Distorting anatomy

Sally Metzler
Chicago, Illinois, USA

distorted anatomy

In this Mannerist painting of the deposition of Christ commissioned by the Capponi family for their burial chapel in Florence, high drama, distorted anatomy, and cool colors characterize this path-breaking composition. A grave attendant precariously squats on his tippy toes while impossibly bearing the weight of the dead, limp body of Christ. Pontormo depicts a mournful Virgin with impossibly long legs and an ambiguous connection to her torso. The overall effect is one of gravitas and erudition.

Mannerism is a style of painting uncomfortably situated between the classicism of the High Renaissance and the exuberance of the Baroque. Its most glaring characteristics are distortion of anatomy, disunity of composition, and contrasting acid colors. The birth of Mannerism was in Florence, its main exponents Jacopo Pontormo (1494–1557) and Rosso Fiorentino (1494–1540). This courtly and oft-called artificial style spread throughout Italy and beyond the Alps, particularly to France, where it became known through the patronage of Francis I as the School of Fontainebleau.


Deposition from the cross, 1526–1528
Jacopo Pontormo
Oil and tempera on panel
123.2” x 75.6”
Church of Santa Felicita, Florence



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SALLY METZLER, PhD, Chicago, Illinois



Highlighted in Frontispiece Summer 2012 – Volume 4, Issue 3
Summer 2012   |  Sections  |  Art Flashes