Pontormo, Joseph in Egypt London, National Gallery (44 x 49 cm)

Pontormo's visualisation of Joseph's sojourn in Egypt is characterised by contrasts and incongruities: not only is the scenery dominated by a clash of architectural styles, the unmitigated juxtaposition of different episodes of Joseph's life and the contrast of densely crowded spaces and empty, almost desert-like, patches enhance the instability of the picture and give the impression of a world totally bereft of a central focus. The eye-catching spiral staircase uniting the different planes of the composition is a programmatic Mannerist device: all Renaissance forms of perfection are in a state of deconstruction or distortion.




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