The Visitation (1528-29) by Jacopo Carucci, also known as Pontormo (1494-1557), is considered an absolute masterpiece of the Florentine Cinquecento. The painting represents the miraculous encounter between the Virgin Mary and Saint Elizabeth when they were both carrying their prodigious sons in the womb.
For decades the work was surrounded by what was then considered a shroud of mystery, perhaps a result of the “dangerous” patronage by the Pinadori family (Medici enemies), or because of Vasari’s fierce personal prejudice towards Pontormo. Mystery also clouds the work itself, exceptional not only for its original and innovative iconography, but also for the curious gaze of the two female characters, who directing themselves towards the painting’s viewer, seem to invite the observer in. With its vivid colors, dynamic drapery and ethereal grace, the painting appears like an otherworldly gem – and singular of its kind – in the rather sober and muted church context.
After an initial stay in a villa near Carmignano, the work was permanently moved to the Church of Santi Michele e Francesco in the eighteenth century where today faithfuls and visitors will find it located on the church’s right-hand nave.