TOSCANA - Firenze
FILE :  Biblioteca Laurenziana 12
TITLE: Grotesquerie with the duke Cosimo I’s Arms 6b

LOCATION: Florence - Biblioteca Laurenziana wind. sXII

DIMENSIONS: 200 x 86 cm

PROVENANCE: original location



ASSIGNMENT: Cosimo I grand duke of Florence

SUBJECT/S:  the Medicean coat of arms with six balls, attribute of the ducal power, stands out in the middle, in a sumptuous niche in mannerist style, with grotesqueries in the background. The central image of the Arms is repeated through others cross-references: above the niche, the ducal crown with three feathers of different colours and, below, hold by two puttoes, the imperial honour of the Golden Fleece. The encomiastic iconography is completed by Cosimo I’s devices : the Capricorn, the duke’s ascendant star sign; a device probably worked out by P. Giovio with the motto: ‘Fidem fati virtute sequemur’, motto that is not written on the windows. The device acquires a further allusive meaning as the Capricorn is emperor Carlo V’s ascendant and it’s under his protection that the duchy becomes more powerful. Below, the other Medicean device, consisting of two ‘crossed Anchors’, with the motto ‘Semper [ duabus]’. On the sides, two emblems of the ‘turtle with sail’ frame a cartouche with a mascaron. The same cartoon was used with unimportant variations for other stained-glass windows with an equivalent subject that close the windows in an alternating sequence with the ones representing grotesqueries with pope Clement’s Arms.

CRITICAL NOTES: the sole critical mention to this interesting corpus of windows, noteworthy for its great quality, is due to Marchini . In a short note at foot in his book on the Italian stained-glass windows (1955), the scholar considers the assignment traditionally ascribed to Giovanni da Udini (G. Rossi) as wrong. The attribution to Giovanni da Udine was most likely advanced as he had decorated Michelangelo’s New Sacristy’s dome with grotesqueries. On the analogy of that also the Colloquio windows at Val d’Ema Charterhouse (see Firenze Certosa Val d’Ema 1-6) dated 1560 were attributed to Giovanni; but according to Marchini, ‘they are more refined for the exquisite little stories’.

In the history of Italian stained-glass windows still all to be written, the stained-glass windows with grotesqueries would be a nodal point in the chapter dedicated to the Mannerist style; nonetheless there is not a systematic and a thorough study yet, as the only research carried out on the matter concerns, besides the already cited windows at Val d’Ema Charterhouse (Chiarelli), the stained-glass windows at Villa Farnese in Caprarola (del Nunzio) and the ones in the Prior’s Rooms at Pavia Charterhouse (Pirina).

Forwarding here some preliminary results of a research that has just started, it must be specified that the typology of the Medicean windows breaks with those used in the two cycles of both the Florentine charterhouse and Villa Farnese, where the lines of the drawing created by the frame follows the sinuous lines of the mannerist figures : the structure of the Biblioteca Laurenziana windows consists of small squares hinged by the square grid of a frame that often interrupts the drawing ductus of the painted figures. An unusual constituent structure in Italy but that can be compared to some contemporary stained glass windows beyond the Alps. In particular, the analogies may be found in the extraordinary group of ‘civic’ panels by Dirck Pieterz Crabeth, coming from the windows of the house Pieterkerkgracht 9 in Leida, recently re-proposed to the critics attention by T. Husband in the exhibition that took place at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The present results of the studies on the matter do not justify to proceed further. However, much has still to be studied in depth, such as the role that the Flemish artists played, as mentioned by Vasari. Among them Gualtieri di Fiandra, author of the windows at the Florentine cathedral and of the Venus being dressed by the Graces panel, the only window left of the cycle at Palazzo Vecchio; but there are also other masters glaziers such as Wanter and Jorio Crabeth, that worked at the windows for the Florentine baptistery.

CONDITIONS: There are various heavily re-leaded breaks ; below, at the right side a "quadrotta" is a modern glass.

In various parts the painting traces are faded. As all the other windows of the Biblioteca, this one as well shows the signs of several interventions and long deterioration. A relevant tampering to the windows corpus was the construction of the adjacent ‘Delciana tribune’ and the opening of the entrance door. In that occasion four windows on the northern side were walled up (two of which – nV, nVIII – are still closed, while the other two – nVI and n VII, next to the door – were re-opened with their relative windows in 1899).

The relation on the considerable damage occurred at the Biblioteca during the earthquake in May 1895 (see Conservation/earthquake damages) does not mention the present corpus , and their condition was all but satisfying if soon after the earthquake , on January 15 1896, Guido Biagi made a request to the regional head office for the preservation of the monuments in order to provide the restoration of some windows that, he asserted, ‘are in bad condition, nor can they bear strong blowing of the winds’

In that same relation Biagi notes the following: ‘for the restoration in question they should need the glasses of other two windows taken out when the Tribuna Delciana was built’. Tests on the stained-glasses made during the restoration presented in detail the use of original ancient glasses coming from other panels of the same series, here used as stop gaps ; a fact that at the moment already turns out to be clear even because of its difficult reading in situ .

According to the archive sources (ASBL – Archivio Storico della Biblioteca Laurenziana – Amministrazione 1895, issue 29), the restoration , carried out by Natale Buschi between February and May 1896, concerned mostly an undefined window. Probably, Bruschi in that activity stage or in the following one of the years 1899-1901 (see Firenze Biblioteca Laurenziana 0) had to extend his work to several other windows, this one included, as from what has been pointed out above.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: see Bibliografia Laurenziana

PHOTOGRAPHIC FILES: Foto Niccolò Orsi Battaglini, Firenze

EDITOR: Caterina Pirina, April 2002