Camillo Ciai

The football match commemorating the visit of the Archdukes of Austria in Lucca on 18 January 1662

Auction Closed

March 22, 07:15 PM GMT


30,000 - 40,000 EUR

Lot Details


Camillo Ciai

active in Lucca in the second half of the 17th century

The football match commemorating the visit of the Archdukes of Austria in Lucca on 18 January 1662

signed, inscribed and dated in a cartouche in the centre of the lower margin: Ludum Lucensibus dictum / IL CALCIO Ferndinando Carlo & Anna, eorumque filia / Claudia Felice / Virtute & form[...] meritis Cesareis postmodum nupta OEnipontis Archiducibus spectatoribus Lucae Anno MDCVI[I] Camillus Ciai Fiorentinus Albo Rubroq[...] colore / Ut pugnabatur pingebat

oil on canvas

unframed: 165 x 240 cm.; 65 x 94½ in.

framed: 201 x 276 cm.; 79⅛ x 108⅝ in.

This lot has an artistic export license. Please refer to the specialist department for further information about export procedures and shipping costs.
Probably commissioned from the city of Lucca by Ferdinand Charles, Archduke of Austria (1628–1662), on 19 January 1662 ;
Subsequently sold to the Baroni Family, Lucca, as a consequence of Ferdinand Charles's premature death in 1662 (this and the above according to Pelligotti 1773);
Private collection;
Where acquired by the present owner.

G.A. Pelligotti, Memorie storiche della città di Lucca dalla sua edificazione fino all’ anno 1773, MS, 1773, ASLu, Ms. 76, p. 479;
A. Pellegrini, 'Spettacoli lucchesi nei secoli XVII–XIX', in Memorie e documenti per servire la storia dello Stato di Lucca, Lucca 1914, vol. XIV, p. 175. 

This monumental canvas is a rare and historically significant depiction of the football match (which at the time was closer to rugby) held in Lucca on 18 January 1662 to commemorate the visit of Ferdinand Charles, Archduke of Austria (1628–1662), with his wife Anna de' Medici, Archduchess of Austria (1616–1676), and daughter Claudia Felicitas of Austria (1653–1676).

The family travelled to Italy the previous year to celebrate the arrival in Florence on 20 June 1661 of Ferdinand Charles's newlywed nephew, Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1642–1723) and his wife Marguerite Louise d'Orléans (1645–1721).After spending some time touring Tuscany, the Archduke and his family arrived in Lucca in 1662 'in habito icognito sulle diciannove hore e mezzo del 18 gennaio con trecento e più persone [...] e, dopo aver pranzato a hore ventuna, si recarono in Piaggia Romana dove era comparso popolo innumerevole per vedere il Calcio'.2 The 'Piaggia Romana' (so called because of its proximity to the old Roman road exiting the city) was a triangular area of grassland close to the city walls, occupied today by the Botanical Gardens. 

According to Pellegrini, players were split into two teams of 144 each, respectively in white and 'zaffrone' (saffron) coloured liveries.Manuscript sources relay that the Archduke was greatly entertained by the game, so much so that before departing the city the following day, he expressed his wish of having the match captured in a painting.4 This task was appointed to the Florentine painter Camillo Ciai, who executed the task 'con maggior diligenza ed esattezza' (with great diligence and exactitude). Unfortunately, the sudden and untimely death of the Archduke the same year, meant the work never made it to Austria and was privately sold by the artist to the Baroni family.

A note on the game of football

This painting depicts a variation on the popular calcio fiorentino (also known as calcio storico, 'historic football'), only to be found in the city of Lucca. It was first instituted on 1 June 1565 to entertain the local population in the days leading up to 'carnevale' (carnival, celebrated on 25 February).5 Unlike the Florentine version of the game, which was much smaller and reserved solely for the aristocracy, each team was composed of 150 players, which distinguished themselves by the colour of their uniform. Each team was divided into eight groups (of varying sizes) depending on the players' positions and was led by a captain and a standard bearer, both of aristocratic descent.6 They played on a square piece of land in the Piaggia Romana, measuring approximately 100 x 100 m., delineated by a double row of posts, which created a corridor around the pitch where guards would be placed to protect the spectators and break up any fighting.

The fundamentals of the game were closer to rugby and any type of tackle or blow was admitted, given the players' hands were bare (they were not allowed to wear rings or carry any sort of weapon).7 The aim of the game was to score a point by throwing the ball over the edge of the opponents' half of the pitch and each time a point was scored the teams would swap sides. At each end of the football pitch there was a tent, depicted in the present work, where each team could rest and discuss their game plan.

By the time of the visit of Ferdinand Charles, football in Lucca had established itself as an almost annual occurrence, even if its rules had to be constantly reviewed and updated because of the games becoming increasingly violent. In fact, some years the games would have to be suspended as civilians would make the most of the general confusion to resolve personal grievances between each other. Specifically, Romiti relates that the match held in honour of the Archduke sparked one of the most violent civilian revolts, mobilising the entirety of the palace guards.

In the following years, interest in the game waned, and raising concerns regarding the protection of public order meant the practice slowly disappeared. The last game was played in the spring of 1709.An engraving immortalising this occasion is kept in the Archivio di Stato, Lucca.10

1 A. Harold, The Last Medici, London 1932, p. 72.  

Pellegrini 1914, p. 174: 'incognito around 7:30 pm of 18 January with a following of over 300 people [...] and, after having dined around 9 pm, they went to the Piaggia Romana to watch a game of football, where countless people had gathered'.

3 Pellegrini 1914, p. 174.

4 Pelligotti 1773, pp. 478–79.

5 V. Romiti, 'Il gioco del pallone che si dice del calcio', in Alcuni giochi a Lucca al tempo della Repubblica, Lucca 1981, p. 23.

6 For a detailed account of the various positions and their roles on the pitch, see Romiti 1981, pp. 12–13.

7 Romiti 1981, p. 11.

8 Romiti 1981, pp. 47–48.

9 Romiti 1981, pp. 59–60.

10 ASLu, Fondo stampe 627, reproduced in Romiti 1981, pp. 38–39

This lot has an artistic export license. Please refer to the specialist department for further information about export procedures and shipping costs.

This lot is on view in Florence. Please refer to the specialist department to book an appointment.