Enfilade

Exhibition | Homage to the Grand Duke

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on July 10, 2017

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Now on view at the Pitti Palace, with a catalogue published by Sillabe and available from ArtBooks.com:

Homage to the Grand Duke: Memories of Silver Plates for the Feast of St. John
Omaggio al Granduca: Memorie dei piatti d’argento per la festa di San Giovanni
Palazzo Pitti, Florence, 24 June — 24 September 2017

The precious items in the Tesoro dei Granduchi include a number of 18th-century moulds of the now lost ‘St. John’s plates’, a nostalgic echo of masterpieces of the Roman silversmith’s art in the age of the Baroque. The fifty-eight magnificent silver ewers were intended as a gift for Grand Duke Cosimo III (1642–1723) and, after him, for Gian Gastone (1671–1737), his successor on the throne of Tuscany. One ewer was presented every year on 24 June, the feast of St. John, from 1680 until the Medici dynasty became extinct in 1737.

The silver ewers—weighing some fifteen pounds (or five kg) and worth 300 Roman scudi each—were meticulously embossed and chased with scenes celebrating the most illustrious members of the House of Medici from Lorenzo the Magnificent down to the reigning Grand Dukes. It was probably the fact that the ewers depicted the unusual subject of her family’s history that prompted the Electress Palatine Anna Maria Luisa (1667–1743) to do everything in her power to safeguard them from the threat of destruction at the hands of the House of Lorraine, who succeeded the Medici on the throne of Tuscany and whose military expenditure meant that they were regularly strapped for cash.

The ewers were jealously guarded in the Wardrobe in Palazzo Vecchio, leaving the premises only from 1789 to 1791 for display in the ‘Medal Room’ in the Galleria degli Uffizi. Sent back to the Wardrobe as their popularity declined, they set off down the path to oblivion. It is only thanks to casts commissioned by the Marchese Carlo Ginori and made in his Manufactory in Doccia between 1746 and 1748 that we can appreciate at least a pale reflection of their splendour today.

Rita Balleri and Maria Sframeli, eds., Omaggio al Granduca: Memorie dei piatti d’argento per la festa di San Giovanni (Livorno: Sillabe, 2017), 328 pages, ISBN: 978 8883 479595, 35€ / $60.

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