Artibus et Historiae no. 34 (XVII)1996, ISSN 0391-9064
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SHIGETOSHI OSANO - Two Statues of Marsyas in the Courtyard of Via Larga: The Reception of a Roman Criteria of Decor in the Display of Antique Sculpture at the Medici Palace
This paper attempts to demonstrate that the ancient Roman mode of displaying sculptural collection in town houses and villas might have
served as a model for three generations of the Medici family, from Cosimo the Elder to Lorenzo the Magnificent. According to the Medicean inventory of 1492, the three marble portrait busts which Mino da Fiesole made for Piero de'Medici, his wife Lucrezia Tornabuoni and his brother Giovanni di Cosimo de'Medici were placed above the doorway of the Medici Palace in Via Larga. It has been recently argued that such a mode of display came directly from the decorative usage of sculpture diffused among the ancient Romans, based on passages of Pliny's Natural History (XXXV, 6 & 7).
In particular, dealing with two statues of hanging Marsyas displayed as pendents in the garden of the same Palace, we argue that the Medici were inspired by antique Roman figurative examples or literary sources to display them in this manner. As for the Roman decor, a most important concept for collectors and those concerned with sculptural display, it is exemplarily illustrated by Cicero's letters to his friend Atticus. We conclude that his discussion of decor may have been transmitted to the Medici by Poggio Bracciolini, who certainly had read the Ciceronian Correspondence himself, and had copied it for Cosimo the Elder.