If you were asked to name a European Renaissance family, chances are the first name that springs to mind would be de' Medici - the banking and political dynasty so highly influential around Italy and Europe from the 15th to the 18th century. Perhaps 'Medici' was one of your catch-up dramas during lockdown, where their association with art featured quite prominently. In the art world it is difficult to escape the de' Medici as they were some of the most active patrons of the arts over the centuries.
The team at London Art Work Digital has discovered quite a number of works with links to the de' Medici family among those offered by participants this summer; here's a selection
Benjamin Proust Fine Art Pierino da Vinci (1529/30 - 1553), Two Children Holding a Fish It was made for Cosimo I de'Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany for his Villa di Castello near Florence.
Trinity Fine Art Stoldo Lorenzi (c. 1534 - 1583) Mars, 1565 - 1575 The circumstances surrounding the commissioning of the 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.
Laocoon Gallery Vincenzo de' Rossi (1525 - 1587) Laocoön and his two sons This work was mentioned by Raffaele Borghini in Il Riposo (1584), where he referenced the sculptor from Fiesole who had created the Labours of Hercules for Cosimo II de' Medici (at Palazzo Vecchio), and described the piece as, " a marble Laocoön larger than life with his children all knotted by snakes, for Giovanni da Sommaja". Giovanni da Sommaia was an eminent figure at the court of Francesco and Ferdinando de' Medici.
Didier Aaron Jacopo da Empoli (1551 - 1640) A Young Lady Wearing a Veil Jacopo Chimenti, named da Empoli after the origin of his father, painted still-lifes and received commissions from private patrons, such as the Medici family.
Nicolás Cortés Gallery Jacopo Ligozzi (1547 - 1627) Ecce Homo (Front) / Christ Bearing the Cross (Reverse) Miniature painted in tempera on parchment in a rock crystal and gold filigree frame decorated with the fleurs-de-lys and the balls of the Medici coat-of-arms at each side and in the lower part. The gold suspension ring at the top also bears the balls of the Medici emblem.
Raccanello Leprince Cantagalli, Florence, Pair of snake-handled maiolica vases, decorated with grotesque designs on a white ground After the 16th century originals designed by Flaminio Fontana for Ferdinando de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, which are now in the Museo del Bargello, Florence.
Maurizio Nobile Gregorio Pagani and Cristofano Allori (1558 - 1605; 1577 - 1621) Portrait of Agnolo di Lorenzo dei Favilla The identity of the young man is revealed by the letter he holds in his right hand: he is "Agnolo di Lorenzo di M. Agnolo del Favilla, civis flo, of eighteen years three months on eleven of February 1606 in Florence" an illustrious Florentine citizen, notary by profession and improvised author of the "Rime in the Royal Wedding of the Most Serene Prince of Tuscany Cosimo De Medici and Maria Maddalena of Austria", printed in 1608 on the occasion of the grand-ducal celebration.
Stuart Lochhead French, Avon or Fontainebleau, Gondola cup with Venus as Summer and Adonis as Autumn Catherine de' Medici was an important collector of ceramics by the great French renaissance ceramicist 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. The Gondola cup, a contemporary term for this ceramic type of a couple in a bath, became popular at court. Clearly not a vessel but rather a non-functional decorative work that has become amusing and erotic and was to be admired by its owner in the intimacy of their study.
Klaas Muller Guissepe Piamontini (Florence 1664 - Florence 1742) Saint Mark Piamontini studied in the short-lived, but effective, Medici academy founded by Cosimo III in Rome between 1681 and 1686. When he returned to Florence, the heir apparent, Gran Principe Ferdinando (1663-1713), took a special interest in Piamontini - perhaps partly because they were almost the same age - and commissioned from him many sculptures, the first when the sculptor was only fourteen, in marble, Saint John the Baptist for the Baptistry of the Cathedral (exh. cat. Florence 2013).
Alberto di Castro Medicea Galleria dei Lavori, Grand Ducal Semi-Precious Stone Workshops (Florence, end of c. 17th) Ebony Casket with Semi-Precious Stone Panels in Relief, Amethyst and Gilded Bronze Trimming, Olive Wood Interior In 1588 Grand Duke Ferdinando I founded the Galleria de' Lavori in Pietre Dure, a hardstone workshop, in Florence. He hired local craftsmen and trained them to restore ancient carved-stone objects as well as create original works in pietre dure. These artists soon perfected the art of making pictures with thin pieces of brightly coloured stones set together much like a jigsaw puzzle. During the 1600s the Galleria worked mainly on the decorations of the Medici family's chapel in the church of San Lorenzo.
Tomasso Brothers Rome, Apollino, after the Antique The earliest record of the Roman antique model for this bronze Apollino dates to 1704, when it was at the Villa Medici in Rome. It achieved immediate fame and later versions of it were often paired with the Venus de Medici, as in Thomas Hope's house 'Deepdene', in Surrey, England. Since 1771 the antique original has been displayed in the illustrious 'Tribuna' of the Uffizi, where the Medici displayed their most prized artistic treasures. The Tomasso Brothers also have a work by Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi (1656 - 1740), one of the finest bronze casters, who at the behest of Cosimo III de' Medici, returned to Florence in 1682 and was named Director of the Grand-Ducal Mint and in 1684 appointed Professor at the Accademia del Disegno where he had once studied. A work attributed to Vincenzo Foggini (Active c. 1728 - 1755), who became court sculptor to the Medici, taking over the foundry at Borgo Pinti which had been passed down from the time of Giambologna.
Georg Laue, Kunstkammer Workshop of the Saracchis Court rock-crystal jug The Medicis were well known for their exquisite studiolo. Among the items included in their collection were vessels made of rock crystal, adorned with engravings and fitted with precious mounts, they were the most rare and precious collectors in the 16th and 17th centuries could possess. They also gathered a whole collection of Venetian glasses that were displayed at the Uffici next to the famous renaissance paintings, sculptures and hardstone works.