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Exhibitions | From 09/03/2015 to 06/06/2015

Sweet triumphs and exquisite foldings. Sugar sculptures and napkins for the Florentine nuptials of Maria de' Medici

Sweet triumphs and exquisite foldings. Sugar sculptures and napkins for the Florentine nuptials of Maria de' Medici

The exhibition stems from the banquet held in Palazzo Vecchio on the evening of 5 October 1600 for the Florentine nuptials of Maria de' Medici to Henry IV of France.

We are aware of this historical event thanks to the detailed description given by Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger. Indeed, we know all the arrangements designed by the architect Bernardo Buontalenti for the royal table and those of the guests and the fabulous piece of furniture by Jacopo Ligozzi, a 'credenza' in the shape of a fleur-de-lis, made to show the guests two thousand pieces of the Medici treasure.

Moreover, the archival documentation relating to this ceremony has highlighted the pivotal role played by the sculptures made for the occasion in sugar and the virtuoso napkin foldings. Indeed, the former was intended as "decorative foods" conceived as true works of art - not coincidentally modelled on illustrious contemporary prototypes by Florentine sculptors of the late 16th century - while the latter was also proposed during the banquet to the awe of the participants.

The sugar sculptures produced for the banquet, some considerable in size, inspired by hunting and pastoral themes, aroused the admiration of the queen and guests, thus being qualified as a refined expression of the genius of Florentine artisans on an occasion of unprecedented political and diplomatic importance for the Medici family.

Inspired by this wedding and its celebrations, the exhibition intends to re-enact the banquet with an evocative reconstruction of the "royal table", the "lily credenza", and its furnishings.

The core of the historical re-enactment is the reproduction of some of those sugar figures, today created by the skilful craftsmanship of Sarah and Giacomo Del Giudice of the Fonderia in Strada in Chianti and the fantastic "folding" of napkins made by the master Joan Sallas.

Insofar as they are hardly visible to a non-expert public, of undoubted curiosity is the display in the exhibition of signed receipts and invoices issued by the artists to the Medici administration for their services.

Through these spectacular items, symbolic and ephemeral representations of the Medici splendour, the investigation opens up to other categories, such as sociology, costume, aesthetics, and economics.


The exhibition, like the catalogue published by Sillabe, is curated by Giovanna Giusti and Riccardo Spinelli and is promoted by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism with the Regional Administration for the Cultural and Landscape Heritage of Tuscany and the Special Superintendence for the Historical, Artistic and Ethno-anthropological Heritage and the Polo Museale of the City of Florence, the Palatine Gallery and Firenze Musei.


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