Cosimo I de' Medici: Renaissance Patron

'Manhood', wool and silk tapestry by Benedetto Squilli from designs by Giorgio Vasari, Florence, Italy, 1565. Museum no. T.110-1975

'Manhood', wool and silk tapestry by Benedetto Squilli from designs by Giorgio Vasari, Florence, Italy, 1565. Museum no. T.110-1975

Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519 - 74) was Duke of Florence between 1537 and his death. He belonged to a branch of the wealthy and powerful de’ Medici family, who had dominated Florence since the time of Cosimo the Elder (1389 - 1464).

From the early days of the dynasty the de’ Medicis were renowned for their patronage of the arts, and Cosimo I continued this tradition, supporting artists such as the painter, architect and biographer, Giorgio Vasari (1511 - 74).

According to the records of the Medici tapestry workshops, this tapestry is part of a 14-piece set depicting the Life of Man, made at the workshop of Benedetto Squilli to the instructions and designs of Giorgio Vasari. The set was probably for refurbishment of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence to hang in Cosimo I’s winter dining room.

This panel depicts Man midway through his pilgrimage of life, ascending the mountain of salvation in the company of two female figures, Faith and Innocence, together with the winged child personifying Divine Love. Two other women, Religion and Piety, await them half-way up the mountain. The set of tapestries linked the Ages of Man with the Pilgrimage of Life. Youth is given the choice between the World, the Flesh and the Devil and the Path of Virtue.

You can listen to a description of the tapestry using the audio bar below. If you then click on the main image you can view a large version of the tapestry while listening to the description.

Download: mp3 | ogg View transcript

Amanti, io vo' pur dir

Amanti, io vo' pur dir (Lovers, I Can Tell You) is a madrigal, or poetic song. It is a love song composed by Francesco Corteccia in 1541 and like all Corteccia's major works, it was dedicated to Duke Cosimo de' Medici, the ruler of Florence at the time. Corteccia was Cosimo's favourite composer and an influential figure in Florentine musical life, performing, composing, and teaching. He wrote music for both informal court entertainments and official functions including Cosimo's wedding. Corteccia's madrigals would have been performed in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, where Cosimo lived, and the same building in which the Ages of Man tapestry was displayed.

This recording of the song was made by the Royal College of Music especially for the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries thanks to an award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It is sung by soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices accompanied by a lute.

Download: mp3 | ogg View transcript

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