The development of an Auricular Style in Florence, c.1600-40: an abstract by Adriana Turpin

by The Frame Blog

Adriana Turpin Image 2

Ottavio Miseroni, double mascaron tazza in green and red agate, c.1605, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Bernardo Buontalenti (1531-1608) produced designs for architecture and works of art at the Medici court in the late 16th century, developing fluid and naturalistic motifs which have elements in common with those of the Van Vianens. Among the most famous examples is his design for a vase, executed in lapis lazuli in the Grand Ducal workshops and mounted in gold & enamel by Jacopo Bylivelt (1581-4), now in the Museo degli Argenti. Buontalenti’s work continues the zoömorphic tradition of the Miseroni family in Milan, who had supplied a number of commissions for Cosimo I de’ Medici in the 16th century. Although these works in hard stone have been much studied by such authorities as Rudolf Distelberger, Willemijn Fock and Anna Maria Giusti, the latter have concentrated on their stylistic development, rather than their rôle in the early development of the Auricular style in Florence. Of particular interest here is the relationship between the Florentine court and that of the Emperor Rudolph I in Prague. Not only were there familial ties, but Rudolph acquired works of pietre dure from Florence, and persuaded Castrucci to work at his court. Such exchanges need to be examined in order to explore the relationships between the artists of the two courts and the possible exchange of motifs and designs – for example, on a lapis lazuli vase designed by Buontalenti (Kunsthistorisches Museum), and a frame on a sculpture by Donatello presented by Claudia de’ Medici to Archduke Leopold in 1624.

In his capacity as court architect, Buontalenti extended zoomorphic elements from vases and tazze to architectural forms: his fluid, fleshy curves used for the cartouches in the door frames of the Supplicants in the Uffizi (1576-7) and his designs for windows & other architectural features reflect this. His followers continued to include such motifs, e.g. in a casket for Cosimo II de’ Medici by Matteo Nigetti (c.1560/70-1648), who succeeded Buontalenti and worked extensively on the Capella dei Principe. The use of such organic motifs was one of the elements leading to the development of the Auricular and its interpretation in Florence, particularly, for instance, in the development of the cartouche by Agostino Mitelli (1509-1660), who came to Florence in 1637 to work on the ceiling paintings of the summer apartments at the Pitti Palace. His bold and innovative illusionistic paintings (1604-1607), created in partnership with Angelo Michele Colonna, have long been admired; the designs for cartouches are particularly interesting as they reflect the same interest in fleshy, scrolling strapwork as of Florentine craftsmen. The final part of this paper will explore the origins of Mitelli’s interest in this type of cartouche and its possible relationship with the frame surrounding a Madonna & Child by Andrea del Sarto, thought to have been bequeathed to Grand Duke Cosimo I in 1615 by the Marquese Botti, and in the collection of Charles I by 1642, when it was inventoried at Somerset House.


Adriana Turpin studied History at Oxford and Art History at the Courtauld Institute. She is the Academic Director of two MA programmes on the History and Business of Art & Collecting, run by the Institut d’Études Supèrieures des Arts in Paris, validated by the University of Warwick. She is a founder member of the Seminar on Display and Collecting at the Institute of Historical Research, and is the co-editor of their publications.

Adriana has written on a variety of topics related to collecting and to the history of furniture, including most recently ‘The Value of a Collection: Collecting Practices in Early Modern Europe, Locating and Dislocating Value: A Pragmatic Approach to Early Modern and Nineteenth-Century Economic Practices, eds. Bert De Munck & Dries Lyna, 2014; ‘Objectifying the Domestic Interior: Domestic Furnishings and the Historical Interpretation of the Italian Renaissance Interior, The Early Modern Italian Domestic Interior, 1400-1700, eds. Erin Campbell et al, 2013; and ‘The Display of Exotica in the Tribuna’, Collecting East and West, eds. Susan Bracken, Andrea Galdy & Adriana Turpin, 2012.