[Paper:] Laura Cirri (Florence, I): The use of the imprese in the Medicean iconography of power: evolution and consolidation through the 15th and 16th centuries


Villa di Poggio a Caiano, ceiling of the main hall (via Wikimedia)

The aim of this talk is to highlight how the choice and the use of the imprese among the Medici family became a sort of continuing thread from the first generations of the family and their successors. The main focus of the talk will be the decorative apparatus of the Medicean Villa of Poggio a Caiano and the key role of the devices.

The talk will first introduce an overview of the main devices used by the Medici in the 15th century, especially on the main artistic commissions with a private character or those with a public appearance. In 1485 Lawrence the Magnificent instructed the architect Giuliano da San Gallo to build this suburban residence. This model of a country villa was newly conceived, as the central element of a farm estate placed among fields, hunting places and gardens. The facade of the villa was developed as a classical temple with columns and a terracotta frieze.

After the death of Lawrence the Magnificent and the exile of the family in 1494, it was only at the time of his son Giovanni, also known as pope Leo X, that the project was carried on. The best Florentine artists were involved in the decoration of the frescoes of the main hall. Central in the decoration of the stucco ceiling of this room is the papal coat of arms of Leo X, surrounded all over by Medicean devices, so is the ceiling of the front portico.

The talk will examine in details how the imprese were chosen as the main element of the decoration of the hall and the portico, i.e. the two main public spaces of the villa. The Medicean devices played here a key role in this iconographical apparatus: some inherited from the first generations of the family and other chosen and introduced by the new members, in this effort to glorify and celebrate the dynasty.

This attempt of establishing a Medicean iconography of power was greatly enhanced by Cosimo I, the second duke of Florence also named the first grand duke of Tuscany in 1569. Palazzo Vecchio became the central action of this process, promoted by Cosimo and the artist Giorgio Vasari. The talk will then examine the tribuna of the Salone dei Cinquecento and how the imprese were still considered a core element of the decoration of this elevated stage meant to represent the monarch.

In the end, the talk will underline how from the time of grand duke Ferdinando I, the iconography of power clearly changed: his first commissions paid more attention and enhanced new and different elements compared to the previous works, that almost caused the disappearance of the devices in any following decoration, that had the function to celebrate and glorify the memory and  immortality of the family.

Biographical notice

Ordinary member of the AIH, Laura Cirri holds an MA degree in Humanities and an MA degree in art history with a thesis focused on heraldry. As a research fellow at the SNS, she developed the research project ‘The coats of arms of the Knights of St Stephen in the Scuola Normale Superiore’, publishing a database online. She has been involved as an associate researcher for the digitalization of heraldic sources at the Library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, with whom she has been working for several years as an expert on Florentine heraldry, in projects such as ‘Stemmario’ and ‘Firenze città Nobilissima’. Since June 2012 she has regularly taught heraldry at the ‘Seminar on Paleography and Archival Studies’ of the Medici Archive Project. Author of publications on Florentine heraldry and its evolution over the centuries, has received the award ‘Dalmiro de la Válgoma’ of the Real Academia Matritense de Heráldica y Genealogía and the degree award ‘Scudo d’oro’ of the Centro Studi Araldici di Varese.


This paper will be presented at the international conference:

State-Rooms of Royal and Princely Palaces in Europe (14th-16th c.): Spaces, Images, Rituals – Lisbon/Sintra, 15-17 March 2017 (link)

which aims to put the Sala dos brasões in Sintra in its European context as a royal/princely state-room. It is a follow up to the “Heraldry in Medieval and Early modern State-rooms” held in March 2016 in Münster, which, for its part, focused on the heraldic décor of medieval and early modern state-rooms as such.

Cite this blog post
Torsten Hiltmann (2017, March 10). [Paper:] Laura Cirri (Florence, I): The use of the imprese in the Medicean iconography of power: evolution and consolidation through the 15th and 16th centuries. Heraldica Nova. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/pi0d

Torsten Hiltmann

Torsten Hiltmann is Juniorprofessor for the High and Late Middle Ages and Auxiliary Sciences at the University of Münster. He is interested in medieval and early modern visual communication and heraldry, the medieval notion of kingship and the methods and technologies of Digital Humanities.

1 Response

  1. 16/05/2017

    […] Laura Cirri (Florence, I): The use of the imprese in the Medicean iconography of power: evolution and consolidation through the… […]

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