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Circle of Pontormo, A Discussion

Key facts
Full title A Discussion
Artist Circle of Pontormo
Artist dates 1494 - 1556/7
Date made probably mid-1520s
Medium and support Oil on canvas transferred from wood
Dimensions 35.2 × 24.8 cm
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3941
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Discussion
Circle of Pontormo

Two men, in robes of icy blue and pink, are engaged in a heated discussion, their expressive hands emphasising their strenuously argued points. They are watched by two bearded men; another, in green, looks at the bare wall in the background.

The subject of the painting is unclear. It was once identified as Herod questioning the Three Kings, but none of the figures is shown with a king’s crown or sceptre and there is no other evidence to suggest who they might be. The painting is more likely to show saints or prophets in debate, which was a popular motif in Florentine art during the early sixteenth century.

With its cool bright colours, expansive drapery and exaggerated dynamic poses, the painting is typical of the style of the Florentine Mannerist artist Pontormo. However, the figures are stiffer and more flatly modelled than those in Pontormo’s pictures, suggesting that it was probably not painted by Pontormo himself but by a close follower.

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