Artists Behaving Badly

Temperamental masters of the art world

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Pontormo, the Florentine Mannerist painter, was known for his idiosyncratic behaviors and extreme neuroses. He feared death to such an extreme that he would not tolerate the topic being discussed in his presence. Yet he certainly had a preoccupation with his own various health maladies. During the last two years of his life he kept a diary of his unusual daily concerns. These typically included a preoccupation with his diet (he subsisted on a diet of eggs for months at a time) and digestion: "October 19th, felt sick, like having a cold, and after that, could no longer throw up—and it took me several nights to get the hard stuff out, like it happened to me before in summer. I don't know whether it was the same, since the weather has been very nice, and I ate well all the time; but I began to look a little more after myself." Pontormo also avoided crowds and any kind of public festival. Concerning his work, he would habitually have his projects barricaded off from public view, with no one knowing when he came and went, until the paintings were complete.


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