Studiolo of Francesco I de' Medici, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence


Studiolo of Francesco I de' Medici, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
(1568-1575)
   The studiolo of Duke Francesco I de' Medici is located on the second story of the Palazzo Vecchio and was used for geological and alchemist studies, two of the duke's main interests. The doors of the cupboards that once contained his scientific books and instruments were painted by Giorgio Vasari and his pupils with scenes that link to the room's function. The program was devised by the learned Vicenzo Borghini, a Benedictine prelate, prior of the Ospedale degli Innocenti and first lieutenant to the artists' academy in Florence, who had close ties to the Medici and Vasari. In all, 34 paintings were commissioned for the project with an overall theme of the relationship between art and nature. The ceiling, by Francesco Morandi and Jacopo Zucchi, establishes the tone for the rest of the decorations. It represents an allegory of nature that references the Pythagorean tetrad of the four elements (earth, wind, fire, and water), as well as the seasons and humors of man (sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic). The elements are then also referenced on the wall cabinets. So, for example, for water Vasari rendered his Perseus and Andromeda, which relates how sea coral was formed, and Alessandro Allori painted the Pearl Fishers, which depicts nude figures diving for pearls and frolicking by the seashore. Mirabello Cavalori's Wool Factory, which shows men engaged in the carding, boiling, and wringing of wool, would refer to the element of fire as the men in the foreground ensure that the blaze under the cauldron remains lit. Also related to fire is Giovanni Maria Butteri's Discovery of Glass, as the material is heated during its manufacturing.
   The decorative program originally included eight statuettes contained in niches executed by Bartolomeo Ammannati, Giovanni da Bologna, Vincenzo di Raffaello de' Rossi, and others. These presented related mythological figures — for instance, Rossi's Vulcan, the god of fire. The studiolo was dismantled by Francesco I in 1586 and only reassembled in the early 20th century, which has led to questions on the original scheme and order of the works. The commission represents one of the most significant examples of late Florentine Mannerism and points to the Medici's contributions to the arts and learning.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.