(b. 1494, Pontormo, d. 1557, Firenze)


Oil on wood, 202 x 156 cm
San Michele, Carmignano (Florence)

The highly personal figurative inventions of Pontormo's Deposition in the Santa Felicità in Florence are also evident in his Visitation, dating to 1528-29. The lozenge-shaped arrangement of the four figures represented in the foreground of the painting was probably suggested to Pontormo by Dürer's engraving portraying the Four Witches (1497). Entirely original, on the other hand are the intertwining arcs of arms and fabric that firmly unites the two protagonists whose distinctly enlarged bodies dominate the painted surface.

The monumental scene is depicted in a frozen fashion against the background of a roughly painted, funereally gloomy town. The profile portrayal of the two main figures embracing each other with extreme delicacy and exchanging looks of intense mutual affection is set against the rigidly frontal positions of the two bystanders in the background. Immobile, almost petrified, the latter keep their eyes fixed on something outside the scene, revealing their total lack of emotional participation in the event. The age difference between these two women and their facial resemblance with the protagonists invite an interpretation of the two maidservants as the doubles of Mary and Elisabeth. Their expressions convey a rather melancholic tone to the scene's general atmosphere of high spirituality.