About this Film:
"Through the Eyes of Pontormo" is the first of a series of short films I have conceived that surveys through the animation of still images and complementary soundtracks the works of various master painters (many of them “old masters”) who have most inspired the development of my creative process. Later this year, others shall follow. "Through the Eyes of El Greco" is already in the works.
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Unless you paid especially close attention in Art History class or are a bonafide aficionado of the Italian Renaissance, the name Jacopo da Pontormo (also known as simply Pontormo) probably does not ring the cathedral bells of memory. Pontormo lived during the tail-end of the Italian Renaissance that occurred between the mid-1400s and the mid-1600s. Like many of the other master painters of that age, Pontormo’s subject matter mostly revolved around Christian biblical scenes.
For over 20 years, the art-book "Pontormo: Paintings and Frescoes" has graced my bookshelves – its cover facing outward. No matter where I lived, I felt compelled to have this book's cover within my line of sight. A very odd confession, I agree, but one of those private idiosyncrasies that tend to elude one’s own awareness.
My most recent move into much smaller apartment quarters in the wake of Hurricane Irene buried this keepsake under a mountain of other books that were moved in a great hurry and placed in storage. One night this past Winter, I awoke in a sweat. Where was my Pontormo? I sensed something valuable was missing in this new apartment setup. After a lot of wee-hour digging, I found the book and placed it in a position of prominence, cover facing outward, of course, in my writing room.
Soon afterwards, I decided it was time to analyze this strange relationship I had to a book by an artist I knew so little about. I quickly realized that it was not the book itself but Pontormo’s painting "Visitation" which graces its cover that was the source of the connection that I had constellated around Pontormo. But what was it about the "Visitation" in particular that I found so magnetic? I am only mildly a fan of Christian iconography and biblical scenes. Yet something palpable, mysterious, secretive and wholly alluring inhabited this painting.
After refreshing my understanding of the Virgin Mary’s “visit” to her cousin Elizabeth (my sternly taught elementary school catechism class left me a poor student of the Bible), I realized there is meaningful symbolic content underlying Pontormo’s masterpiece that is well timed to the golden phase of life that I am entering – old age. To honor this reservoir of feeling I had developed for this painting, I decided that crafting a short film around the work might constitute a useful ritual that could help me integrate the inspiration "Visitation" has quietly, unconsciously graced me with for so many years.
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In crafting "Through the Eyes of Pontormo," I was required to undertake the laborious task of digitally restoring the small reproductions I had access to for use in the movie. This was necessary, as close-up camera movements over the artwork for my intended purposes would have magnified the damages Pontormo’s masterpiece has incurred over the centuries. This project was at once humbling and uplifting. I felt as if I were chopping wood and carrying water in a Renaissance monastery of Fine Art. The film's glorious soundtrack served as a background mantra to the production process, so by the time I finished the film I was “floating” – just as the four glorious figures of "Visitation" appear to be.
Simply animating Pontormo’s "Visitation" was not enough to satisfy cinematic requirements. It was necessary to complement the “set up” created by Visitation with a “payoff” – the infant Christ child and little Saint John the Baptist. Both figures are imaged briefly to conclude the film – Saint John's figure appears just in passing in the lower right of the penultimate animated image).
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> This film is dedicated to Robert A. Johnson: Jungian analyst, author, philosopher, mentor and friend, from whom I learned techniques to explore the various levels of symbolic meaning resident in dreams and other artifacts of the human imagination – not the least of which are timeless masterpieces of Fine Art.
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