Exhibitions Relating to the Studiolo and Domestic Spaces
London Art Week is a collegial event and dealers often take the opportunity to work closely together with their colleagues. This year, Georg Laue, Kunstkammer Ltd and Stuart Lochhead Sculpture are combining efforts to present a special exhibition The Studiolo: From Renaissance to Modern, while Trinity Fine Art is working with colleagues Walter Padovani and Raccanello Leprince to emulate the setting of art in a domestic space of the Renaissance and Baroque eras.
During the Renaissance it was fashionable for high-ranking collectors to display their most precious collectibles in their studiolo, a private space set aside for reading, studying, working and relaxing. From the 15th century onwards these rooms might be found in the houses of wealthy burghers, in the castles of the high-ranking nobility as well as in the princely residences of the capitals of Northern and Southern Europe. There, the cultivated collector could quietly enjoy his favourite books, exotic natural curiosities, scientific instruments and most precious artistic treasures.
Georg Laue and Stuart Lochhead will present a collector's cabinet based on historical records. The Studiolo: From Renaissance to Modern is a selection of high-quality artworks dating from the 15th century up to quite modern times exemplifying the studiolo's characteristic diversity, encompassing sculptures in terracotta and marble, as well as objets d'arts executed in multiple media from enamel and lacquer to bone and bronze.
A fine example of such a collector is Maximilian I, Duke of Bavaria, who in 1607 arranged for a selection of paintings and treasures to be removed from the ducal Kunstkammer and installed in the Kammergalerie in the Munich Residenz to have them 'every day before my face and in sight'. Like a studiolo, the Kammergalerie was a very private collection room, a treasury that was for Maximilian a source of daily edification, and a place to which no one besides the Duke himself and his wife had access.
In the Kammergalerie a selection of vessels made of ivory and ebony, gold, jasper, rock crystal and horn would be positioned on ornate tables. However, the focus of attention amid the dazzling works displayed was on paintings executed on canvas and vellum and panels of wood or stone. Pictures in small formats were often enhanced with magnificent frames.
The growing emphasis on disegno during the course of the 16th century also contributed to an interest in sketches and studies that make up the creative process. From the middle of the century onwards bozzetti and models by various artists were collected on a small scale.
Anne de Montmorency and Catherine de' Medici were important collectors of Renaissance ceramics by the great French craftsman and scientist Bernard Palissy. Catherine commissioned from him an entire room of clay creatures as a grotto for her Tuileries palace. The popularity of Palissy's work inspired a whole school of similar work. Stuart Lochhead's Gondola cup, a contemporary term for a type of ceramic dish showing a couple lying side-by-side as if in a bath, became popular at court. This type of non-functional decorative vessel was viewed as amusing and erotic, to be admired by its owner in the intimacy of their study.
Sculpture after the antique was also very popular in the 18th and 19th century amongst collectors; influenced by the rise of the Grand Tour. These works, by great artists of the day after well-known and admired originals from antiquity, were a means to show the owner's knowledge of and interest in the antique world. Such pieces were frequently displayed in the library or study of an aristocratic collector.
Terracotta sculpture of small dimensions was another eagerly collected genre of the Renaissance period, inspired by the pioneering methods of Lorenzo Ghiberti as he worked on the monumental bronze doors to the Baptistery of Florence in the mid-15th century where the use of clay was central to the production of figurative bronzes. Terracotta is also readily moulded to replicate images and sculptures; when fired, painted and gilded, it provided an inexpensive alternative to more costly sculptural materials such as marble and bronze.
Terracotta pieces such as these were generally displayed in the studiolo and Trinity Fine Art has an impressive sculpture of Mars by Stoldo Lorenzi, dating from 1565-1575. The circumstances surrounding the commissioning of this magnificent sculpture are unclear, but considering Duke Cosimo I de' Medici's devotion to the figure of the god Mars, a deity under whose auspices he had been born and on whose principles of leadership, virtue and intellect his rule was inspired, it must have been conceived at his request on the favoured theme of the powerfully strong, static male figure. It is likely to have been created as a demonstration model to be perhaps translated into a bronze cast, together with other figures of profane subjects, to constitute a cycle of divinities for a studiolo.
The studiolo as well as being a private space, was also useful in demonstrating the head of the household's sophistication, erudition and taste as a scholar and collector. Here, they could impress guests of the highest standing. An account of Piero de' Medici's Florentine studiolo given by Filarete mentions it being decorated with terracotta roundels depicting emperors and "worthies", and when King Charles VIII of France arrived in Florence in 1494, the first thing he did was demand to see the contents of this same studiolo.
Art & the Domestic Space is the title of the exhibition at Trinity Fine Art; it will celebrate the domestic space of the Renaissance and Baroque eras and retrace the steps of objects commissioned by families for their villas and palazzos. The exhibition will take visitors on a journey to discover the ways in which art merged with the everyday life of these courtly homes.
From the Renaissance onwards perhaps no other space was more intriguing and complex than that of the household interior in which a wide range of objects served key functions in the fashioning of familial, local and collective identities.
One of the most important functions of art in the domestic space was that of works commissioned to exalt the standing of the family who lived there. Trinity is showing a prime example of this type of dynastic artwork in the form of three portraits: two marble busts by Alessandro Rondoni and a painting by Mario Balassi, which come from the collection of the noble Florentine Corsi family. This series, which was prominently displayed in the grand gallery at the Corsi villa in Sesto Fiorentino, was commissioned by Domenico Maria Corsi (1633-1697), and was designed to extol the nobility, standing and cultivation of his family, culminating with the portrait of Domenico Maria that celebrated his elevation to the rank of cardinal.
Some works of art for the home are very specific to certain areas within the house, and nothing sums this up quite so succinctly as the traditional Florentine desco da parto (wooden birth tray) commissioned to celebrate a child's birth. This object was specifically associated with the bedroom during the mother's confinement. Covered with a special cloth and laden with gifts, the desco da parto was central to the ritual of opening up the usually private bedroom to guests, who would come to view the new arrival and congratulate the mother. Later the tray would be displayed on the bedroom wall as a memento of the birth, and as a bringer of good luck and fertility. Trinity has a fine example dating to around 1400 and painted by Lippo d'Andrea. It follows the traditional iconographic precepts for these trays and shows on one side The Justice of Trajan, the story of a mother's love, forgiveness and fidelity to her child and on the other side, a mischievous putto banging a drum, symbolising fertility.
Also associated with the bedroom is a small devotional work offered by Trinity Fine Art, Madonna & Child with Saints John the Baptist & Mary Magdalen, by the Maestro di San Miniato. This was painted for a member of the burgeoning Florentine merchant classes and is designed for domestic devotion in the setting of a bedroom, or in the case of a larger house, a private chapel.
Stepping outside the house, art also entered the Italian Renaissance garden. A new envisioning of outdoor space emerged in the late 15th century at villas in Rome and Florence, and took its cue from classical ideals of order and beauty. Unlike medieval gardens which were generally practical for the growing of herbs and vegetables, this new outdoor space had pleasure as its goal: in the view of its layout and of the landscape beyond, for the purposes of contemplation and enjoyment of the sights, sounds and smells of the garden itself. The first Renaissance text to include garden design was De re aedificatoria by Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472). Alberti drew upon the architectural principles of Vitruvius, as well as quotations from Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger to describe what a garden should look like, and the manner in which it should be used. Alberti wrote that within the garden: "...You should place porticos for giving shade, planters where vines can climb, placed on marble columns; vases and amusing statues, provided they are not obscene. You should also have rare plants. Trees should be aligned and arranged evenly, each tree aligned with its neighbours."
Frans Floris (1517-1570) presents Susanna in just such an Italian garden, filled with trellises and trees as per Alberti's instructions, in a work also presented by Trinity Fine Art in their exhibition. In fact the two elders who lasciviously spy on Susanna's nudity are hidden behind the trellis. The garden depicted is also replete with allusions to Floris's recent studies of antiquities and Renaissance art that he had encountered on his journeys through Italy.
On Monday 6 July at 17:00 London Art Week presents, in association with the Friends of the Bargello, Florence, a talk given by Georg Laue about studiolo collections and how they were typically brought together. The Museo Nazionale del Bargello is the world's most important museum of Italian Renaissance sculpture. LAW exhibitor Georg Laue is internationally known for exceptional Renaissance artworks made for a Kunst- and Wunderkammer out of natural and precious materials, representing the macrocosm of mankind's artistic creations and God's natural works.