An Italian gilt-bronze-mounted pietre dure and ebony frame, Galleria dei Lavori, Florence late 17th/ early 18th century
- ebony, hardstones
L. Monaci, Disegni di Giovanni Battista Foggini, Florence, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, 1977.
K. Lankheit, Florentinische Barockplastik, Munich, 1962.
A. González-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto, Milan, 1986.
Text by Alvar González-Palacios:
There are only two other known frames with pietre dure ornament from the Galleria dei Lavori in Florence. One is in the Museo Civico in Turin and contains an older pietre dure plaque of a landscape. The second was made for the wedding of Giangastone de' Medici in 1697 and is in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence Frames of this kind were clearly rarely made given the challenge of combining the subject matter of a picture with such elaborate multi-coloured embellishment.
The large frame made for Giangastone, which is a masterpiece of the grand-ducal workshops, features some of the same decorative solutions as those used for the frame illustrated here, including the scrolls that define the corners and the compositions of fruit and leaves tethered by cloth bands, see fig. 1. These ornamental motifs are entirely characteristic of the style of Giovanni Battista Foggini who was the head of the Grand Duke's workshops at this time. Similar ideas can be found in other designs by him, where two large scrolls flank the figure of a 'Y' or a stylised tuft. Many objects made by the Galleria dei Lavori under Foggini's directorship, feature the decorative solutions devised by him, amongst them the supports for the three famous reliquaries in the Basilica of San Lorenzo (those of Santa Maria Egiziaca, San Sebastiano and the patronal saint of the Basilica, San Lorenzo). Even the decorative ornament on the famous Elector's Cabinet at Palazzo Pitti includes two large scrolls pinched together in the lower part of the cabinet. The same motif is more in evidence, this time embellished with pietre dure and bronze, in the Electress Palatine's prie dieu of 1706, see fig. 2. Even in the inlaid doors at Palazzo Pitti, made by the French ébéniste Riccardo Bruni, but designed by Foggini, a similar composition appears. The two leafy scrolls on the frame shown here provide the most important gilt-bronze ornament on the object.
The dominant style in Florence in this period, as expressed in the works made in the Galleria dei Lavori, is characterised by the sinuous movement of the scrolling, foliage and flowers of its ornament, in which the darkness of the ebony, the glitter of the gilt-bronze and the many colours of the pietre dure are the constant elements. It is a style that does not appear to change very much between the late seventeenth century and the last years of Grand Duke Giangastone who died in 1737. The frame shown here is wonderfully representative of this stylistic thread which appears distilled to its essentials at this smaller scale, thereby achieving a restrained elegance.