During Italian Renaissance the promotion of cultural and artistic patronage responded directly to specific needs of the Court as a new institution. Small regional states emerged from the fragmentation of the communal and feudal regime as a new political subject directly delegated by a higher authority such as the imperator or that the pope. Because of this structural nature of their power, the Italian princes were constantly looking for support, justification and recognition, both inside and especially outside of the boundaries of the territory ruled.
In fact, the political activity of a prince would not existed without a specific focus on artistic and cultural issues, in search of magnificence. The principles assigned a political role to their patronage: they themselves and their court could achieve autonomous fame, recognition and consensus only through the characters of originality and richness of activities in cultural promotion.
The most common manifestations of the patronage’s court were obviously related to the celebration of the prince and the dynasty as a whole. The nobles governor was enhanced not only through portraits and historical scenes, but also allegorically by defining images of his virtues. In this context, the dissemination of images designed to celebrate the political virtues of the sovereign is a natural consequence and examples are numerous in this way.
- The portraiture
One of the most common forms of celebration of prince and his power was the portrait, intended as recognizable effigy of a sovereign, normally surrounded by symbolic motifs that complemented the overall meaning of the image. The first examples were attested in the fifteenth century. Resuming the type of profile portrayed byRoman imperial coinage the artists tried to extended the regal aura from the classical sovereign directly to their noble sponsorship. At the turn of the century a new type of a half-length portrait is depicted: the paintings shows a three-quarter figure. Undoubtedly the most grandiose type of the official portrait is the full length, especially the riding is the type ones. Another form of portrait was commissioned during the European Renaissance: the one linked to the dynasty often made up of a series of portraits isolated or, as well, family portraits distributed within more complex historical scenes. From the middle of the fifteenth century, in fact, based on the model of the cycles of famous men or emperors, many cycles of dynastic portraits blocks were arranged in series. Quickly the patronage for encomiastic works of art showed how effective could be in promoting universal acceptance around the prince.
For this reason, during the fifteenth century, was emerging ever more precisely the figure of the court artist. He was increasingly distinguished from artists active in an urban context that were still bound to the rules and control of trade guilds. Transferring to the court, the artist could get a number of concrete benefits ranging from the perspective of a fixed fee, the security of a client stable and a lasting relationship. Of course, among these privileges, there were, sometimes, the bond of exclusivity of service that bound the artist to the Prince. Since he was in all respects an employed of the Court he had to produce works of lesser commitment such as ephemeral equipment for festivities or projects of clothing, pottery, weapons.
During the fifteenth century paintings, sculptures and architectures were elevated to the rank of the most intellectual liberal arts precisely thanks to the artists of the court. Their services to the principles, in fact, were deeply influenced by humanistic culture, and thanks to the celebrations and the humanists produced for the figurative Arts essential theoretical elaborations.
- The Medici
Like for the other Italian noble families, even for the florentines Medici nobles, one of the most important celebrations tools was the portrait. The Medici family was a special case, since they had not noble origins and then the dynastic legitimacy was a primary objective. The images created, in these cases, had the function of celebrating a dynasty by replacing the chronicles and literary narratives.
Around 1518, Raphael created the Portrait of Leo X between the Cardinals Giulio de'Medici and Luigi de' Rossi. They were represented at the table, on which it is placed, among other things, an illuminated manuscript. Leo X wanted to be portrayed as a humanist and patron of a great artist. But also his offspring was showed to the attention of the audience, by portraying on its right, the young Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, later Clement VII Pope, and on the left his cousin Luigi de' Rossi.
- Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici
Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici was the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent and Clarice Orsini. Giovanni was born in Florence in December the 11st, 1475. He was the brother of Piero and Giuliano Duke of Nemours. His education was marked by the cultural and philosophical atmosphere that surrounded his father Lorenzo. He had exceptional educators like the humanist Poliziano. Giovanni di Lorenzo started the ecclesiastical career thanks to specific studies and the precise intent of becoming a high prelate.
In November the 30th, 1515 Leo X made his triumphal entry into Florence as pontiff and therefore guarantor of Medici power. Leo X was a careful patron and collector distinguished by intellectual lucidity, refined taste and high culture, in part derived from the training imparted by the Magnificent. Avid collector of books and manuscripts, he was among the protectors of Manutius Typography. The Medici pope surrounded himself with artists, musicians and writers called from various parts of Italy: among others Bembo, Sannazzaro, Guicciardini, Bibbiena, Aretino, Bramante, Michelangelo, Raphael, Peruzzi Giuliano and Antonio da Sangallo. The Medici Pope patronage had provided impressive decorative works and vast architectural and urban interventions for the city of Rome. Lavish works of art and ambitious commision were a strength point for Leo X's internal policy.
- The portrait of Leo X
Raphael went to Rome, called by Julius II, probably towards the end of 1508. There he had a prodigious activity, surrounded himself with students and helpful staff, led a populated and efficient workshop. During these years, in which the Renaissance reached its apogee, Raphael Sanzio worked especially for the Holy See (Julius II, pope from 1503 to 1513; Leo X, Pope from 1513 to 1521) and painted great decorative cycles at the Vatican. Each of them represented a unit and a stylistic synthesis because Raphael Sanzio discovered every time new way improving his manner. At chronological order he painted the Signatura room (1508-11), the Heliodorus room (1511-14), the Borgo room (1514-17) and the cartoons for the tapestries in the Sistine Chapel. The Lodges (1517-19), were decorated with a complex decorative systems, designed by Raphael, including biblical stories and ornate motives. The executions carried on during that roman period were a fundamental experience for all the artists who had worked in the artistic fields during the following decades. These permitted the spreading of the manner of Raphael and the widespread of a classical Renaissance manner as well.
The picture is described by Giorgio Vasari in an edition of the "Lives of the Artists" published in 1550. It is described as painted in Rome and depicting three characters of the Medici family: in addition to the pope, Leo X, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Giulio, illegitimate son of Giuliano (and future Pope Clement VII) and Luigi de 'Rossi natural son of a sister of Lorenzo the Magnificent. On September 1st, 1518 the picture was sent to Florence and Alfonsina Orsini, mother of Lorenzo de 'Medici, Duke d' Urbino, wrote that the painting had been exposed during the wedding of the son with Madeleine de la Tour d 'Auvergne. The portrait had given the impression that the pope was present during the private wedding, but also had some political meaning. Right through the pontificate of Leo, the power of the Florentine family and its link with France was strongly consolidated. In the paintings the pope is seated at a table covered with red cloth, It can be seen a bell engraved with silver and gold, a precious illuminated book and a lens rimmed with gold. On either side of Leo X are portrayed two of his cousins cardinals, in order to present them as potential candidates for succession. On the death of Luigi de 'Rossi, the grandson of Leo X, Innocent Cibo, had a copy of the painting by Julian Bugiardini, with his portrait instead of that of the deceased cardinal, to advance, in turn, its nomination papacy.
The election of the pope was given to the college of cardinals appointed by the Pope and naming the new cardinals, the Pope could preparing the way for his successor and, of course, favor his own family. For this reason usually every new pontiff appointed his relatives as new cardinals so that they could access to the goods and riches of the Church.
It would have been Cardinal Giulio, portrait on the right side of Leo X, the new pope of the Medici family, with the name of Clement VII. In this painting Raphael challenged and won nature, and finally almost deceives us. Fabrics, objects, furniture, seem almost of a tactile material reality. Velvet, damask, silk, silver, embossed, parchment, the strap of the bell, the fur, the hair, the paperweight: everything seem not painted, but true. The game of mirroring the reality goes to the point that the knob of the chair reflects the whole scene. The Pope's shoulders, the shadow of a body, the window of the room all things that otherwise would be invisible to us. This framework is really an archetype of Western portraiture. Medici always kept the focus on the portraits of the characters belong to your family. Medici always kept the focus on the portraits of the characters belonging to their family. In fact, when the Tribune in the Uffizi was built, there the family portraits found placing with honour. Among them, there were some masterpieces such as the portrait of Cosimo the Elder executed by Pontormo.
- Cosimo I
Cosimo I de 'Medici, know as Cosimo the Elder, was the founder of the lordship of the Medici in Florence (Florence, 1389-1464). When the oligarchy had failed taking the city's control, began the domain of just one family in the Florentine state: the Medici's family. Under Cosimo I, while republican forms were being respected and none of the municipality institutions were abolished, thus Cosimo and the Medici were recognized as the true administrators of the city. Cosimo was smart enough in denying any appearance of dominance over the city and always flaunted himself as simple citizen both in private and public life. He always stayed away from the main offices of the state. The people were content with the respect for the outward forms of freedom, which actually were very limited: Cosimo was able to ensure a period of internal peace in Florence while with a shrewd and energetic foreign policy he proved him to be a mediator. As he, after the Peace of Lodi, maintained the balance between the Italian Reigns he also left this political legacy to his successor, the grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent. Cosimo's munificence was exercised with elegant wide patronage, spending generously to charity, lavishing sums in the construction of churches, palaces and monasteries. He welcomed with deference fugitives from Greece, promoting the study of the Greek and founding of Platonic Academy: he created around him that feeling of admiration and gratitude that materialized, for public deliberation, in the title of father of the nation.
Iacopo Carrucci (or Carucci) known as Pontormo (Pontormo 1494 - Florence 1557) was member of the so-called mannerism artistic movement. His works are always of an original beauty and of a refined elegance. The power of design and the delicacy of touch and tone set a sensitive while passionately intimate atmosphere. Pontormo was always excellent in portraits: they are full of psychological intimacy and nervous sensibility; most of them are now retained in public and private collections.
In 1518, the favor of the Medici earned him the commission for a memorial portrait of Cosimo the Elder (now kept at Uffizi).
- The portait of Cosimo I
The portrait of Cosimo de' Medici is made with oil technique on wood around the 1518-19, measures 33 x 25 inches. Vasari in his book "Lives of the Artists” says that was commissioned by Goro Gheri from Pistoia (secretary of Lorenzo de' Medici). Ottaviano de 'Medici was so pleased by this work that entrusted Pontormo to design a fresco in Poggio Caiano Villa (Vertumnus and Pomona, 1519-21). Vasari reports the portrait was kept at the residence of Octavian, until it was inherited by his son Alessandro Medici, the future Pope Leo XI. The painting then passed to the Uffizi, but for a long time it was exhibited in various places, among which the cell of S. Marco Cosimo. The work is now located in the Florentine Gallery since 1912.
The portrait of Cosimo I was a posthumous work and was drawn on the hint of a death mask. For the representation of the face, in fact, the artist certainly had used the iconography of medals of the fifteenth century, since at that time the Grand Duke had been dead for more than fifty years.
The Duke is dressed like a rich merchant, wears a large red cap fallen on the head and the body, standing in an oblique position, is covered by a heavy coat of a flaming red color lined with fur. The hands with intense movement are tightened together.
7. Symbolic message
Pontormo and Raphael were contemporary and knew each other. Vasari relates that Pontormo painted an Annunciation, while working at the workshop Albertinelli, that was admired by Raphael and foretold him a great future as artist.
The celebration of the prince (or Pope as prince of the Holy See) was a shared objective and is shown as primary reason. The Medici noble family is a paradigmatic example on the use of symbolic motives as tools to maintain and to grow politic influence both in internal and foreign policy. Both the paintings interlace a more immediate descriptive will and a more complex symbolic richness. Each portrait, in this way, express not only a simple documentary statement but complete its function with a far more stratified message. In Raphael's portrait, the pope painted isn't the ultimate topic: the political purposes of the painting are underlined by the majesty of the figure of the Pope. He is wrapped in costly clothes but, at the same time, his figure is softened by the details of the thin hands, of the illuminated manuscript, of the lens that the he is holding in his hand and that tend to reveal in Leo not only the vicar of Christ, but also the scholar, the worthy heir of the Magnificent and of the culture promoted by him. This is the eminent descendant that had encouraged, in Raphael, the study of the classical antiquity in order to resurrect the splendor of ancient Rome. It is at the same time a laudatory and celebratory function that is evoked by this painting.
In a similar way the portrait of Cosimo I is more than a simple memory of the deceased. Still some kind of implicit symbolism is hidden in the work of Pontormo. On the left of the composition is depicts a broken branch of laurel. The plant was used as a symbol of the Medici dynasty since the family was brought by Lorenzo the Magnificent at maximum importance. Thank to a slightly assonance Lorenzo - Laurentius - Laurus (first the name is translated in latin and then assimilated to the sound of the latin name of laurel) the picted detail alludes to the extinction of the main branch of the family. However a new shoot is explicitly painted as growing from the tree. It obviously alludes to the vitality and renewal of the family. To confirm that it is the symbolic center of the painting and that the complete message passes only through its understanding, a cartouche is intricately coiled on the branch. It is engraved with a passage from the Aeneid: "uno avv(ulso) no(n) deficit alter", to reaffirm as a broken branch does not weaken the other one.
We can clearly see, then how two different artists, with different stories and different artistic researches, were used by Medici family with similar purposes. As recalled, the political activity of a prince would not be able to thrive or eventually to survive without the continuous creation of an epic story telling that could warrant its claim for power. The artistic patronage and the intellectual resources were, then, fully deployed as strategic assets in the life of the sovereign.
In Florence the Medici principles had assigned a political role to their patronage, because they and their court clearly understood that reputation, avowal and general acceptance could be achieved only through the characters of magnificence and grandness of cultural heritage. The portraiture in Florence from family Medici continued throughout the Renaissance and became the key driver in the Florentine artistic production and set a benchmark for every other Renaissance principate.
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