The Alchemical laboratory.
One of the paintings on the top register.
Mercury, sulphur & other alchemical supplies would
have been kept in the cupboard below.
Portrait of Francesco I bottom right corner
One of the most long term secretive places in the city is now more open to the public - and I recommend to all and sundry that you check it out. I love it! The study of the Grand Duke Francesco I is inside the medieval town hall building, which was used as the Medici ducal palace and ceremonial hall from the 1540’s. In the 1570’s, Francesco de Medici created a small room, accessed only from his bedroom and from his father’s study, where he would conduct his scientific, natural and alchemical studies and experiments - in secret from the court that was then run with strict Spanish etiquette. He kept gold, silver, semi precious stones, bizarre and exotic artefacts from the New World, glass objects, rock crystal vases, beautifully designed and manufactured, and antiquities in cupboards decorated on the exterior with mythological, cosmological and historical scenes symbolically linked to the objects stored behind. The room itself resembled a casket, beautifully decorated, not only with these paintings on the cupboards and the walls above (thirty-four in total), but with wooden carvings on the ceiling and more figurative decoration in stucco and fresco. In fact, all of the figurative decoration was carefully planned by the Domenican Vincenzo Borghini, who was the official court iconographer or spin doctor. It was a program based on the four elements, the four humours, the four seasons and the four temperaments and how man transforms these natural forces using science, technology and art, creating more beautiful and marvellous objects and inventions. Thus, the personal casket room of Francesco displays the power of man as God on earth. The Damien Hirst diamond skull is temperarily displayed next to this room ( hence the temporary opening of the Studiolo to public access) in a blackened out space, rendering the power of the diamond (the hardest and most precious of stones) encrusted human skull even more poignant when considered with the alchemical philosophy of the era of Francesco de Medici. The Hirst exhibition 'For the Love of God' (see previous blog entry) is running until May, so plan a trip soon to the Palazzo Vecchio to experience the secret world of one of the most interesting of the Medici family members.