Medici Tapestries Reunited After 150 Years

The stunning arazzi were created by Renaissance masters Jacopo Pontormo and Agnolo Bronzino.

The stunning arazzi were created by Renaissance masters Jacopo Pontormo and Agnolo Bronzino.

A series of exquisite Renaissance tapestries commissioned by Cosimo de Medici in the 16th century will be brought together for the first time in 150 years in an exhibition entitled, “Prince of Dreams: The Medici’s Joseph Tapestries by Pontormo and Bronzino,” which kicks off in Rome in late January 2015.

Cosimo was the great-great-grandson of Lorenzo the Elder, the son of Giovanni di Bicci and brother of Cosimo the Elder and was a member of a branch of the Medici family that had taken an active part in Medici affairs but had played no political role. Nevertheless, when he heard of the assassination of his distant cousin, Alessandro, Duke of Florence, he immediately went to Florence. There, in January 1537, Cosimo was elected head of the Republic, in the government of which he was to be assisted by the senate, the assembly and the council.

Having brought nearly all of Tuscany under his control, Cosimo used his despotic power to promote the country’s well-being, especially the arts. His passion for efficiency inspired him with the idea, extremely advanced for the times, of uniting all public services into a single building, the Uffizi, which was built for him according to Giorgio Vasari’s grandiose, yet practical design. He made Vasari his superintendent of buildings and had him redecorate the interior of the Palazzo Vecchio. He then adopted the Pitti Palace as his residence, where he entrusted the extensive enlargement work to architect and sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati. In 1564, Cosimo and Vasari boldly built the gallery that permits convenient passage from one palace to the other by utilizing the Ponte Vecchio. Behind the Pitti Palace, the vast expanses of the Hill of Boboli enabled Cosimo to indulge in another of his hereditary passions for designing (with Tribolo’s help), the plan of the famous gardens.

In 1545, Cosimo commissioned Jacopo Pontormo and Agnolo Bronzino to create 20 arazzi (tapestries) telling the story of Giuseppe Ebreo, or Joseph the Jew. The arazzi, stretching an impressive 260 feet, adorned the walls of the Sala de’ Dugento of the Palazzo Vecchio, for over 300 years. In 1882, ten of them were taken to Rome to be exhibited in the Quirinal Palace, the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic, where they still remain.

Now, for the first time in 150 years, the beautiful tapestries will be reunited once again.

The exhibition begins in Rome in late January, moving to Milan as part of the Expo Milano 2015 celebrations in May, and then on to Florence until January 2016, where the tapestries will be displayed in their original home, the Sala de’ Dugento in the Palazzo Vecchio.

Gucci will act as the lead sponsor of the exhibit, in collaboration with the Presidency of the Italian Republic and the Municipalities of Florence and Milan and Expo Milano 2015. The company first got involved in the project in June 2014, refurbishing ten of the tapestries using proceeds from the Gucci Museo.

“We wanted to bring back ten tapestries to maximum splendor. Now we examine in depth the history of the works that were originally 20 and that the Savoia Family separated by bringing 10 of them to the Quirinale,” said Micaela le Divelec, Gucci’s executive vice president and chief corporate operations officer.

Each of the three capitals hold special significance to Gucci: Rome is the site of the company’s creative heart; Milan is its fashion hub and Florence is where Guccio Gucci launched his eponymous leather goods brand nearly a century ago.

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