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Editors Choice

 Medici Treasures
Alevtina Kalinina

he Medici were a family of Florentine bankers who rose to power in the 14th and 15th centuries. They produced politicians popes, princes in Italy, and Queens of France. The Medici were well-known patrons of the Arts, sometimes using them as a tool of diplomacy or power. The name of Medici is closely related to the development of the Renaissance in Italy: Fra Angelico, Botticelli and Raphael, Michelangelo, Benvenutto Cellini were all their protégés. “Medici Treasures” is an unprecedented exhibition organized by Italian and Russian curators in the Moscow Kremlin. It comprises masterpieces that were part of the famous Florentine dynasty’s collection that was dispersed over time to several museums in Florence. The largest part now belongs to the Palazzo Pitti, also to the National Museum of Bargello, the Palatine Gallery, and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and others.

The present exhibition, organized as part of the Italian Culture in Russia programme, has united the efforts of these museums and tries to give an idea of the full scope of the glamour of the Medici line. Their rise to political power started with Cosimo de Medici, or Cosimo the Elder, who was born in 1389. Cosimo had the best education available in 14th century Florence. His reign and that of his grandson Lorenzo are considered to be a golden century for Florence, one of the centres of the Renaissance. The art collection was started by Giovanni di Bicci, Cosimo the elder’s father. All future generations inherited a passion for collecting. The Medicis realized that possessing refined and precious things strengthened their status and power. For several centuries, generation after generation of Medicis added to a multi-faceted collection comprising crystal cups, antique vessels and cameos, coins, medals, precious vases, bronze, various jewels and other items. This world famous collection was an example for those who would collect art systematically and actually was a kind of prototype for future arts museums.

The exhibition in the Kremlin is set up chronologically, it traces the evolution of the Medicis from earliest times and includes acquisitions by Lorenzo the Magnificent to Anna Maria Louise, who gave the family collection to the city of Florence as a gift, with the condition that it would never leave the city.

The first generation of Medici, for example, demonstrated special passion for antiquity which was in line with the Renaissance in general. Italian dynasties liked to see themselves as the successors to the Roman Republic, and the Medicis were no exception. Gems and intaglios are a special part of the exhibition, presenting the best examples of glyptics—the art of engraving or carving on precious stones, manufactured during ancient times and also cameos carved during the Renaissance, depicting the Florentine nobility or numerous mythological intaglios. Under Cosimo’s sons Francesco and Ferdinando, the collection was enriched with beautiful “pietre dure”—fine mosaics from precious and semiprecious stones. Francesco Medici started manufacturing precious items from crystal to even porcelain. Under Ferdinando I, the technique of mosaics would reach its climax and would be internationally attributed to as Florentine mosaics. Jewels related to the last Medici—Anna Maria Louise are of equal interest, too. Pendants, jewellery made

May 20-August 1
Moscow Kremlin
Ivan the Great Bell-tower complex
Open: 10.00-17.00, except Thursday

from pearls and gold with enamel, are genuine sculptures in miniatures, depicting del’ arte scenes, antique mythology, figurines of birds and animals. One of these sculptures—a present to Anna Maria from her husband is a tiny golden cradle with a pearl for a blanket and a tiny child beneath it. The child represented the dream of a successor; one which never came true. In 1743 the Grand Ducal line died with Anna Maria Louisa de Medici.

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