99-007 (Crafting the Medici)
Distributed August 12, 1999
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Glenn Hare

Florentine art on display

Rare Uffizi paintings come to the Bell Gallery at Brown University

Crafting the Medici: Patrons and Artisans in Florence, 1537-1737 opens for display Sept. 18, 1999, in the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University. The exhibition will host rarely shown painted portraits of the Medici family on loan from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. The show continues through Oct. 24.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- An exhibition featuring painted portraits of the Medici family opens for display in the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University on Saturday, Sept. 18, 1999, and continues through Sunday, Oct. 24. The exhibition, Crafting the Medici: Patrons and Artisans in Florence, 1537-1737, showcases rarely displayed paintings of the Italian dynasty and is made possible by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. The exhibition will examine the creation of the Medici image through the opulent display of wealth (jewelry, fabrics and furnishings) and the role of design and artisans in the service of that image.

Crafting the Medici is presented by Brown as part of the Splendor of Florence Festival, a week-long festival celebrating the friendship pact between the cities of Florence and Providence. The subject of the Brown exhibition was chosen to parallel other activities of the festival, which will include demonstrations by contemporary Florentine artisans, as well as concerts, lectures and a family day. The festival runs from Saturday, Sept. 18, through Sunday, Sept. 26.

Crafting the Medici offers a unique opportunity for Americans to see paintings which, although well published and the subject of several major exhibitions in Italy, are not always on display or available to museum-going tourists.

The exhibition will include portraits of Fernando I de Medici (a cardinal in Rome who gave up his religious calling to become grand duke of Tuscany), his wife Cristina of Lorraine, their son Cosimo II (shown in two paintings as an infant and a young man), the woman he would later marry, Mary Magdalena of Austria, and others. The paintings are the works of several artists, among them are Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572), Niccolo Cassana (1659-1713), Scipione Pulzone (ca. 1550-1598), Justus Sustermans (1597-1681) and others.

Editors: Three photographs from the exhibition are available from the Brown News Service. They can be sent electronically beginning Monday, Aug. 16. Call the News Service at (401) 863-2476 for information.

The portraits were made in the years following the establishment of the Medici rule in 1537 to show the family lineage and dynastic succession. They also provided painters with authorized models from which to make copies when needed.

As part of the exhibition, Annamarie Petrioli Tofani, director of the Uffizi Gallery, will speak at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 19, in the Salomon Center for Teaching, located on The College Green. She will present "The Medici and Uffizi," a lecture that explores the relationship between the family and the legendary museum.

Although known today primarily for its collection of famous paintings, the Uffizi, one of the first art museums in the world, was built to house the collection of paintings, sculpture and precious crafts collected or commissioned by the Medici. From the time of the first Grand Duke, Cosimo I, who ruled Florence beginning in 1537, until the last Medici died in 1737, the dynasty presided over one of the most luxurious and powerful courts in Italy.

In addition, Crafting the Medici places the portraits in the context of the full breadth of Florentine craftsmanship, including painting, printmaking, gold and silversmithing, leather work and textile manufacturing. The exhibition will include a selection of pattern and ornament prints from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and examples of historical Italian lace, silversmithing, jewelry and edged weaponry from the same period as the paintings, lent by the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

The exhibition also will show the strength and vitality of the Italian design tradition that continues in Rhode Island through a selection of drawings and objects owned and made by the Gorham Silver Company. Gorham was founded in 1831 in Providence and is still in operation in Smithfield, R.I. The items provide a strong link to the portraits and the state's own history as a center for silver, textile and jewelry production.

The exhibition is curated by Evelyn Lincoln and Catherine Zerner, both from the Department of Art History at Brown, and Caterina Caneva, director of the Department of Seventeenth- to Nineteenth-Century Painting at the Uffizi Gallery. An illustrated catalogue will be published in conjunction with the exhibition.

Located at 64 College Street in the List Art Center, the David Winton Bell Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.