QUESTION: Why does the man in this portrait look dead with ash-colored skin and sunken cheeks?
ANSWER: Because he was! "As one is torn away another appears" declares a mysterious scroll in this stunning portrait of Cosimo de' Medici the Elder, painted by Jacopo Pontormo around 1518, many decades after Cosimo's death (1464). Quoting Virgil's Aeneid: Uno avulso non deficit alter Pontormo codes messages of reincarnation in plain sight. Look at the hands - they are clasped to replicate the symbol of infinity visually rhyming with the elaborate knot of the scroll.
It is not just Orpheus or Hercules who can transcend the boundary between life and death with their famous descent to underworld and return to the living, it is the very nature of ART!