The Splendour of the Medici Family
returns to Florence in an important exhibition

by Alessandro Gatto

The Medici have returned to Florence in all their splendour with a series of beautiful objects from all over the world.

Realized by Florence's Cassa di Risparmio bank and organised by the Arts Office of Florence to celebrate the centenary of the foundation of the Kunsthistoriches Institut in Florence, the exhibition, entitled "Magnificenza alla Corte dei Medici", is open until 6th January 1998.

These wonders of court are housed in what was the summer residence of the Medici, now the Museo degli Argenti of Palazzo Pitti.

Priceless sculptures and paintings, everyday objects, weapons, helmets and cuirasses, drawings and chinoiserie, a mixture of the sacred and the profane and art and science meet and unite.

The pieces, numbering more than 200, are displayed in seven rooms dedicated to the objects which the Medici loved and used in their lifetime.

They are beautifully shown and set off by the clever use of lighting and almost theatrical choreography achieved by Pier Luigi Pizzi. With his theatrical background, Pizzi has wanted to display this grand-ducal splendour like a theatrical piece set in the 16th to 17th centuries.

The portraits of the Grand Dukes Cosimo, Francesco and Ferdinando together with Giambologna's Bacchus, Mercury and Fata Morgana, Ammannati's Mars and some statues from the Boboli Gardens welcome us into the palace by way of the Porta delle Suppliche (Door of Supplications).

The spectator-visitor is thus accompanied to view the scientific instruments which interested Francesco I, including Arabian astrolabes, armillary spheres, compasses and sundials, while the portraits and busts of the grand dukes lining the walls seem to look on.

The central areas of the rooms are like a stage covering 360° within which the works on display can be admired from various angles: thus, swords, bows, lances and shields reveal all their beauty and workmanship. A wooden shield with Caravaggio's "Medusa" presented by Cardinal del Monte to Francesco I, is one of the outstanding features.

Examples of the marvels created by expert artists in the form of Chinese porcelain, oriental carpets, crystal goblets, vases in mother-of-pearl, sardonyx, jasper and quartz lead us to the room dedicated to paintings. Besides Vasari's "Toeletta di Venere" and Poppi's "L'età dell'oro", there is also Raphael's "Madonna della seggiola". This journey through the golden centuries of the Medici is well worth undertaking.

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