- Museum number
Medici Prince defends Temple of Peace, study for the decoration of the ceiling of the 'Sala di Marte', Palazzo Pitti, Florence
On the left of the drawing, a ship, only the prow of which is visible, approaches a rocky shore on which stands the Temple of Peace, on the opposite side of the sheet. A warrior, personifying the young Medici prince, defends the temple by engaging the vessel and knocking one of its crew over the bowsprit with his spear. In front of the temple, a seated priestess, accompanied by two attendants, holds a book or tablet on a round altar with her left hand and with her right commands the winged figure of Fame to crown the warrior with a laurel wreath, the symbol of victory; Fame's trumpet may be seen in a pentimento drawn to the right of this figure. Flaming sacrificial tripods appear to the right and left of the priestess, while a third tripod has overturned on rocks, extinguishing the flames and spilling the contents into the water. The horseman above Fame, who carries the warrior's helmet towards the temple, is one of the Dioskouroi. Above the horseman are slight indications of the other Dioskouros, apparently holding the warrior's shield to his horse's side. Lines drawn near the lower right edge and towards the lower centre may indicate part of the boundary of the composition.
- Production date
- 1646-1647 (circa)
Height: 281 millimetres
Width: 431 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Lit.: N. Turner, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Roman Baroque Drawings', London, 1999, I, no. 73
As Reynolds correctly pointed out, this is a study for Cortona's decoration of the ceiling of the Sala di Marte, in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, the third in a sequence of five planetary rooms to be decorated by the artist, in 1646-7 (Briganti, 1962 and 1982, pp.235-6, no.96, fig.230; Campbell, 1977, pp. 199-205, fig.89). 1980,1011.6 is a study for the ceiling of one of the earlier rooms, painted in 1641-2.
In the fresco, the motif of the warrior attacking the ship is maintained, though the ship is given greater prominence and is positioned differently. The priestess is omitted altogether and is replaced by Hercules who builds a trophy of arms, though the theme of Peace is represented by the group of Justice and Peace on the side of the ceiling opposite to the naval battle and by the round temple behind Hercules. The Dioskouroi also reappear.
As Vitzthum was the first to point out (1963(b), pp. 49-50), there are compositional studies for the ceiling in the Uffizi. The first (inv. no. 11735 F; Campbell, 1977, p. 279, no. 117, fig. 92), a rapid study in pen, is for very nearly the same section of the composition as the present drawing and must have immediately preceded it. The second (inv.no. 15277 F; Campbell, 1977, p. 279, no. 118, fig. 93), in black chalk, is an early idea for the group of Justice and Peace surrounded by suppliants.
Literature: Florence, 1965, p. 61 (under no. 59); Vitzthum, 1965(a), p. 525, fig.46; Vitzthum, 1971, pl. xvi; Campbell, 1977, pp. 125-279 (cat.no. 119) and fig. 91; Merz, 1985, III, p. 145.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2009/10 Nov-Feb, Plymouth City Mus & AG, Sir Joshua Reynolds ...
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
According to Donato Esposito ('Sir Joshua Reynolds: The acquisition of genius', Plymouth 2009, cat.68), this is on a mount characteristic of Reynolds, with the name 'Pietro da Cortona' written on in his own hand. On the reverse of the mount in the hand of Reynolds is: "Painted the Palazzo Piti [sic] in Camera Martis", and (apparently in the hand of the Rev. Moore) with a note on the provenance. A drawing by Cortona in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa shares the same provenance.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number