(Florence, 1625 - Pisa, 1705)
Portrait of Don Lorenzo de Medici (1599-1648) under the protection of Athena, goddess of Arts and War
Oil on canvas
H. 98 cm; L. 78 cm
Don Lorenzo de Medici (1599-1648) was one of the sons of Grand Duke Ferdinand I de Medici (1549-1609) and his wife Christine de Lorraine (1565-1637), and was therefore a cousin of Marie de Medici.
A confirmed bachelor, although there were plans to marry the Princess of Stigliano in the years 1624/1628, he showed no interest in politics, which makes him an atypical personality in the Medici family.
An epicurean with a passion for hunting, dogs and horses, he was above all an important art lover and patron, in the theater but mainly in the field of painting. The bulk of his collection, most of which was assembled before 1630, was displayed at Villa Petraia, his country residence which he had inherited in 1609. Most of the works were by contemporary Florentine artists, including Vincenzo Mannozzi, Carlo Dolci, Francesco Furini, Orazio Fidani, Stefano della Bella, and Baldassare Franceschini (Volterrano), who painted a series of frescoes in the courtyard of Villa Petraia depicting the splendor of the Medicis. But other works were also in Don Lorenzo's main residence, the present Palazzo Corsini (located in via del Parione), for which there is no inventory at the time; we cannot therefore exclude that our painting was hung there.
Don Lorenzo was a somewhat "disillusioned" and rebellious personality, advocating great freedom in his artistic choices. Although he had never been a soldier, he shaped his image through portraits in which, like our own, he portrayed himself as a soldier, perhaps reflecting his taste for etiquette and the rigorous court protocol in force among the Medicis.
He would have died poisoned.
The Ulivelli family enjoyed the constant protection of Don Lorenzo, and it was on the latter's recommendation that Cosimo entered, while still a child, the workshop of Matteo Rosselli (1578-1650), who introduced him to painting from life. Renouncing the study trip to Rome, Ulivelli, while continuing to work alongside Rosselli until the latter's death, had already begun to produce his own works in 1641, whether frescoes or oil paintings. In 1648, the young artist entered the Florence Academy of Drawing, which had been founded in 1563 and had been located in via della Crocetta (now via Laura) since 1637. This decade (where he painted the frescoes of the Oratorio dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo), despite the few works known today, was considered in 1795 by the Italian art historian Luigi Lanzi as Ulivelli's best period, despite the artist's youth.
Our painting, which is certainly Baroque but retains some traces of Mannerism, reflects this apprenticeship with Rosselli, particularly visible in the bright, almost acidulous colors, the treatment of the sky or the hair and plume of the helmet, the softness of the faces; we can also detect influences from his future master Volterrano (1611-1689), himself a pupil of Rosselli's since 1628, whom Ulivelli was able to frequent as early as the 1630s. The tight framing, giving the impression of a reduced painting, was a method frequently used at the time.
The subject also reflects the relationship between Ulivelli and his patron; he is portrayed as a military man, under the protection of Athena, both goddess of war and patron of the arts.
Athena, or rather Minerva, wears the aegis, her shield decorated with the head of Medusa that Perseus had brought back to her; the choice to represent a Medusa's head is not fortuitous, because Medusa is also a symbol of wisdom and prudence, two concepts appreciated by the Medicis. Don Lorenzo's father, Grand Duke Ferdinand I, had in his collection in the Palazzo Vecchio the famous painting by Caravaggio (now in the Uffizi Gallery, given to him by Cardinal de Monte, his ambassador in Rome) depicting a shield decorated with the head of Medusa.
11 000 €