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Exhibitions | From 18/05/2016 to 10/09/2016

Jesters, villains and gamblers at the Medici court

Jesters, villains and gamblers at the Medici court

The exhibition shows, through genre painting, a varied and unexpected sample of characters from the Medici court embodying the ambivalent world of buffoonery, rusticity and games and who were responsible for the entertainment and amusement of the Lords: an antidote to the always lurking boredom.

The exhibition, hosted in the halls of Palazzo Pitti in Florence, presents some of the most bizarre and unexpected figurative subjects frequently found in the Medici collections, which, between the 16th and 18th centuries, were depicted in significant and sometimes curious ways. These are so-called 'genre' scenes, a symbolic universe that, in the established hierarchy of Baroque painting, made it possible to illustrate various comic aspects of social and court life, often with moral or educational intentions. Namely, those themes otherwise considered shallow and lacking in decorum, unworthy of the highbrow painting usually destined for sacred, mythological or historical subjects.

For the most part, the selected works come from the deposits of the Galleria Palatina and Galleria delle Statue e delle Pitture and reveal to the visitor marginal and deviant characters such as jesters, ignorant or grotesque peasants, dwarves and players of both licit and illicit games. Thus, 'genre' painting becomes the critical tool that allows us to delve, through art, into the most varied reality of the world.

The comicality of these subjects, not exempt from dramatic or at least melancholic implications, is expressed through the professional jesters, represented here in three types: of the word - skilled in verbal stunts and witty improvisations -; of the body - the anomaly of the achondroplasic and deformed - and, finally, of mental deviance, such as Giusto Suttermans' Meo Matto.

An itinerary accompanies the exhibition through the Giardino di Boboli, where all these characters - jesters, villains, dwarfs, and gamblers -albeit petrified, come to life and hide in the woods and clearings as if they had escaped from the pictorial universe that created them, awaiting visitors with figurative quips and comical expressions.

The exhibition, curated by Anna Bisceglia, Matteo Ceriana and Simona Mammana, as well as the catalogue published by Sillabe, is promoted by the Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo with the Gallerie degli Uffizi and Firenze Musei.

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