The young Pontormo, was involved in the decoration of floats for the Carnevale of 1513, held in Florence and his paintings were based on designs by Andrea del Sarto. Most compelling in terms of the attribution is the beautiful preparatory drawing revealed in infrared reflectograms beneath the paint surface which are indisputably by Pontormo's own hand (fig. 1). The fluid, confident designs are entirely typical of the artist, with billowing outlines to the limbs and broad, rounded thighs. As Falciani indicates, this graphic style is comparable with two sheets by Pontormo, one in a French private collection and the other in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (inv. no. GDSU. 662 F verso).3 The two drawing were preparations for the artist's fresco in the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata, Florence, which dates between 1513 and 1515, contemporaneous with the present painting.4
In the Carnevale of 1513, five of the seven floats in the procession were dedicated to prominent figures of Ancient Rome.5 These Roman themes were aptly suited to celebrations held by the Medici, promoting the paradigm of moral heroism, military boldness and a patriotic loyalty to the Republic.6 This valiantly selfless paradigm is epitomized in the story of Marcus Curtius. According to Livy’s History of Rome, an earthquake of great seismic force had opened an immeasurable crevasse in the ground at the Forum at Rome. Unable to fill its incalculable depth, the citizens of Rome sought the counsel of soothsayers who declared they must sacrifice to the abyss the greatest treasure of the Roman People:
“Thereupon Marcus Curtius, a young soldier of great prowess, rebuked them, so the story runs, for questioning whether any blessing were more Roman than arms and valor. A hush ensued as he turned to the temples of the immortal gods which rise above the Forum, and to the Capitol, and stretching forth his hands, now to heaven, now to the yawning chasm and to the gods below, he devoted himself to death. After which, mounted on a horse caparisoned with all possible splendor, he plunged fully armed into the gulf.”7
1. Oral communication upon firsthand inspection.
2. C. Falciani, 2014, under Literature.
3. J. Cox-Rearick, "Aggiunte al 'corpus' dei disegni del Pontormo: 1981-1994", in R.P. Ciardi and A. Natali, Pontormo e Rosso: atti del convegno di Empoli e Volterra progetto Appiani di Piombino, Florence 1996, p. 65, reproduced figs. 1-2.
4. C. Falciani, 2014, op. cit.
7. Livy, History of Rome, VII:6, B.O. Foster ed., vol. III, Cambridge Mass. 1924, p. 375.
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