The “oriental” Virtue painted by Pollaiolo in the Uffizi Gallery

09 Sep 18

That of the Virtues is an iconographic subject increasingly frequent in the last centuries of the Middle Ages. The Temperance is part of a wooden series painted by Piero del Pollaiolo and the young Botticelli for the Mercatanzia Guild in about 1470, when the institution was one of the most important in the Florentine financial world .

Now kept at the Uffizi, the table set becomes a further reason for visiting the museum, especially after the researchs that have been carried out on Islamic influences in Florence during the Renaissance and whose results can be seen in the interesting show entitled “Islam e Firenze, Art and collecting from the Medici to the twentieth century “, curated by Giovanni Curatola and on display until September 23rd.

Set up in the same Uffizi museum (Aula Magiabechiana) and at the Bargello, the exhibition and the rich catalogue highlight the many examples which can be pinpointed — in the Florentine art and not only — of artifacts proceeding  from areas of Islamic culture. One of the emblematic cases is right Pollaiolo’s Temperance: the carpet visible under the throne step, where the figure is seated, has a geometric motif of a clear eastern reference which, according to technical jargon, is called small pattern. In addition to that, the washbasin held upright on the left leg of the figure, is another object that demonstrates the influence exerted by the Islamic culture manufactures on the western ones of which the container, for the reasons that can be deepened during a guided visit, is the reworking of a local workshop.

 

Metal and pottery objects produced in Islamic culture areas were particularly appreciated by wealthy merchants in the West, in Florence as well, where for instance in the 14th century refined work’s currency began and intensified in the 15th century. But the relations between the two worlds were not one-sided, since even precious artifacts made in western workshops were requested by the Sultans, who were also interested, like western merchants, in the possession of rare objects which were appreciated as expression of wealth and power. Thanks to the intense work carried out in the last two years by a scientific committee formed in anticipation of this exhibition, it is now possible to have an enriched vision of the works that are already part of Uffizi and Bargello’s collections, going to trace in many cases all the surprising —  and spectacular —  oriental suggestions.


Michele Busillo

Licensed Tourist guide of Florence and Siena 

 

Bibliography
Islam e Firenze, Arte e collezionismo dai Medici al Novecento; Catalogo della mostra a cura di Giovanni Curatola, Giunti Editore, Firenze, 2018. (Italian edition)
This post was written by Michele Busillo