Prie-dieu of the Electress Palatine

Giovanni Battista Foggini (Firenze 1652-1725) e Galleria dei Lavori
King's Bedroom
Ebony, gilded bronze, semiprecious stones
91 x 67 x 42 cm
Inv. OA 1911 no. 836

Under the last generations of the Medici family, the Galleria dei Lavori (grand ducal semi-precious stones workshop) created excellently crafted works, made to the designs of architect and sculptor Giovanni Battista Foggini. In an elegant contrast of colours and materials, the gilded bronze appliqués and the triumph of decorations in semiprecious stones stand out against the black ebony of the wooden structure, alternating the plastic impetus of two soft junction volutes with the more schematic shape of the linear support surfaces. Several master craftsmen collaborated on this piece: Adamo Suster, cabinetmaker, Pietro Motti bronze worker and gilder, Giuseppe Antonio Torricelli, who made the three finely detailed cherub heads in spite of the fact that the material – chalcedony – was hard to work with, and anonymous “fruit makers”, a term used in documents of the period, who worked on the creation of multi-coloured festoons consisting of sixty or so elements, chosen with a sophisticated attention to the variety of stones used, all cut all round.

Together with the Elector Palatine’s cabinet (Inv. OdA 1911, no. 909) and the stoup decorated with the Annunciation (Inv. OdA 1911, no. 837), the prie-dieu was part of a collection of masterpieces in semiprecious stones sent to Düsseldorf in 1707 as a gift from Cosimo III to his daughter, Anna Maria Luisa, who had gone there as bride to the Elector Palatine. Like the other pieces, this too made its return to Pitti Palace in 1717, when the widowed Electress Palatine came back to Florence.