A supremely inventive draughtsman, Jacopo Pontormo worked almost exclusively in chalk. He used both red and black chalk in the early years of his career, although the latter becomes predominant in the 1530’s and is used almost exclusively after 1545. In very general terms, the artist seems to have used black chalk for the purposes of experimentation and invention when developing his compositional ideas, and either black or red chalk for more refined figure studies.
The present sheet was first presented with an attribution to Pontormo by Janet Cox-Rearick in a supplement to her catalogue raisonné of the artist’s drawings in a 1994 symposium paper, published in 1996. The attribution to Pontormo was subsequently confirmed by Dr. Cox-Rearick on first-hand inspection of the drawing in 1998. This drawing - which depicts a male nude studied from the side with, at the right, a subsidiary sketch, more rapidly drawn, of the same figure seen frontally - may on stylistic grounds be dated to the first years of the 1520’s.
Janet Cox-Rearick has compared the present sheet stylistically with three black chalk drawings by Pontormo of the early 1520’s, all of which are in the Uffizi. The first of these is a sheet of studies of male nudes - one related to the lunette fresco of Vertumnus and Pomona painted by Pontormo at Poggio a Caiano - in which one of the nudes is posed in a very similar manner to the main figure in the present sheet, with his right arm raised over his head. Another black chalk drawing in the Uffizi, a study of a horse and rider that is one of several drawings related to a lost or unexecuted composition of The Israelites in the Desert, is also stylistically very close to this drawing, as is a sheet of studies for a Lamentation composition, also in the Uffizi, which can be related to the decoration of the Certosa at Galluzzo, painted by Pontormo between 1523 and 1525. Other stylistically similar drawings in black chalk of the early 1520’s include a Study for a Virgin and Child and a sheet of studies of male nudes which are thought to be preparatory for Pontormo’s fresco of The Way to Calvary at Galluzzo.
A new and fascinating addition to the corpus of drawings by Pontormo, this spirited drawing adds to our knowledge of the artist’s activity in the early 1520’s, and provides a further example of the boundless energy and creativity of this remarkable 16th century draughtsman.