The Painting Behind the Sopranos' Bed Is at the Getty
David Chase's dark comedy of Mafioso (American) angst would have us believe that Tony and Carmela commissioned a close-to-life-size replica of a vertical-format Renaissance masterpiece and then hid most of it behind a cheesy headboard. The Sopranos' faux painting is dark, being based on the original before its recent cleaning.
|Pontormo, The Visitation, 1528-29. Su concessione della Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per la Città Metropolitana di Firenze e per le Province di Pistoia e Prato. Photo © Antonio Quattrone, Florence|
Tony (James Gandolfini) stashes an AK-47 and a hand grenade in a hollowed-out faux Roman column. The misappropriation invites comparison to the postmodern goofs on classical columns of Robert Venturi and Michael Graves.
|Michael Graves, Disney Headquarters, Burbank|
Would Tony and Carmela have known who Pontormo was? Would a suburban NJ decorator have been attuned to The Visitation, a magnificent painting off the tourist grid in Carmignano, Italy? These questions have been debated by Sopranos fans. One theory is that The Visitation was chosen (by the TV show's set designers) to symbolize the Madonna/whore dichotomy of Sopranos thugs.
Pontormo's blue-robed profile figure at left is Mary, the literal Madonna. She confronts Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. Both are pregnant, emphasizing women as vessels of patriarchy. The front-facing women behind are understood to be handmaidens, but Pontormo gives them an uncanny resemblance to the main figures. Freud described the uncanny and the Madonna/whore thing, perhaps linking The Visitation to Tony's shrink, Jennifer Melfi.