‘The Medici: Portraits and Politics’ at the Met | Smart News

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SMITHSONIANMAG.COM |
June 23, 2021, 6 a.m.

When Cosimo I of Medici, a 17-year-old from a lesser-known region plugged of famous Florence Medici family, who came to power in 1537, the elite of the republic expected him to serve as a simple figurehead. Instead, the young duke control snatched elected officials of the city, asserting himself as an autocratic ruler at a turbulent time in Florentine history.

“[Y]ou, Cosimo I, you came to power after a assassination (of a cousin) in the 1530s, when Florence had lost her identity and had become a pawn of European politics, ”writes James Barron for the New York Times. “You made Florence stand out again, even though you were a tyrant, and Florence was grateful to you.”

As Peter Saenger reports for the the Wall Street newspaper, a new exhibition at Metropolitan Museum of Art explores how Cosimo and the rest of the Medici used the dominant medium of the time, art, “as propaganda, making it clear that Florence was still a power to be reckoned with.” With over 90 works by the likes of Raphael, Jacopo de Pontormo and Benvenuto Cellini, “The Medici: portraits and politics, 1512-1570”Traces the banking dynasty cultural initiatives over nearly six decades, demonstrating how family patronage cemented Florence’s status as the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance.

“The brilliance of Cosimo I de Medici was the way he used culture both to create a sense of legitimacy and as a means of securing Florence a place in a transformed political map. ” Keith christiansen, chairman of the Met’s European Paintings Department, tells the Time. “He nurtured the idea of ​​Florence as an intellectual power of the Renaissance and the Medici as key players.”

Benvenuto Cellini, Cosimo I of Medici, 1545

(Museo Nazionale del Bargello / Su concessione del Ministero della Cultura / Photo: Antonio Quattrone)

Bronzino, Cosimo I de Medici as Orpheus, 1537-39

Bronzino, Cosimo I de Medici in the role of Orpheus, 1537-1539

(Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art)

By a declaration, the exhibition opens with an imposing bronze bust of Cosimo made by Cellini around 1545. On loan from the National Bargello Museum in Florence, the larger-than-life sculpture is newly restored; according to Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA), experts realized that her eyes, long hidden under a dark glow, were in fact made of silver – a pioneering practice by classical civilizations as Renaissance artists tried to imitate.

In 1557, the much praised bust found permanent residence above the main entrance to a fortress on the island of Elba. Overlooking the fortress gate, his piercing gaze and Roman-style armor conveyed Cosimo’s power, drawing on “imperial iconography” to make an explicit link between the Medici and former Italian rulers, writes guest curator Carlo Falciani in the exhibition catalog.

Other works in the exhibition similarly connect the family to classical culture. Bronzino‘s Cosimo I de Medici in the role of Orpheus (1537-1539), for example, presents the duke as the mythological musician Orpheus, aligning it “with forces beyond the world of mere mortals”, like the Met’s exposure primer points out. A marble bust of an aging Cosimo by the sculptor Giovanni Bandini, meanwhile, shows him as a “Roman emperor, suggesting the timelessness of his authority”.

Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man with a Book, mid-1530s

Bronzino, Portrait of a young man with a book, mid 1530s

(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, HO Havemeyer collection)

Bronzino, Portrait of a Woman with a Pocket Dog, c.  1532-1533

Bronzino, Portrait of a woman with a pocket dog, ch. 1532-1533

(Image © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main)

“Portraits and Politics” is divided into six thematic sections that follow the Medici of the early 16th century, when the family had recently returned from exile and struggled to maintain Florence’s rule in a changing political landscape, until 1569, when Pope Pius V appointed Cosimo Grand Duke of Tuscany in recognition of his successful unification from the Italian region.

“For us, it’s important to see how the leaders of the High Renaissance cemented their power by commissioning works of art and partnering with artists and culture,” said Met director Max Hollein. . Time. “A fairly calibrated image was presented to enhance the idea of ​​their dominance, even then. It is forgotten. These works are taken out of context and exhibited in museums to be admired for their aesthetic merits.

The first two sections of the exhibition cover the years 1512 to 1534, introducing visitors to family members as famous as the Pope. Clement VII, nephew of Laurent the Magnificent, and Alexander of Medici, who was probably the son of Lorenzo di Piero, Duke of Urbino, and an African woman enslaved. (Alessandro’s assassination in 1537 paved the way for Cosimo’s rise to power.) Next, the show focuses on Cosimo himself, examining how the Duke and his immediate family, including his first wife, Eleonore of Toledo, used portraits to “project power, affirm the continuity of the dynasty and convey cultural sophistication,” the statement said.

Jacopo da Pontormo, Alessandro de 'Medici, 1534-35

Jacopo de Pontormo, Alexander of Medici, 1534-1535

(Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Petticoat with sleeves, approx.  1560, probably owned by Eleonora of Toledo

Petticoat with sleeves, approx. 1560, probably owned by Eleonora of Toledo

(Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Reale, Pisa / Photo by Arrigo Coppitz, from the archives of the Regional Directorate of Museums of Tuscany)

As Falciani writes in the catalog, Bronzino painted several portraits of Eleonora posing alongside her sons. The curator adds: “[T]the presence of everyone next to their mother [suggested] that the next generation would produce shoots from a newly invigorated dynastic trunk. We can also see at the Met a sumptuous red velvet dress probably offered by the Spanish nobleman to a convent in Pisa.

The second half of “Portraits and Politics” focuses on the people whose art elevated Florence to such cultural heights. A section juxtaposes the work of Bronzino, the Mannerist artist who was the court painter of Cosimo, and Francesco Salviati, whose “pan-Italian style” rivaled Bronzino’s “insistent Florentine-inspired art”, the statement said.

Another area of ​​the exhibition celebrates the city’s literary culture, which was inextricably linked with portraiture. As the catalog explains, “however vivid the image of a face may be, it alone could not convey the most intimate aspects of the identity of the model which, over the course of the century, has become increasingly more entrusted to symbols, allegories or a codified formal language capable of giving visibility to concepts hitherto confined to poetry. A highlight of this section is Bronzino recently restored portrait of a poet Laura Battiferri. the Newspaper notes that Laura’s likeness refers to two other famous ones Florentine poets: Her profile is “deliberately designed to look like Dante,” and she holds a book of verses from Petrarch.

Bronzino, Laura Battiferri, c.  1560

Bronzino, Laura Battiferri, ch. 1560

(© Musei Civici Fiorentini — Palazzo Vecchio Museum)

Francesco Salviati (Francesco de 'Rossi), Bindo Altoviti, ca.  1545

Francesco Salviati (Francesco de Rossi), Bindo Altoviti, ch. 1545

(Private collection / Photography © Bruce M. White, 2020)

Bronzino, Lodovico Capponi, 1550-55

Bronzino, Lodovico Capponi, 1550–55

(The Frick collection)

Not all of the characters shown are as well known as Cosimo, his cousin Catherine and his namesake ancestor (also known as Cosimo the Elder). As the Time observes, a Bronzino portrait of Lodovico Capponi, whose main claim to fame was to “become entangled in church, during a mass, with … the husband of a woman he loved”, adorns the cover of the catalog.

The subject of the painting has little historical significance (he was not actually a Medici, but rather the son of a wealthy Florentine banker), but the work itself, described in the catalog as a “masterpiece”. 16th century portrait ‘work’ aptly sums up the exhibition’s larger message on the power of art as propaganda. Depicting a young man holding a medallion portrait of a woman (perhaps the subject of his latest infatuation) near his chest in front of a green background, the portrait is filled with symbolism: according to the catalog, it seems to “exalt ability. of young Ludovico to resist the adverse blows of fate, whether in love or, more broadly, in a future beyond the vigor of his youth.

The “Portraits and politics” primer ends with a quote from the most renowned Renaissance artist: Leonardo DeVinci, whose early career was shaped by Laurent the Magnificent.

Recognizing the durability of great art – and of the leaders who commissioned it – the old master observes: may their fame be eternal.

The Medici: portraits and politics, 1512-1570Will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from June 26 to October 11.

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