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  • Rossella BLUE Mocerino

I disagree with the New York Times critic on how to read the Pontormo painting

Updated: Oct 29, 2021


painting Visitation by Pontormo

Roberta Smith of the New York Times writes: “The smallest of the fall’s great museum exhibitions centers on a single Mannerist masterpiece: Jacopo da Pontormo’s stunning “Visitation” (1528-30), which depicts the meeting of the Virgin Mary and her aged cousin Elizabeth. Both are pregnant (Elizabeth with John the Baptist); each is accompanied by an attendant."


Look at the painting. In the forefront we do have the Virgin Mary and her aged cousin Elizabeth embracing. They are both celebrating the fact that they will give birth. Now look at the features of the old woman who is in back of Elizabeth. Look at her features and the features of Elizabeth. They are the same. The green tones of Elizabeth’s robes are picked up again in the woman who stands in back of her. Then gaze at the features of the young woman standing in back of the Virgin Mary. Her features and pink tones of her garments are the same as those of the Virgin Mary. So what I see are two women, not four. The two women with somber expressions in the background are none other than the Virgin Mary and Elizabeth having a prophetic vision of what's to come: the martyrdom of their sons.


This painting is on exhibition at The Morgan Library 225 Madison Avenue New York, NY through January 6, 2019