5 October 2006 -
7 January 2007

At Home in Renaissance Italy

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Scrittoio

The Medici-Tornabuoni Birth Tray Enlarge

Above:
The Medici-Tornabuoni Birth Tray
Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, called Lo Scheggia (1406-86)
1449, Florence
Wood with gold, silver and tempera paint

Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase in memory of Sir John Pope-Hennessy: Rogers Fund, The Annenberg Foundation, Drue Heinz Foundation, Annette de la Renta, Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Richardson, and The Vincent Astor Foundation Gifts, Wrightsman and Gwynne Andrews Funds, special funds, and Gift of the children of Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Logan, and other gifts and bequests, by exchange, 1995 (1995.7)

The Medici: Bankers, Rulers and Patrons

In the 15th century the Medici bank was one of the most powerful companies in Europe, with branches from Naples to Milan, and Geneva to London. Its head, the first Cosimo de' Medici (1389-1464), was also the unofficial ruler of the Florentine Republic until his death.

Cosimo's most visible achievement in the city was the new Palazzo Medici. Its decoration and furnishings were an expression of his artistic and intellectual aspirations, and a testimony to his discernment as patron. His son Piero (1416-69), who governed the city for a short time, added the famous study or scrittoio.

Piero's son Lorenzo (1449-92), known as Il Magnifico, was a talented statesman who distanced himself from the family business to devote himself to politics and cultural patronage.

"Then we go into the triumphal and luxurious study
covered with intarsia and paintings
in perspective and sublimely worked
with a great mastery of architecture.

There are many ornately decorated books
and vases of alabaster and chalcedony
mounted on gold and silver.

And everything there is beautiful and fine,
brought to complete perfection
by nature and by human intellect.

From a poem describing the Medici Palace (anonymous, 1459)