One of the most impressive examples of fresco art can be found at the church of Santa Felicita in Florence.
The church was established in the 4th Century AD, making Santa Felicita the second oldest in Florence. Ferdinando Ruggieri (1691-1741) finished renovating most of the present day interior in 1739.
The altarpiece, The Deposition From the Cross, is described as one of the strangest examples of art in town. This is partly due to the great lengths Italian Renaissance painter Jacopo Pontormo (1494-1557) went to conceal his work in progress. He sealed-up parts of the chapel for three years until the altarpiece was finally finished in the year 1528.
Today the painting is also widely viewed as his enduring masterpiece. The artwork shows mourners grieving the death of Jesus Christ after being persecuted to death by the Roman Empire under the advice of the Jews. The oil painting on wood is described as a “whirling dance of the grief-stricken” with no cross or part of the human world in sight. A cloud, dark patch of earth, and crumpled sheet can be seen set against a dull sky.
In contrast the mourners struggling to carry the body of Jesus, who died trying to bear the sins of humankind, are painted in bright tones of pink and magnetic blue that might signal their unwavering faith in the divine. On the far right is a young man with a curly beard that is believed to be a self-portrait of Pontormo himself.
The painting is located in the Cappella Capponi, which was originally designed and built for Bartolomeo Barbadori by Filippo Brunelleschi. In 1525 the Capponi family had bought the chapel and commissioned Pontormo to paint it with help from then apprentice Agnolo Bronzino (1503-72).
Bronzino was born in Monticelli and began his apprenticeship at a very early age in Pontormo’s workshop. As Bronzino grew up he worked as a draftsman, poet, teacher, and painter renowned for his ability to depict the mindset of his subjects.
Although he is a prominent Mannerist painter in Florence, his very beautiful artwork has not yet been studied comprehensively and are rarely exhibited to the general public.
The painting can be viewed on weekdays from 9am to midnight, and on holy days from 9am to 1pm.
By Richard Szabo