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

Madonna and Child with the Young St John

Oil on wood, 89 x 74 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The composition is a great plastic concentration, echoing Michelangelo's Tondo Doni. The elongated forms derive from a typology of a heroic nature, possibly drawn from Michelangelo's Medici tombs in San Lorenzo, but Leonardo's influence is also still present, in the affectionate attitude of the Madonna bending towards the Child.

The painting, which had previously been interpreted as a depiction of Charity because of the very human affection between the woman and the two children, is striking for its unusual use of light and the dramatic encroaching shadows which allude almost inevitably to the future deposition of Christ. The use of bright colours typical of Pontormo's work brings a surreal element to the composition which assumes a dreamlike, theatrical quality.

The work is unfinished, perhaps due to its effective coincidence with the siege of Florence (from October 1529 to August 1530), a difficult period for the people of Florence and which likely had a profound effect on Pontormo's sensitive character.