The Church of S. Michele Arcangelo at Pontorme

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The Church of S. Michele Arcangelo at Pontorme, mentioned in the Parish Journals of Empoli since 1192, is of very old foundation.

Besides the paintings by Pontormo (Jacopo Carucci) it is worth seeing the Allegory of the Immaculate Conception commissioned from Cigoli in 1589 and the Tabernacle with the Saints Michael and John the Baptist, by Girolamo Macchietti.

During the life of Jacopo Carucci, Pontorme was a fortified borough under the dominion of the Florentine Republic. The most important work executed by the artist for his native city was the altar frontal with St John the Evangelist and St Michael Archangel, painted in 1519 for the Church of San Michele, the oldest in the town.

On the altar located in the right transept, near the baptismal font, the visitor can observe the two saints which were meant to frame a venerated image, the wooden Crucifix, or perhaps a Madonna.

The figures were conceived as one in contrast to the other. The contrast is attenuated only by the rendering of the red mantle which is soft and firmly wrapped in the figure of the Evangelist, while it is jagged and dynamic in the figure of the Archangel. The elderly figure of St John is twisted around, the face is intense and concentrated; the Archangel, on the other hand, is presented as an extraordinarily handsome youth, in a sinuous pose and elegantly covered by his metal armour. Cowering at his feet we can see the devil, surprisingly represented as a child with diabolical ears and pointed wings, with his face distorted by a grimace of pain. In this painting Jacopo was experimenting with different, highly original tones of colour, and with the light which descends from on high and generates unusual chromatic contrasts and shades, he succeeds in creating a vivid dialogue between the two figures.