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Work Full-length Portrait of the Hunchback Trafedi

Department of Prints and Drawings: 17th century

Portrait en pied du bossu Trafedi, bouffon de Don Lorenzo de Médicis

Prints and Drawings
17th century

Author(s):
Bartolucci Sara

This drawing shows the dwarf Trafedi, court jester to Don Lorenzo de' Medici. It is a preparatory study for one of Volterrano's frescoes in the inner court of the Villa Petraia near Florence, circa 1663. In this work, the dwarf appears next to the Prince and his ancestors.

The court jester to the Medici

On the small piece of paper glued to the side of the drawing, Filippo Baldinucci describes the subject as follows: "Ritratto del gobbo Trafedi fatto al naturale dal Sign. Baldassarre Volterrano da Lui medesimo dipinto nella Loggia della Petraia Villa del già Ser. Mo P(rinci)pe don Lorenzo di Toscana del quale esso Gobbo era Buffone." (This portrait of Trafedi the hunchback was made by Baldassarre Volterrano, who painted the same subject in the inner court of the Villa Petraia of Don Lorenzo de' Medici, where the hunchback was a jester." These simple words evoke, in part, the court life of the Florentine Medici. Trafedi, the whipping-boy of the court of Don Lorenzo, featured regularly in entertainments at the banquets organized by his master.

Trafedi the dwarf

This small, hunchbacked and awkward figure is a true likeness of the jester Trafedi as he appears in the frescoes of the monumental courtyard of the Villa Petraia. A dwarf is depicted in the scene representing Don Lorenzo alongside his ancestors Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, and Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino. The accent is on the comic and grotesque features of the dwarf, highlighting at once Trafedi's real physical appearance, and its importance for his role as court jester. Small details in the subject's pose distinguish the study from the finished work (Trafedi is not represented from below in the fresco). Another portrait of a dwarf by Volterrano, in Rome (Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe), is similar in appearance to the small fat man on the verso of the present sheet.

The Villa Petraia

When Don Lorenzo de' Medici commissioned Baldassare Franceschini (''Il Volterrano'') to decorate the inner court of the Villa Petraia, in the mid-seventeenth century, the painter was at the height of his fame in Florence. The original contract stipulates only painted architecture, but Don Lorenzo subsequently requested a series of large frescoes with scenes celebrating the power and importance of the Medici dynasty. According to Baldinucci, Volterrano began work in 1636, but the paintings remained unfinished until 1648, the year Don Lorenzo died. The initial designs for part of the decorations were probably drawn up Giovanni Mannozzi (Giovanni da San Giovanni) before his death in 1636. The influence of his decorative style on Volterrano's work at the Villa Petraia is clear.

Bibliography

Notice 52, in Dessins florentins de la collection de Filippo Baldinucci (1625-1696), Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1958.
Petrioli Tofani Anna Maria, notice 20, in La Quadreria di Don Lorenzo de' Medici, Firenze, Villa Medicea di Poggio a Caiano, 1977, p. 85.
Fisher Chris, notice 143, in Central Italian Drawings: school of Florence, Siena, the Marches and Umbria, Copenhaguen, Statens Museum for Kunts, 2001, p. 211.

Technical description

  • Francesco CASANOVA (London, 1727 - Brühl, 1803)

    Cavalry Battle

    circa 1636

  • Red chalk on grained paper

    H. 1.30 m; W. 1.96 m

  • Former collection

    391182

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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Additional information about the work

See level 3