Martedì, 23 Ottobre 2018

Florence shows ivory glory of European courts


(By Christopher Livesay)
Rome, July 18 - The Medici family's famed
collection of ivory sculptures, carvings and assorted artworks
have been put together for the first time in a sprawling exhibit
at the palace once owned by Florence's most powerful dynasty.
On through November 3 at Palazzo Pitti, 'Ethereal Passions'
includes some 150 works, offering a candid glimpse of the
mercantile giants' breadth of acquisitions that stretched as far
as Africa and Asia throughout and beyond the Renaissance.
The show also includes ivories from the various courts of
Europe, on loan from major museums around the world.
Ferdinando I de' Medici (1549-1609), Grand Duke of Tuscany,
is credited with starting one of Europe's most spectacular ivory
collections that continued to be enriched into the several
hundreds until the decline and eventual fall of the dynasty in
the 18th century.
Like most Florentine collectors, the Medicis were known for
their interest in ivories of past eras, especially those from
medieval France.
In terms of quality, quantity and historical significance,
the Medici collection is matched only by those of the imperial
court in Vienna and the principalities of Dresden and Monaco,
examples of which are also on show at Palazzo Pitti, inside the
Museo dell'Argento.
The exhibition features objects of various type, from cups
and reliefs, mythological compositions and genre scenes, to
saints, portraits of princesses and even ornamental towers.
Sections cover the 15th century, when the art of ivory
captured the attention of Lorenzo the Magnificent, then move on
to the High Renaissance and the explosion of the Baroque with
works by Flanders' and Germany's most famous sculptors of the
period, such as Leonhard Kern Francois du Quesnoy, Georg Petel
and Balthasar Permoser.
In its entirety, the show illustrates how, from the 16th
century to the 18th, ivory carving was considered one of the
highest forms of artistic expression, sought-after by virtually
all families of distinction.
The most important sculptors of the period, in Italy,
elsewhere in Europe as well as in Spanish and Portuguese
colonies, took on the difficult medium.
Italy, which was not a unified country at the time, played
a key role in facilitating the import of elephant tusks to
Europe through its large port cities such as Venice, Genoa and
Rome quickly became the main center for working in the
exotic material, prized for its likeness to human flesh.
Emperors and grand dukes, popes and princes, high prelates
and rich bankers contended for these works, creating marvelous
collections in the process, perhaps none more precious than what
is currently on show in Florence.

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