- Lorenzo de'Medici: Collector and Antiquarian
Laurie Fusco, in collaboration with Gino Corti, has produced a monumental and definitive study on the antiquarian ambitions of Lorenzo de' Medici, the notes providing a dazzling array of information about his fellow collectors. The heart of the publication is the 107-page appendix, which contains transcriptions of some 320 documents, 197 of them previously unpublished. These documents provide a vast amount of information regarding Lorenzo de' Medici's ambitions to excel in the increasingly crowded field of collezionismo.
The appendix of the documents is accompanied by detailed notes, including [End Page 854] seventy biographical accounts on the authors and the individuals named in the letters. These contain new information as well as a thorough summary of what has previously been known. Thus, for example, the biography of Bishop-Elect Ludovico Gonzaga (doc. 178) has twenty-two lines of bibliography followed by a seventy-nine line summary of the relevant eleven documents.
Attention to detail is also a hallmark of the index, where, in addition to a listing of names, there are entries for such subjects as "Lorenzo's forebears," "Artists assisting Lorenzo," "Lorenzo and his agents," "Lorenzo's diplomacy with Giovanni Ciampolini," and "Sellers to Lorenzo and his agents," "Illegal exportation," "Paul II's greed for coins," "Other Collectors," etc.
The text that precedes the appendix comprises six chapters, beginning with "The First Period of Collection: 1465–1483" and ending with "Lorenzo in the Context of Collecting." Between them are chapters devoted to his later activities (1484–92), the nature of the market for antiquities, the types of objects he owned, the criteria for their section, and the evidence for the dispersal of the collection after Lorenzo's death. Of special interest, since it intelligently unites the written and the visual evidence, is chapter 4, which (beginning with sculpture and ending with gems) is concerned with matching the objects mentioned in the documents with extant objects.
Here the methodology is both rigorous as well as imaginative. Earlier attempts to identify Lorenzo's heads and busts with sculptures today in the Galleria degli Uffizi are called into question, and there is a lengthy discussion of Lorenzo's Sleeping Cupid that also touches on the question of the identification of the versions by Michelangelo (and attributed to Praxiteles) owned by Isabella d'Este. And if all the questions marks have not been resolved it is not for want of trying.
The suggestion that the head of Jupiter given to Lorenzo by the Sienese in 1489 might be identified with the bronze now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna is dismissed, both on the grounds of uncertain provenance and also because the Vienna bronze lacks the bust and also does not have the distinctive facial characteristics mentioned in the documentation. Believing that objects in Lorenzo's collection were copied by others, Laurie Fusco postulated that the lost bronze might be reflected in Bertoldo's depiction of Jupiter in the Tempestas from the Palazzo Scala frieze. After all, Bertoldo had privileged access to the Medici collection, making it not unreasonable that citations of antique pieces might have come from that source.
And while it seems reasonable to believe that the group of Three Fauns discovered in 1489 may well be reflected in Pollaiuolo's Battle of the Nudes, it seems less certain that Antico had to have made an undocumented stopover in Florence — either on the way down to Rome or during the return trip to Mantua — to see the Medici lost Hercules which Fusco suggests is documented in a figure in one of Bertoldo's reliefs. Here the methodology may be more speculative and imaginative than rigorous, but it does provide important clues which are deserving of further consideration.
Whatever one's personal scholarly interests, the documentation for Lorenzo's [End Page 855] collection, the cataloguing of all the extant pieces owned or thought to have been owned by him, the market for antiquities, and the dealings and double...