The Splendour of the Medici
Art and Life in Renaissance Florence
24 January 2008 - 24 February 2008
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The approximately two-hundred works displayed at the exhibition entitled The Splendour of the Medici – Art and Life in Renaissance Florence, opening on the 550th anniversary of crowning Matthias Corvinus king, provides visitors with an insight into the Medici patronage and art collection, as well as into the culture and life of the period defined by this family, which left the most visible mark on the golden age of Renaissance Florence.
The exhibition concept was built on the changing role played by the Medici during this time and which marked the difference between two periods, the Quattrocento and the Cinquecento. The Medici were one of the wealthiest merchant-banker families in 15th-century Florence although their political influence was not manifested in titles and ranks at the time. Their leading role was expressed openly and officially to the public when, supported by the Spanish Habsburgs, their members became dukes of Florence and grand dukes of Tuscany. The family produced two popes, Leo X and Clement VII, who further increased the family's prestige, while two female members of the Medici family became French queens. Although stories of struggle for power and political influence are only recorded in chronicles, Medici patronage and art collection have left their lasting mark on culture in the form of outstanding buildings, sculptures, paintings, codices, gold- and silver objects, and many other works. Florence in the 15th and 16th centuries was the fount of the Renaissance, as well as an outstanding artistic centre. Presenting the many facets of beauty, the rich selection of the Museum of Fine Arts' exhibition wishes to illustrate the grandiose status of Florence in the noblest sense of the word.
Visitors will be able to see paintings by outstanding figures of the Renaissance and Mannerism, such as Fra Angelico, Andrea del Castagno, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, Sandro Botticelli, Andrea Mantegna, Jacopo Pontormo, Agnolo Bronzino and Giorgio Vasari. Also on display will be portraits of the Medici family and other famous personages who lived in an era when the desire to immortalise people and their fame revived the genre. The exhibition also includes sculptures and reliefs made of marble, bronze and terracotta by masters, such as Ghiberti, Donatello, Verrocchio's workshop, Andrea della Robbia and Benvenuto Cellini, who aspired not only to revive the greatness of art in Antiquity but also to exceed it.
Works of special interest at the exhibition include painted marriage coffers (cassones) and round wooden trays (desco da parto) with depictions illustrating stories of virtue characteristic of Antiquity and everyday scenes from the life of Florence, as well as paintings faithfully documenting important events of the period and thus bringing them closer to 21st-century man. Wooden models bring alive the architecture in Florence (the cupola of the Florence Cathedral, Strozzi Palace and others) and provide a glimpse into the planning stages of buildings that were constructed centuries ago. The beautiful sheets of codices illustrated with miniatures will not fall short of visitors' expectations either. Of these splendid pieces one was made for Lorenzo il Magnifico and another for King Matthias Corvinus. Wonderful silks and tapestries bear the heraldic symbols of the Medici, while some fascinating costumes and suits of armour have been preserved intact even after so many centuries. The pieces of furniture and jewellery, glass- and ceramic works, wooden- and stone inlays, cut semi-precious stones and cameo gems on display illustrate how the most diverse branches of visual art were united by the high standard of handicrafts, while the costume designs made for the court reveal the great importance magnificent celebrations played in the court culture of the period.
The far-reaching interest taken by the Medici in art and culture extending beyond Florence and Italy is demonstrated by the artefacts they collected from the Transalpine region, Africa and Asia.
The preparatory work and organisation were chiefly carried out by Contemporanea Progetti of Florence, in co-operation with Italian art historians and professionals of monument protection.
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