digital Archive, https://kress.nga.gov/Detail/objects/1500). The painting is listed as by Sebastiano del Piombo.
  • Medium: oil on panel

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