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Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance
© 1998 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet
The Medici were Florentine bankers and merchants and were well known as patrons of the arts and keen collectors. This red jasper dish is from the collection of Lorenzo de' Medici (1449-1492), known as Lorenzo the Magnificent. The style of the dish resembles that of similar Venetian pieces, suggesting that it was made in Venice in the late 14th or early 15th century.
A studiolo, or small study, is, as the name suggests, a room for quiet contemplation. Collectors kept their favorite pieces in their studies, where they could admire them. A studiolo was usually decorated with marquetry or paintings, according to the owner's taste. The studiolo of Isabella d'Este, Marchioness of Mantua, for example, was decorated with paintings by Andrea Mantegna. Studiolos were often used for displaying rare and unusual items from the owner's collection. The studiolo in the Medici palace designed for Piero the Gouty (1449-1492) contained what was believed to be a unicorn's horn, maps, clocks, precious manuscripts, paintings, and hardstone items like the dish now in the Louvre.
Perfect mastery of the art
The Louvre received this dish along with another jasper dish bearing the same inscription from the Charles Davillier bequest in 1883. Nearly all the items in Lorenzo the Magnificent's collection were inscribed with the letters "LAV. R. MED." The dish is round. It is exceptional to see stone carved so finely, both in the body and the lip. The shape is reminiscent of certain very common types of Roman ceramics, particularly sigillate terracotta. Similar dishes can be seen in the Museo degli Argenti in Florence.
The difficulty of dating the work
Such technical mastery is not found later than the 15th century. When this dish is compared with the Zantani bowl in Venice, which can be dated to the mid-14th century by the Zantani family's coat of arms, it seems likely that the jasper dish was made in Venice at around the same time. However, it is impossible to give a precise date for this work at the present time.
Paris (14th - 15th century)
H. 7 cm; Diam. 21 cm
Former Lorenzo de Medici collections; Ch. Davillier bequest, 1883
Display case 23
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