"Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." --
Harry Lime, The Third Man, 1949
Many art historians consider the second quarter of the 16th century as a period of bizarre anxiety brought about by the sack of Rome and the siege of Florence. The recent loan of Pontormo's "Visitation" from the church of San Michele e San Francesco, outside of Florence, Italy, to the Morgan Library in New York, offers the unique chance to re-examine this period of doubt, anxiety, and strange beauty that produced this work. The artist, Pontormo, was described as deeply neurotic, and left behind very little explanation of this work. Yet, in this Olio, we'll piece together this strangely superficial and beautifully enigmatic style of painting that came about in a period of great political crisis, where core values like democracy and republicanism were challenged and ultimately replaced by tyrannical oligarchy.
Pontormo's Visitation also has an interesting hauntology: some of you may recognize this image as the painting that hangs behind the bed of Tony and Carmela Soprano in HBO's The Sopranos. It was a painting created under the turmoil of siege and in the high-pressure cooker of the Renaissance.
Join art historian, Ted Barrow for an Olio that explores the painting's afterlife, today. What can we learn from this enigmatic work? How does art change over time? And what might the siege of Florence teach us about the perseverance of beauty and ideas in the midst of political turmoil today? We'll explore all of these questions directly in front of the painting in question.