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The Dukes of Mantova and Cosimo I de Medici, the illustrious customers of the Miseroni

4. The Dukes of Mantova as customers of the Miseroni

The Duchy of Mantova with its ruling family, the Gonzaga, was a small territory squeezed between the Duchy of Milan, the Republic of Venice, and the Duchy of Modena and Ferrara -- with the Papal State also not far away.

On August 16, 1328, the last ruler, Rinaldo Bonacolsi, was overthrown in a revolt backed by the House of Gonzaga, a family of officials, namely the 60-year-old Luigi and his sons Guido, Filippino and Feltrino. Luigi Gonzaga, who had been podestà of the city in 1318, was elected "People's Captain." The Gonzaga built new walls with five gates and renovated the architecture of the city in the 14th century, but the political situation in the city did not settle until the third Gonzaga, Ludovico I of Gonzaga, eliminated his relatives, seizing power for himself.

The Gonzagas multiplied their fortune by adroitly exploiting the agricultural riches of the lower Po Valley and ended up owing one tenth of the entire Duchy. They supplied nearby Venice with foodstuff and troops during its fight against the Turks and Milan and collected fame and pecuniary rewards as Condottieri or commanders of various armies during the Italian Wars.


Map of Mantova published in 1575 showing its advantageous defensive position by being protected by three lakes formed by the river Mincio

Through a payment of 120,000 golden florins in 1433, Gianfrancesco I of Gonzaga was appointed Marquis of Mantua by the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund, whose daughter Barbara of Brandenburg he married. In 1459 Pope Pius II held a diet in Mantua to proclaim a crusade against the Turks. Under Francesco II of Gonzaga the famous Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna worked in Mantua as Court painter, producing some of his most outstanding works.

The first duke of Mantova was Federico II of Gonzaga, who acquired the title from Emperor Karl V in 1530. Federico commissioned Giulio Romano to build the famous Palazzo Te, in the periphery of the city, and profoundly improved the urban assets of the city. About Mantua, the poet Torquato Tasso in 1586 wrote “this is a very beautiful city and one worth traveling a thousand miles to see”.

The rise of the House of Gonzaga to one of the premier places of European Art Collection is due to Isabella d’Este (1474-1539), the wife of Francesco II of Gonzaga. Her younger sister was Beatrice d’Este, the wife of Ludovico Sforza and she is known as the First Lady of the Renaissance.


The drawing for an intended portrait of Isabella d’Este (1474-1539) by Leonardo da Vinci, and one of the two portraits of her by Titian. The painting of Francesco II Gonzaga (1466-1519), her husband, is displayed in the Ambras Castle near Innsbruck in Austria

Isabella d'Este was well-educated in her youth, as her voluminous correspondence from Mantua reveals. Both Este sisters, Isabella and Beatrice were exposed to many of the new Renaissance ideas. Isabella became later a passionate, even greedy collector of ancient coins and Roman sculpture and commissioned modern sculptures in the antique style. Both she and her husband were greatly influenced by Baldassare Castiglione, author of Il Cortigiano, a model for aristocratic decorum for two hundred years, and it was at his suggestion that Giulio Romano was summoned to Mantua to enlarge the Castello and other buildings. Under her auspices the Court of Mantua became one of the most cultured in Europe. Among the other important artists, writers, thinkers, and musicians being drawn to it were Raphael, Andrea Mantegna, and the composers Bartolomeo Tromboncino and Marchetto Cara.

Her preferred sculptor was Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi, who re-interpreted works of antiquity in small finely-finished and often partly gilded bronzes that earned him the nickname L'Antico.


Small partially gilded bronze statues showing Paris and Bacchus by Isabella d’Este’s preferred Court sculptor Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi

Isabella was painted twice by Titian and Leonardo da Vinci's portrait drawing of her is at the Louvre. She was a keen musician herself, who considered stringed instruments, such as the lute, superior to winds, which were associated with vice and strife; she also considered poetry incomplete until it was set to music, and sought the most skilled composers of the day to complete the task.

After the death of her husband, Isabella ruled Mantua as regent for her child Frederico II Gonzaga. She began to play an important role in Italian politics, steadily advancing Mantua's position. Her many important accomplishments include elevating Mantua to a Duchy and also obtaining a cardinalate for her younger son.

Three dukes Giuglielmo (1538-1587), Vincenzo I (1562-1612) and Ferdinando Gonzaga (1587-1626) had the same passion for art as their illustrious predecessor and contributed all in their own manner to further extend the Gonzaga art collection in Mantova.


Vincenzo I Gonzaga ( 1562-1612) and Giugliemo Gonzaga (1538-1587) by Pieter Paul Rubens, in the painting The Gonzaga Family Adoring the Holy Trinity in the Palazzo Ducale of Mantova which housed the Art Collection of the Gonzaga

The apotheosis of the Gonzaga art collection came with Vincenzo I Gonzaga. He was a passionate lover of luxury and art and his hunts across Europe and its royal houses in pursuit of yet another piece he wanted for his collection, are memorable. In one of these trips he encountered an unknown and young Dutch painter Pieter Paul Rubens, immediately recognized his potential and called him in 1600 to the Court of Mantova were he stayed eight years as Court painter and as diplomatic emissary of Vincenzo.

It is certainly no coincidence that the antiquarian of Rudolf II, Jacopo Strada came from Mantova where he had his business base and was acting as purveyor of objects of art for the collections to the European Nobility.

The Gonzaga art collection in the Palazzo Ducale and in the Palazzo Te, containing about 2000 paintings and about 20,000 objects d’art was not only the private pleasure ground of the Duke but was displayed in such a way to impress any high placed visitor to the Court by its magnificence and luxury. One group of visitors involved three emissaries of Oda Nobunaga, a daimyo or Feudal Ruler of the Sengoku Period in Japan. He had sent, due to its interest in European Culture and as patron of the Jesuit Missionaries in Japan, a delegation to the Pope in Rome. They arrived the 22nd of March of 1585 or about 3 years after their master had already committed Seppuku or Hara Kiri after being betrayed by Akechi Mitsuhide, one of his generals.


Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), who send a diplomatic mission to Pope Gregorio XIII (1501-1585). Nobunaga collected pieces of Western art as well as arms and armour and is considered to be among the first Japanese in recorded history to wear European clothes

The Japanese mission continued to Mantova on the proposition of the Pope. Giugliemo Gonzaga ordered his son Vincenzo to meet them accompanied by local nobles in 22 carriages pulled by 6 horses each and escorted by cavalry and arquebusiers. The Japanese arrived in Mantova the 13th of July and were greeted by artillery salves and cheers of the population which never had seen such rare people arrive in this climate. They were welcomed by the Duke with all possible respects and refinements, shown the palaces and churched and, after the lunch, invited to a bellissiomo fuoco artificato or firework on the Lago Inferiore.


Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantova (1562-1612) and his son and successor Ferdinando Gonzaga (1587-1626) who was a Cardinal but had to rescind this office and marry so he could take up the succession of Vincenzo who died without an heir

Giugliemo Gonzaga was an avid collector of cups, vases and cutlery in rock crystal and other semiprecious opaque stones and he did his best to secure, in competition with Cosimo I de’Medici, the output of these status symbols from the lapidaries of Milan. Whereas the workshops of Caroni and Gaffuri transferred to Firenze with the promise of a salario di tutto rilievo or salary of a quite prominent level, the Gonzaga’s were able to establish a privileged relation with the workshop of Giovanni Antonio Della Scala, Gerolamo Miseroni, Michele Saracci, Angelo Benzoni, and many more.

Correspondence from these times in the archives of Mantova details the steps leading to purchases of these objects. One such example is the message from Mantova dated the 7th of January 1574 and addressed to Giovanni Della Scala and Gerolamo Miseroni. In this message the two cristallai were contacted requiring that "one dozen or still better one dozen and a half of nice and well-chosen pieces" should be send to Mantova so that the Duke Giuglielmo Gonzaga could see and possibly buy them. Della Scala and Miseroni duly replied through their agent in Mantova that they would be disposed to come to Mantova but only against the reimbursement of the travel expenses in the case that the Duke would not have bought anything!

On the 16th of January a part of the objects are already at the Court of the Gonzaga whereas the remaining pieces of the lot were still in the finishing stage. It was replied from Milan that "….of the two cups in crystal made for his Excellency, the one, where they had to modify the foot was finished but the one where they had to make a new cover was not yet perfect because the wish of his Excellency, to make a ring, to lift the cover, integral part of the cover was causing much difficulties in working it."

However on the 20th both masters left for Mantova with many of their wares. Gerolamo Miseroni, as an expert and savvy merchant, had informed the Duke in advance that in the case that the travel expenses were not reimbursed as agreed, "…he would have won anyway already very much from the simple fact that he was able to show to Giuglielmo that he was a true and devoted servant and that if Giugliemo wanted a cabinet decorated with crystals he would have the pleasure to make it and that in not to distant time he could also show some cups which he was making for Maximilian(Father of Rudolf II) of Habsburg."

From the Gonzaga archive it is known that another christallaro master, a certain Merato, had visited with his wares Mantova few days later but that one cup of the value of 80 schudi broke during the voyage. He asked the Ducal Administration that at least his travel expenses of 15 schudi should be reimbursed to him and in this not be treated differently than what the arrangements for Miseroni and Della Scala were.

When the Girolamo Miseroni left for Madrid and Ottavio for Prague, Vincenzo I Gonzaga placed his orders more and more with the equally famous workshop of Saracchi brothers Giovanni, Ambrogio, Stefano, and Simone.

The content of the Gonzaga Collection has been recorded at the death of Ferdinando Gonzaga in the inventory of 1626. The collection had already suffered as increased financial difficulties had forced the last Gonzaga, Vincenzo II to start to sell off part of the collection. A part of the paintings and of the sculptures was offered to Charles I of England through the Flemish art merchant Daniel Nys. However, the English Crown did also experience financial problems and never concluded the transaction driving Nys, who had already acquired the items, into bankruptcy.

The record of objets d’art, where we find also references to items in jade, lists 121 of them in rock crystal; 37 in oriental jaspers, 31 in German Jasper, 11 in rocks of Saint Mary, 9 in white carnelian, 5 in isadres or jade marked with F for Ferdinando, 21 in lapis lazuli, 12 in agate, 4 in red carnelian, as also a further assortment of 85 roughs or semi finished pieces including again isadras or jade.

The pieces, all with the marking F or Ferdinando, are described as follows:

- A cup with six lobes with two harpies as handles, in gold and assembled with gold
and jewels


This cup in jade, now in the Museum Le Louvre fits the description "cup with six lobes with two harpies as handles" (although it has only four lobes) given in the inventory of the Gonzaga Collection of 1626-1627.

- A basin or concave dish with its small jug with mounting in gilded silver with added
parts in gold
valued 400 ducats in gold possibly from Giovanni Ambrogio Saracci
- A small cup with four lobes and a foot and mounting with gilded silver
- A piece of round jade with an engraving on top
- A half melon in the shape of small bowl


This cup in jade, now in the Museum Le Louvre fits the description "half melon in the shape of a small bowl" given in the inventory of the Gonzaga Collection of 1626-1627

In a letter from Bologna send by Alessandro Senesi to the Duchess of Mantova, Catherina Gonzaga Medici and dated July 13th 1622, reference is made by him about the sudden discovery, after many years forgotten, of a piece of jade weighting 19 libbre (6.6 Kg) …and from which already a small corner has been cut with a saw, and which, according to my opinion, is of such shape that a small drinking cup could be made. But the proprietor of it asks a madness estimating it at 150 ducatoni (one ducatone was a 24K gold coin with a weight of 3.5g thus the price for the jade piece is equivalent to 525g gold or an $10,641 US$ as per 02/2007) and says that in the hand of a Prince it would be valued 500. I kept the piece in my shop and did not give it back to him…

In 1627, the direct line of the Gonzaga family came to an end with the death of Vincenzo II, and the duchy and the town of Mantua slipped into a decline under the new rulers, the Gonzaga Nevers, a cadet French branch of the family.

The prospect that the strategically placed fortress of Casale in the Monferrato part of the Duchy and Mantova itself would fall under French domination in the midst of the Habsburg lands caused the immediate military reaction of the Emperor Ferdinand II. On the 18th of July, 1630 Mantova, after a siege, was overrun by 30,000 Imperial troops, the Lanzknechte, under the command of Major General Johann von Aldrigen. A three day sack followed in which nearly all the Gonzaga treasures were either destroyed outright to recover the parts in gold and silver or dispersed by the pillaging soldiers into their homelands or sold on site to dubious merchants who had quickly arrived, like vultures, from Milan. Johann von Aldringen had reserved for himself and his constant comrade and General-Feldwachtmeister Matthias Gallas, the riches of the Palazzo Ducale which both made them extremely wealthy.


Lanzknechte (or mercenary pike men) in an engraving by Daniel Hopfer of 1530 and one engraving by Franz Brun of 1559 showing an arquebusier (or mercenary) armed with the front-loading rifle where a hook was used to catch the recoil (or Hakenbüchse or, by deformation, a harquebus.)

The troops left Mantova only in September 1631 and witnesses reported that carloads upon carloads of spoils accompanied the retiring troops.

The Duchy of Mantova ceased to exist as an independent political entity in 1708 when it was absorbed into the Duchy of Milan.


5. Cosimo I de Medici, another wealthy customer of the Miseroni

The Medici family of Florence can be traced back to the end of the 12th century. It was part of the patrician class, not of the nobility, and through much of its history the family was seen as the friend of the common people. Through banking and commerce, the family acquired great wealth in the 13th century, and political influence came along with this wealth. At the end of that century, a member of the family served as gonfaloniere, or standard bearer, a high ceremonial office of Florence. In the 14th century the family's wealth and political influence increased until the gonfaliere Salvestro de' Medici led the common people in the revolt of the ciompi, the disenfranchised lower classes of the popolo minuto. Although Salvestro became the de facto dictator of the city, his brutal regime led to his downfall and he was banished in 1382. The family fortunes then fell until they were restored by Giovanni di Bicci de Medici, who made the Medici the wealthiest family in Italy and perhaps in Europe. The family's political influence again increased, and Giovanni was nominated gonfaloniere in 1421.

Giovanni's son, Cosimo Cosimo il Vecchio, is considered the real founder of the political fortunes of the family. In a political struggle with another powerful family, the Albizzi, Cosimo initially lost and was banished, but because of the support of the people he was soon recalled, in 1434, and the Albizzi were banished in turn. Although he himself occupied no office, Cosimo ruled the city as uncrowned king for the rest of his life. Under his rule Florence prospered.


Cosimo de Medici, the Elder (1389-1464) and Lorenzo de Medici, il Magnifico (1449-1492)

Cosimo spent a considerably part of his huge wealth on charitable acts, lived simply and cultivated literature and the arts. He amassed the largest library in Europe, brought in many Greek sources, including the works of Plato, from Constantinople, founded the Platonic Academy and patronized Marsilio Ficino, who later issued the first Latin edition of the collected works of Plato. The artists supported by Cosimo included Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Alberti, Fra Angelico, and Ucello. During his rule and that of his sons and grandson, Florence became the cultural centre of Europe and the cradle of the new Humanism. Cosimo's son Piero ruled for just a few years but continued his father's policies while enjoying the support of the populace.

Piero's sons, Lorenzo and Giuliano ruled as tyrants, and in an attack in 1478 Giuliano was killed and Lorenzo wounded. If the family fortunes dwindled somewhat and Florence was not quite as prosperous as before, under Lorenzo, known as the "Magnificent," the city surpassed even the cultural achievements of the earlier period.

This was the high point of the Florentine Renaissance with Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Botticelli, and Michelangelo being active there. But Lorenzo's tyrannical style of governing and hedonistic lifestyle eroded the goodwill of the Florentine people. His son Piero ruled for just two years. In 1494, after accepting humiliating peace conditions from the French who had invaded Tuscany, he was driven out of the city and died in exile. For some time, Florence was now torn by strife and anarchy and, of course, the rule of Savonarola.

Upon the defeat of the French armies in Italy by the Spanish, the Spanish forced Florence to invite the Medici back. Piero's younger brother Giuliano reigned from 1512 to 1516, and became a prince. He was followed by Lorenzo, son of Piero, who was named Duke of Urbino by Pope Leo X, himself a Medici and son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Upon Lorenzo's death, Giulio, the illegitimate son of Lorenzo the Magnificent brother Giuliano, became ruler of the city but abdicated in 1523 in favour of his own illegitimate son, Alessandro, so to become Pope Clement VII. Alessandro became hereditary Duke of Florence.

If the rulers since Lorenzo the Magnificent had been weak and ineffective, this changed when Cosimo I ascended the throne in 1537 at the age of 18. Cosimo was a descendant not of Cosimo il Vecchio but from Cosimo's brother. He quickly consolidated his power, and under his rule Tuscany was transformed into an absolutist nation state. Although politically ruthless, Cosimo was highly cultured and promoted letters and arts as well as the Tuscan economy and navy. He founded the Accademia della Crusca, a body charged with the promotion of the Tuscan language which has to become the standard Italian of today, the Accademia del Disegno, renewed the university of Pisa, and conquered Siena and Lucca.

Cosimo I de Medici (1519-1574), by Angelo Bronzino, and his wife Leonor de Toledo (1519-1562), daughter of Don Pedro Alvaredo de Toledo, the Spanish Viceroy of Naples

In 1569 Cosimo was named Grand Duke of Tuscany. He set the style for the new absolute rule by concentrating the administration of Florence in a new office building, the Uffizi and moving his residence across the river to the Pitti Palace, bought in 1549 and enlarged and remodelled several times by Cosimo and his descendants.


The Palazzo Vecchio, Cosimo’s I initial residence and the U shaped Uffizi palace build as his government administration building and now the famous museum and the Palazzo Pitti with its magnificent Boboli Park 

As a ruler his most revolutionary precept was that a princely regime should run on paper and that every action and deliberation needed to be put into writing and preserved.

In 1569, the thirty-second year of his reign, Grand Duke Cosimo I assigned space in the Palazzo Vecchio for the archive of his family and his state and appointed an archivist to supervise it. By then, the Medici Grand Dukedom had passed the crucial test of survival and Cosimo was eager to consolidate his regime for the generations to come.

During Cosimo's early reign, while he was inventing a new government for a new state, his administration was based on a fluid collaboration between executive secretaries that adapted themselves to the exigencies of the moment and traded assignments back and forth. Since everyone and no one was responsible for everything, the only way to avoid administrative chaos was through meticulous record keeping. From the beginning, every major and minor executive decision was duly noted, every incoming letter was saved and every outgoing letter was copied for the files. This was a revolutionary break-through, in an age when most state business was still enacted through verbal discussions between Courtiers and thus left no permanent trace.


The Medici Granducal Archive in Florence has accumulated, nearly intact and complete, from Cosimo I in 1569 until the last Medici, Anna Maria Luisa de Medici in 1743, 6429 volumes of Medici Government communication containing about 3 million of letters and protocols and filling about 1000 meters of linear shelf space

The archive is a priceless trove of fact, lore and inference about the people and communities of Renaissance and early modern Italy. It reveals the inner thoughts of artists, composers, literary figures and scientists during what was perhaps one of mankind’s greatest periods of creativity and enlightenment. It also discloses the personal dynamics involved in global politics and economics of the day as the Medic built their empire offering a unique intimate view of the period. The access to archival documents is now possible via the Medici Archive Project organization (www.medici.org) which hopes by 2030 to have all documents reviewed and accessible via the Internet.

23 documents in this archive have Gasparo Miseroni either direct or indirect as topic and their respective summary and date of writing is listed below.

10.04.1561 Ferrari Fabrizio, the Medici agent in Milan to Cosimo I in Florence:

Fabrizio Ferrari reports that he has received Cosimo's letter with the drawings; he will study these with Gaspar Miseroni , seek out the necessary stones and send them to Florence as soon as possible.

23.04.1561 Ferrari Fabrizio in Milan to Cosimo I in Florence:

…. Camillo Plauzio, currently at the University of Pavia, might accept an offer from the University of Dôle if he is not satisfied with the compensation offered him at the University of Pisa. Ferrari and Gaspare Miseroni are seeking the hard stones ordered by Duke Cosimo. Lightning struck the bell tower of Pope Pio IV's church in Melegnano; some people regard this as inauspicious.

16.10.1561 Ferrari Fabrizio in Milan to Bartolomeo Concini, former Medici ambassador to Karl V and State secretary in Florence

…. Fabrizio Ferrari will speak with Gaspar Miseroni regarding the work in rock crystal intended for mia signora (Eleanora of Toledo).

20.10.1561 Ferrari Fabrizio in Milan to Bartolomeo Concini in Florence

…. Fabrizio Ferrari reports that he and Gasparo Miseroni have applied themselves diligently to producing the objects in crystal requested by mia signora. He has not found artisans who are willing to work for less than 6 reals per dozen.

20.10.1561 Gasparo Miseroni in Milan to Bartolomeo Concini Bartolomeo in Florence

…. Gasparo Miseroni describes the difficulty in finding workmen to produce the triangles in crystal and the triangles with three cocoons (?) for less than 6 reals because this is what he pays when having made them in large numbers and that they will be the last ones which can be made if they are to be made well (letter signed Gaspar Messerone).


The view of Florence in the Civitatis Orbis Terrarum map collection of Braun and Hogenberg dated 1557

25.12.1561 Cosimo I de Medici in Pisa to Ferrari Fabrizio in Milan

Duke Cosimo I informs Ferrari that he will accept a crystal vase if Gasparo Miseroni delivers it.

27.11.1562 Ferrari Fabrizio in Milan to Cosimo I in Florence

Fabrizio Ferrari informs that he has received the crystal vase that Francesco Bernier is giving to Cosimo I de' Medici. Ferrari awaits orders from Cosimo I or Eleonora de' Toledo as to whether he should send the piece to Florence or have Gaparo Miseroni bring it person. Ferrari will seek out Cesare Federighi da Bagni, a student of Tribolo and crystal worker, who is sending a copy of a tazza in an agate-like stone which belonged to the past Archbishop of Milan

04.12.1562 Cosimo I in Florence to Ferrari Fabrizio in Milan

Duke Cosimo I sends instructions to Fabrizio Ferrari regarding armour, a crystal vase which Miseroni can bring when he is nearby and a tazza in an agate-like stone which he cannot decide to buy without seeing it

16.12.1562 Ferrari Fabrizio in Milan to Cosimo I in Florence

Fabrizio Ferrari informs that he entrusted the crystal vase to Gasparo Miseroni who will bring it to the Medici Court. Ferrari emphatically reminds Cosimo of Giovanni Battista Castaldo's desire for the portraits

01.03.1564 Gasparo Miseroni in Milan to Cosimo I in Florence

Gasparo Miseroni informs Duke Cosimo I that he has received the small cameo set in gold and he will make four dozens of them in the same size and finish and will send them to his Excellency once he gets the order. He has also received un pontalino, (a clothing closure in the form of a hook) in crystal, set in gold and he will make twelve dozens set in gold as his Excellency desires. He also reports that he is making that tall glass of thin crystal as his Excellency desired.

13.06.1564 Cosimo I in the Villa Cafaggiolo (one of his fortified summer residences) to Isidoro di Lorenzo da Montauto, Abbot of the Badia Fiorentina, a rich church in the centre of Florence

Cosimo I orders, with the present document, the payment to the Milanese jeweller Gasparo Miseroni of 150 scudi as an advance for a vase of lapis lazuli that Miseroni is making for him. (It is surprising that Cosimo pays Miseroni this and the following order through an Abby – was it a hidden source of funds?)

01.03.1564 Tommaso di Iacopo de Medici, treasurer in Florence to Gasparo Miseroni in Milan

Tommaso de' Medici informs Gasparo Miseroni that duke Cosimo I has examined the wax model of the topaz cup that he had previously ordered and that he read him Gasparo’s comments. Tommaso lists a few modifications which Cosimo wants to have made: …little engraving and mostly smooth except on the back near the handle and some details of the foot. He solicits a rapid completion of the work and mentions that Gasparo should think about the bill which his Excellency will certainly consider (to pay), if reasonable. He is keeping the model.

11.09.1565 Tommaso di Iacopo de Medici in Florence to Gasparo Miseroni in Milan

Tommaso de' Medici confirms that he received the message from Miseroni and is sending a new copy of the wax model of the cup in Topaz. He also assures that for the price Miseroni and Cosimo will find an agreement and that Miseroni should not hesitate to start to make it.

He also mentions that his Lord needs to be supplied with a certain quantity of fake jewels and fake pearls. He says that they have to be made according to a drawing based on Miseroni’s work and in nine different sizes and from each size of the jewellery he wants 25 or 1125 in total. The jewellery shall have fake and facetted diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and topazes and additionally five types of fake pearls according to the drawing also on the sheet which had been put in the box of the wax model. He would like that these jewels are made as soon as possible and send together with the expenses involved for which he will be reimbursed immediately.

01.10.1565 Tommaso di Iacopo de Medici in Florence to Gasparo Miseroni in Milan

Tommaso de' Medici reports that duke Cosimo I de' Medici has received the fake pearls and fake precious stones sent to him from Milan and solicits the rapid delivery of the complete order. He also encourages Ieronimo Miseroni (who substitutes for his brother while the latter is working in Bavaria) to finish the work of the fake jewels and that Cosimo accepts that instead of the faceting of the stones, a so called table cut is accepted except for those which were already made with facets. He also asks that they are to be send each week as finished and that monies have been given to Fabrizio Ferrari so that the jewels is paid as they are finished. He also informs that Cosimo does not want anymore pearls of any kind and therefore returns the two pairs, send for inspection, in a small box back to Miseroni. He also confirms that the fake jewellery has been accepted and that a sample of the topaz of the cup has been seen and that when the foot of the cup is made (in gold?) it should be more yellow than shown. He also reports that his Excellency wants that the work on it and on the cup in lapis lazuli is carried out with speed as also on the jewellery of the size shown.

01.10.1565 Tommaso di Iacopo de Medici in Florence to Ferrari Fabrizio in Milan

Tommaso de' Medici sends a letter of credit of the Salviati (bank?) to Fabrizio Ferrari, on which basis he can be paid one hundred scudi in gold (one scudo contained 3.5g 24K gold and is, with the 2007 gold price, worth approximately 70 US$) or, if needed more, up to 150, for the payment of the false jewels ordered from Gasparo Miseroni in Milan and presses for their rapid completion and delivery. He also mentions that the jewellery not made with facetted stones (but with the simpler table cut) should be made faster and also cost less.

05.03.1566 Cosimo I in Florence to Isidoro di Lorenzo da Montauto in Florence

Cosimo I de' Medici authorizes a payment to the Milanese jeweller Gasparo Miseroni diverse sums of which 350 scudi in gold for the cup in lapis lazuli, 90 scudi for the making of the cup in topaz, 20 scudi for the cover of a rock crystal glass, and two scudi for two pairs of eyeglasses of crystal powder.


Cup in lapis lazuli with a beast and a turtle as foot made by Gasparo Miseroni which is traceable to the 1570 list of the collection of Cosimo I and now located in the Mineralogy Museum in Florence/Italy. This 21cm long cup is one of the possible candidates of the lapis lazuli cup making the object of the 1566 payment


Stemmed cup in lapis lazuli with a beast and a turtle as foot by Gasparo Miseroni, traceable to the 1635 estate list of the Duchess Barbara Sophia von Brandenburg (1584-1535), wife of Johann Friedrich von Württemberg, and now in the Württembergisches Landesmuseum, in Stuttgart/Germany. This 16cm high cup is a prime example of the Miseroni stile and, with its foot in the shape of a turtle, one of the emblems of Cosimo I, another possible candidate of the lapis lazuli cup making the object of the 1566 payment


Stemmed cup in lapis lazuli possibly by Miseroni from Catherina de Medicis’s (1519-1589) possession and now in the Museo d’Argenti of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. This is the third candidate for the 1566 payment

09.11.1569 Tommaso di Iacopo de Medici in Florence to Gasparo Miseroni in Milan

Tommaso de' Medici excuses himself that, having been sick for two months, he has not been able to see Cosimo until today and that he has told him what Gasparo Miseroni has written, namely that the salt vessels, the crown and the object in lapis has been finished and that Miseroni cannot travel, for this small order, to Florence. Cosimo therefore orders that the objects are consigned to Fabrizio Ferrari, the agent of Cosimo in Milan.

09.11.1569 Tommaso di Iacopo de Medici in Florence to Fabrizio Ferrari in Milan

Tommaso de' Medici informs Fabrizio Ferrari that Gasparo Miseroni (Gaspar Messeroni) will deliver him salt vessels, crowns and the object in lapis which the Duke had ordered from him. He should accept them and send them, at the first occasion, to his Excellency.

The review of the correspondence in the Medic Archive did not yield any information about jade, isadra or isadre nor of lapis nephriticus. A survey of documents containing the word kidney revealed 18 messages dating from 1548 to 1665. One message dated 24 of October 1563 from Francesco, the son of Cosimo I to Ribera, Pedro Afán de Alcalá and Viceroy of Naples reveals that he is acting for his father as Cosimo I, residing at the moment in the Medici Villa of Poggio a Caiano, suffered from kidney stones and is taking a laxative as treatment. This and the remaining 17 references indicate that jade or lapis nephriticus was not used then as remedy against kidney stones.

Jade was however known as a Mexican mask of the Teotihuacan Period (250-600BC) in the collection of Don Antonio de Medici (1567-1621), an illegitimate son of Francesco I de Medici, was correctly identified in the inventory of 1621 as being made in igiada.


The Mexican mask in jade recorded in 1620 in the collection of Don Antonio de Medici (1576-1621) shown in the engraving

One important milestone in glyptic art in Florence was the establishment in 1558 of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure by Ferdinando I de Medici, the fifth son of Cosimo I.

He was consecrated as a Cardinal in 1562 at the age of 14 and succeeded his brother Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1587 at the age of 38. He had already proved to be an able administrator in Rome. He founded the Villa Medici in Rome and acquired many works of art, which he then brought back to Florence with him.

He retained the title of Cardinal after he became Grand Duke and until he married Christine of Lorraine in 1589. Until the advent of Pope Urban VIII, Cardinals were not obliged to become ordained clerics, even though most were ordained in the Holy Orders of Deacon, Priest, or Bishop. Thus, the title and power associated with the title were greatly coveted.

When he died in 1609, he left four sons, of whom the oldest, Cosimo, inherited the throne at the age of 19.


Ferdinando I de Medici (1549-1609) as Cardinal before he married Christine of Lorraine (1565-1636) in 1589

The first Superintendent of the Opifico has been Jaques Bylivelt from the Flanders. He organized the approximately 20 contiguous workshops in such a fashion that a division of labour was of achieved resulting in a high specialization of each worker and artist. The ultimate goal of operating the Opifico has been the decoration, by veneers in precious stones, of the interior of the La Capella dei Principi in the Basilica di San Lorenzo. This Chapel was destined to become the Pantheon and burial place of the Medici’s. The story has it that the Medici’s wanted to even buy the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem from the Turks in order to install it in the centre of the rotunda, and failing, even tried to have it stolen and consigned to them.


The building of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in via degli Alfani in Florence and a further view of the comesso decorated interior of la Capella dei Principi


A typical comesso work, a table top, in which every colour and texture detail of a motive, in this case a display of ancient Etruscan vases, is achieved with a stone of different colour

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Reader Comments (1)

The two Jade cups now in the Museum Le Louvre are exquisite! I would like to note that the Mexican Jade Mask I think is not jade at all meaning not nephrite or jadeite.
October 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commentere-networkassociates.com

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