Collections of sophisticated ivory masterpieces allow the visitor to enter a magical world of graceful objects

From the middle of the 16th century, for almost two centuries, the courts of Europe considered ivory sculpture to be one of the loftiest and most sophisticated forms of artistic expression. Throughout Europe emperors and grand dukes, popes and princes, prelates and wealthy bankers vied for the ivory sculptors’ works, often putting together collections of ivory masterpieces.

Ferdinando I de' Medici (1549-1609) started one of the most spectacular collections of carved ivory in Europe.

In terms of its size, quality and importance, the Medici collection could only be compared to the one of the imperial court in Vienna and those in Dresden and Munich.

Despite their international importance, no specific exhibition either in Italy or abroad has ever been devoted to Baroque ivories. Ivory carving is the result of talented craftsmanship and this exhibition wants to highlight the beauty and importance of works of art made in ivory present in the collection at the Silver Museum in Palazzo Pitti.

This temporary exhibition is composed by over one hundred and fifty pieces both from the Florentine collection and from leading foreign museums, along with other ivories from private collections never exhibited before in public.

The exhibition is divided into several sections tracing the art of ivory carving from the 15th century, when it caught Lorenzo de’ Medici’s attention, through the High Renaissance and later, right up to the explosion of the Baroque with works by the most famous Flemish and German sculptors, such as Leonhard Kern, François Duquesnoy, Georg Petel and Balthasar Permoser.

Johann Balthasar Stockamer (1633 – 1700), David, 1663-1669, avorio.  Firenze, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Tesoro dei GranduchiJohann Casimir di Sassonia – Coburgo (Gotha, Germania 1564 - Coburgo, Germania 1633),  Vaso, 1618-1631, avorio tornitura. Firenze, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Tesoro dei GranduchiMaestro delle Furie - manifattura tedesca, Marco Curzio che si getta nella voragine,  metà XVII secolo, avorio. Firenze, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Tesoro dei GranduchiMarcus Heiden (notizie dal 1618 al 1664); Johann Eisenberg (notizie dal 1626 al 1659)  manifattura di Coburgo, Vaso, 1618-1631, avorio. Firenze, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Tesoro  dei GranduchiBalthasar Griessmann (1620-1706), Boccale da birra, XVII secolo, avorio.  Firenze, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Tesoro dei GranduchiJustus Glesker (ca. 1615, Hamelin, d. 1678, Frankfurt), Ermafrodito, 1664- 1669, avorio. Firenze, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Tesoro dei GranduchiManifattura fiammingo-spagnola, Ss. Concezione, fine sec. XVII secolo,  avorio. Firenze, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Tesoro dei Granduchi


Diaphanous Passions - Baroque ivories from the courts of Europe

The Treasury of the Grand Dukes (Silver Museum), Pitti Palace, Florence

16 July – 3 November 2013

Exhibition curated by Eike D. Schmidt

Exhibition catalogue published by Sillabe (available only in Italian)

Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo, Direzione Regionale per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici della Toscana, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze; Museo degli Argenti e Firenze Musei, Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze