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Tesoro dei Granduchi di Palazzo Pitti, Florence, till 5 November 2017

With this exhibition the Gallerie degli Uffizi sets out to shed light on a little known yet nonetheless fascinating episode in the history of silverworking in Italy between the 17th and 18th centuries – an episode occasioned by the feast of St. John the Baptist, which has been solemnly celebrated in Florence every year on 24 June since the city’s earliest days, and by the diplomatic relations of the House of Medici which extended its influence over the Roman Curia. These circumstances permitted the Medici to enrich their collections with an outstanding group of historiated silver plates, or ewers, produced to designs by some of the leading artists working in Rome at the time.  

The very memory of the St. John’s plates would have been lost had it not been for the Ginori manufactory in Doccia whose founder, the Marchese Carlo Ginori, commissioned the silversmith Pietro Romolo Bini, a former employee of the Galleria dei Lavori, to make plaster moulds of the silver originals between 1746 and 1748, and it is from those moulds that the plaster casts of the ewers on display in the exhibition have been taken. Today the plaster casts, which the Marchese Leonardo Ginori Lisci donated to the Gallerie Fiorentine many years ago, are on display in the rooms in Palazzo Pitti that host the Tesoro dei Medici, providing us with the only tangible evidence of the magnificent set of lost silver originals.

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