CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Natura morta: still-life painting and the Medici collections

Exhibition: 25 August - 21 October 2007


Contemporanea Progetti, Florence, Italy, in collaboration with the Trust for Museum Exhibitions, Washington, D.C.

Wealth, power, and cultural dominance—the Medici had it all. For three centuries they ruled, shaped tastes, and set trends in banking, politics, religion, humanist ideas, art, architecture, and science. With their influence the Florentine republic thrived, and the Renaissance was born. Natura Morta: Still-Life Painting and the Medici Collections offers a slice of Medici life. Entrepreneurs and patrons of the arts and sciences, they began collecting still lifes to decorate their country villas. Their eclectic tastes influenced a genre that shaped studies in nature, botany, and agriculture along with artistic practice in light, form, color, composition, and realism.

Known as natura morta in Italian, still lifes depict—in sumptuous detail—flowers, musical instruments, fruit, vegetables, and animals. The still-life genre—practiced since the Roman times and still vital today—exploded during the Baroque period (1600s–1720s), and Florence, thanks to the Medici, was an important center of European activity.

The exhibition at the Chazen includes paintings by Bartlolomeo Bimbi, Italy’s foremost painter of still life in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, as well as mosaics made by the Grand Ducal Workshops. Other featured artists are Cristoforo Munari, Bartolomeo Ligozzi, and Giovanna Garzoni. Natura Morta is a touring exhibition that includes paintings from Italian institutions such as the Uffizi Gallery, the Museo della Natura Morta, and the University of Florence Museum of Natural History, as well as private collections. In addition to being patrons of local artists, the Medici also collected works from other schools of painting, both Italian and foreign, and, in particular, works of Flemish and Dutch artists such as Willem van Aelst, Jan van Kessel and Nicola van Houbraken.