The Burlington Magazine, December 2013

Posted in books, exhibitions, journal articles, on site by Editor on December 13, 2013

The (long) eighteenth century in The Burlington:

The Burlington Magazine 155 (December 2013)


• Richard Shone, “Home is Where the Art Is,” p. 807.

1329_201312Houses once occupied by distinguished residents are a special strand of the heritage industry that increasingly dominates a nation in thrall to all aspects of the past. We are constantly being exhorted to save and preserve this or that—a factory, a view, a manor house, a pier, a site of outstanding natural beauty, the historic habitat of wildlife, or, indeed, of the famous dead. Some of the shrines we visit are more larded with authenticity than others. Inevitably, the further back in time the illustrious lives were lived, the fewer objects there are likely to be which were familiar to the inhabitants. Was this her chair; was this really his easel? The aspic of preservation continually wobbles between the authentic and the fake. We do not always know—are not always told—whether something is ‘of the same period’ or ‘similar to’ or a ‘replica of’ what may or may not have been originally there, under the eye, the hand, the bottom or the feet of the presiding genius. Much depends on the piety of heirs and descendants, the
changing ownership of the house and the fluctuating stakes of fame. . . .

The latest appeal for an artist’s house has much to recommend it and should attract supporters beyond British shores. It concerns the restoration and preservation of J.M.W. Turner’s rural retreat at Twickenham, west London. This is an exceptional project and not simply a matter of tidying up and putting a blue plaque on the front. Turner designed this house himself, and plans for it abound in sketchbooks of c.1810–12, after he had purchased two plots of land near the Thames. The intention is to remove later additions (not serious) and reveal its compact interior, obviously influenced by his friend John Soane’s house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. For Turner, Sandycombe Lodge was for rest and recreation such as fishing (when he could ‘angle out the day’) and hosting friends on excursions for picnics, rather than for long residence and staying guests. Turner sold the house in 1826 and the adjoining meadow in 1848 (to the Windsor, Staines and South Western Railway). Under the auspices of the Turner’s House Trust, the appeal for £2 million is well underway, with support already assured from the Heritage Lottery Fund, among many other organisations and private donors, although further funding is still needed.2 It is expected that the public will be able to visit in 2016.

2. For an entertaining and informative account of the house, see C. Parry-Wingfield, with Foreword by A. Wilton: J.M.W. Turner. The Artist and his House at Twickenham, London 2012. Donations can be sent to the Trust at 11 Montpelier Row, Twickenham, tw1 2nq, or at www.turnerintwickenham.org.uk.

The full editorial is available here»


• Gauvin Alexander Bailey and Fernando Guzmán, “The Rococo Altarpiece of St Ignatius: Chile’s Grandest Colonial Retable Rediscovered,” pp. 815–20.

An examination of the Rococo altarpiece of St Ignatius in Santiago, Chile, and of the European influences on this great retablo.

• David Pullins, “Dating and Attributing the Earliest Portrait of Benjamin Franklin,” pp. 821–22.

A re-evaluation of a painting now found to be the earliest known portrait of Benjamin Franklin, added to an earlier figure of a man by Robert Feke (c.1746–48).


• Elizabeth Goldring, Review of Laura Houliston, ed., The Suffolk Collection: A Catalogue of Paintings (English Heritage, 2012), p. 835.

• Michael Rosenthal, Review of Leo Costello, J.M.W. Turner and the Subject of History (Ashgate, 2012), p. 836.

• Basile Baudez, Review of the exhibition Soufflot: Un architecte dans la lumière, pp. 850–51.

• Xavier F. Salomon, Review of the exhibition Il Gran Principe Ferdinando de’ Medici (1663–1713) collezionista e mecenate, pp. 851–53.

• Angela Delaforce, Review of the exhibition Da Patriarcal à Capela Real de São João Baptista, pp. 855–56.

• Jamie Mulherron, Review of the exhibition Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800, pp. 856–58.

Exhibition | Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici, 1663–1713

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 13, 2013

From the Uffizi:

The Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici (1663–1713): Collector and Patron of the Arts
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, 26 June — 3 November 2013, extended until 6 January 2014

Curated by Riccardo Spinelli


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To mark the 300th anniversary of the death of Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici (1663–1713), the Galleria degli Uffizi is planning to devote a celebratory exhibition to this key figure who was one of the most important collectors and patrons of the arts in the entire history of the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The son of Cosimo III and of Marguerite-Louise d’Orléans, Ferdinando nurtured two overriding interests, in the theatre and music and in the figurative arts, from a very early age. The exhibition sets out to convey the complexity of his interests and the innovative nature of his approach which drew the leading artists of the era (musicians, instrumentalists, painters and sculptors) to Florence between the end of the 17th century and the first decade of the 18th. The exhibition is broken down into sections illustrating the complex issues surrounding the prince’s cultural inclinations, while also presenting the buildings in which his patronage was played out.

An introductory iconographic section displays likenesses of the prince and of his family, with works by Giovan Battista Foggini, Justus Suttermans and Anton Domenico Gabbiani.

This is followed by a second section illustrating the early years of Ferdinando’s art collecting and patronage which focused in particular on his beloved villa at Pratolino where, alongside musicians, singers, costumiers and composers, he also hosted the Bibbiena family from Bologna, masters in the art of stage design. At the same time, the residence was being transformed in its interior decor and embellished with the work of Ferdinando’s favourite painters at the time, including Livio Mehus, Pier Dandini and Domenico Tempesti, all of whom were Tuscans, but also such “foreigners” as Crescenzio Onofri from Rome or Cristoforo Munari from northern Italy, all of them engaged in producing works closely linked to the villa and to the performances and other leisure activities that were held in it.

The third section is devoted to the renovation of Palazzo Pitti, of the Pergola Theatre and of the cathedral of Florence on the occasion of Ferdinando’s wedding to Princess Violante Beatrix of Bavaria in 1689. The ducal palace underwent radical transformation in its piano nobile, in the bridal couple’s apartments and in the mezzanines above, which were renovated in a spectacularly imaginative way, evinced in the exhibition by the memoirs and preparatory drawings of the artists who executed in the work (Luca Giordano, Diacinto Maria Marmi, Alessandro Gherardini, Giovan Battista Foggini and Anton Domenico Gabbiani). At the same time, the section also explores the ceremonies and festivities held in Florence to mark the prince’s wedding, using drawings and documents for the purpose.

The fourth section illustrates the prince’s growing interest in the figurative arts, both in contemporary sculpture and in painting, with the leading artists active at the time, many of whom were experts in such ‘modern’ late 17th-century genres of as still-life and portraiture. Thus this part of the exhibition contains both religious and secular works (by Carlo Dolci, Carlo Loth, Baldassarre Franceschini and Il Volterrano) and examples of ‘painted nature’ (by Jacopo Ligozzi, Bartolomeo Bimbi, Margherita Caffi, Fardella, Houbracken and Michelangelo Pace da Campidoglio). Of equal interest in the section is the presence of sumptuary objects, pieces of furniture and everyday items testifying to Ferdinando’s sophisticated tastes, with works by the leading engravers, marquetry inlayers and silversmiths then active at court.

The highly significant fifth section explores the tastes of the Grand Prince as collector, with some of the 16th- to 18th-century paintings removed from churches in Tuscany and elsewhere, including Andrea del Sarto’s Madonna of the Harpies, Lanfranco’s Ectasy of St. Margaret of Cortona, Annibale Carracci’s Farnese Altarpiece, and lastly, the Madonna of the Long Neck by Parmigianino, one of Fernando’s most prestigious acquisitions in the field of Renaissance art as the 17th century drew to a close.

The sixth section is devoted to the grand prince’s favourite villa of all, Poggio a Caiano, whose decoration he renovated with the greatest magnificence. He chose a room on its piano nobile to house one of his most original collections comprising ‘works in miniature’, which is eloquently recreated in the exhibition through a selection paintings that once formed part of it, illustrating the prince’s catholic tastes in collecting.

The seventh section of the exhibition illustrates the prince’s taste for major Florentine statuary at the close of the 17th century, while in the sphere of painting it looks at the change in Ferdinando’s taste in favour of ‘foreign’ schools—far more modern than anything local artists could produce—such as the Venetian school (of which he was enamoured in his youth), the Bolognese school and the Ligurian school (with work by Crespi, Cassana, Fumiani, Sebastiano and Marco Ricci, Magnasco and Peruzzini) whose leading painters were summoned to Florence, where they produced some of their masterpieces specifically for the prince.

The final section is devoted to the last years of Ferdinando’s life, exploring the results and repercussions of his art patronage and collecting, and displaying the drawings for a celebratory monument that it was planned to erect in his memory, the sketches for that project, and material relating to his funeral.

Available from Artbooks.com:

Riccardo Spinelli, ed., Il gran principe Ferdinando de’ Medici (1663–1713) Collezionista e Mecenate (Firenze: Giunti, 2013 ), 430 pages, ISBN: 978-8809786103, $77.50.

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This smaller exhibition was on view until recently at the Villa of Poggio a Caiano:

For the Grand Prince Ferdinando:
Still lifes, vedute, bambocciate and caramogi from the Medici Collections
Medici Villa of Poggio a Caiano, 5 July — 5 November 2013

Curated by Maria Matilde Simari


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The Villa of Poggio a Caiano was one of the favourite residences of the Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici (1663–1713), son of the Grand Duke Cosimo III and destined to succeed his father in the government of Tuscany. In concomitance with the major exhibition devoted to the Grand Prince in the Uffizi Gallery, the idea is to recall the figure of Ferdinando in the site of his favourite villa, too. It was here that Ferdinando spent the spring and autumn, riding his Berber horses, attending sophisticated concerts and operas performed in the theatre of the villa and devoting himself to the organisation of his own particular collection of miniature paintings, the so-called ‘Gabinetto di opere in piccolo’ which went on to become a famous example of a late seventeenth-century collection.

Significant evidence of Ferdinando’s commissions for the Villa of Poggio has fortunately survived in the large fresco dating to 1698 by Anton Domenico Gabbiani showing Cosimo de’ Medici being presented to Jupiter by Florence, which can be seen on the ceiling of the dining room on the first floor. This painting shows the celebratory and official side of court taste, but other aspects of the personality of Ferdinando, who was a curious man, interested in a wide range of artistic genres, also deserve to be explored.

An itinerary extending through fourteen rooms of the Still Life Museum is devoted to the Grand Prince as a collector of still lifes, highlighting the works that were certainly part of his collection. At the end of this itinerary is a room devoted to two different aspects of his tastes as a collector: the miniatures and the genre paintings, comprising in the latter group the views, the bambocciate and the grotesque and humorous paintings portraying pygmies and dwarves, or the whimsical caramogi.

The Grand Prince Ferdinando was attracted not only by great figure painting and by the works of the most famous painters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Titian, Parmigianino and Sebastiano Ricci) but also by artists engaged in collateral aspects and genres that can certainly not be defined as minor, since they made a very particular and novel impression on seventeenth-century taste: the flower painters, the painters of vedute, the Dutch petits maîtres, the bamboccianti painters of everyday life and the caricaturists.

The inventory of the assets of the Grand Prince drawn up at his death in 1713 records no less than sixteen paintings depicting caramogi (deformed, dwarf-like figures) intent upon various games and activities, for one of which the author’s name is specifically mentioned: the Brescia artist Faustino Bocchi, a renowned specialist in ‘the painting of pygmies’ who appears to have sojourned at the grand ducal court, and whom Ferdinando may in any case have met during a trip to Veneto and Lombardy in 1688. His interest in this particular grotesque genre can be linked to the recollections of Ferdinando as a passionate lover of amusing sonnets, ‘burlette burlesche’, of poets in ottava rima, comedians and ham actors.

The small collection of works displayed in the room dedicated to the Grand Prince Ferdinando in the Still Life Museum of the Villa of Poggio a Caiano offers a synthetic overview of the vedute, the bambocciate and the caramogi that he loved, displaying works not normally visible to the public since they are conserved in the repositories of the Florentine Galleries and of other institutions. Also on display is an as yet unpublished painting by Bartolomeo Ligozzi on which the date and signature have been discovered.

The show is rounded off by a selection of ancient manuscripts and printed books connected with the eclectic personality of Ferdinando: a cultured, passionate and curious collector who is also remembered as a cordial and affable man with a great sense of humour. As one of the manuscript memoirs recalls: “With his departure, spirit and joy too took their leave of Florence and Tuscany.”

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