Frieze at the Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano

Lorenzo de'Medici commissioned the villa at Poggio a Caiano from Giuliano da Sangallo around 1485. This glazed terracotta frieze, commissioned around 1490, was originally located on the entablature of the façade's portico. (It is now displayed inside the villa.) The frieze is divided into five scenes, each separated by a term, and is composed of forty-seven separately fired pieces. It is 14 meters long and approximately 58 cm high and 9cm deep. The date of 1490 is given as Lorenzo was still living (he would die in 1492) and the artists involved (Bertoldo di Giovanni and Andrea Sansovino) were active at the Florentine court. The frieze, exposed to the elements since its installation, has required an extensive restoration, first in 1985 and again in 2010-2011. It was originally removed from the façade in 1967 and taken indoors. The work reflects Lorenzo's interest in classical myth and Platonic philosophy, but its exact meaning is unclear. Some, such as Cristina Acidini, read it as The Story of the Soul Accompanied by Genius, whereas, more recently, the iconography has been linked to Pico della Mirandola's Heptaplus. Difficulty in interpretation owes partially to the lack of extant documents on the work. Regardless, modern scholars agree that it was intended for Lorenzo and the humanist circles he maintained. Indeed, it is thought that the program was devised by Lorenzo along with Agnolo Poliziano, a humanist and poet. The complexities and disagreements as to the meaning of the individual scenes and the overall program prevent elaboration here, but for some sense of the differing discussions, see André Chastel, Guy de Tervarent, Antonio Paolucci, Janet Cox-Rearick, and Cristina Acidini. Differences in the style of the figures and other elements suggest the involvement of a number of artists in the creation of the work. These proposals are supported by the 2011 restoration. Though no names can be attached to specific scenes, the work is believed to have all been completed under the coordination of either Giuliano da Sangallo, Andrea Sansovino, or Bertoldo di Giovanni. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.
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