ART and COURT MANUFACTORY, From the Decline of the Medici to the Empire (1732-1815), Florence
From 16 May 2006 To 05 November 2006
Palazzo Pitti - Palazzina della Meridiana
The level of excellence attained by the decorative arts in Florence under the Medici Grand Duchy was not lost during the Lorraine period that followed. This is also explained by the continued fortune of the prestigious old manufactor dedicated to works in semiprecious stones which recon? rmed its central role in the 1700s, revitalised by forti? ed ties with the local and international milieu of the “major arts.” Diverse factors contributed to the lively artistic circuit that developed around the Florentine court in the second half of the 1700s, and the consequent renewal of “Florentine mosaics”. One of these was the appointment of Frenchman Louis Siries, formerly goldsmith to Louis XV of France and later to the last Medici, as director of the grand-ducal manufactory. Siries’ artistic policy, later also adopted by his son and grandson who succeeded him at the head of the manufactory, aimed at a successful liaison with the major artists then active in Florence who were called upon to conceive inventions for creations in semiprecious stones, that were often the avant-garde of European decorative taste.
Incentive for the international aperture and renown that Florence enjoyed at that time, came from her dynastic ties with the court of Vienna, the contact with her resident or visiting cosmopolitan society and, at the turn of the century, the dazzling Napoleonic adventure. The many-faceted artistic environment that revolved around the shining grand-ducal manufactory, its illustrious patrons and directors, they too artists, included ? gures such as Giuseppe Zocchi, protagonist of Florentine painting in the middle decades of the century; Antonio Cioci whose precociously neoclassical decorative ideas met with international success and renown; and Giovan Battista dell’Era from Lombardy, exquisite portraitist and author of conversation pieces who dedicated the last years of his brief existence to the manufactory of Florence.
The approximately 200 works of art selected for the exhibition embracing painting, sculpture, the goldsmith’s craft, jewellery, porcelain, scagliola and, of course, semiprecious stones, come from both national and international institutions. They connect the “guideline” of the court manufactory with articulated and correlated themes such as Louis Siries’ activity as goldsmith for the last Medici and as maker of cameos for Maria Teresa of Austria, Giuseppe Zocchi as painter and decorator, and his successors; neoclassicism under Pietro Leopoldo and its manifestations in the applied arts; the decorative splendour of the Empire style.
These are the period and context that the exhibition proposes to illustrate, delineating a picture that for quality and variety of works selected, is enjoyable, targeted, and representative of the Florentine cultural and artistic milieu in the course of almost a century, until today neglected by exhibition initiatives.
The 19th century rooms of the Palazzina della Meridiana in which the exhibition is held have been restored for the occasion, and are now open to the public again after almost twenty years. The exhibition, divided by theme into seven sections, may be seen in 13 rooms of the Meridiana, and in several of the Galleria del Costume, where clothing and accessories related to the theme of the exhibition are shown.