Medici tapestries at Palazzo Vecchio

16th-century collection returns to the Sala dei Duecento after years apart

Felicity Aris
March 1, 2019 - 10:58

The collection of 16th-century tapestries chronicling the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, on his biblical journey will be back on display as a complete collection in the exhibition The Prince of Dreams, running until August 29, 2021. Reminiscent of the episodes they depict, the tapestries found themselves on a pilgrimage away from home in the mid-19th century, when the collection was divided up during the political restructuring of the Unification period, with ten being sent to Rome as part of a royal endowment and ten remaining in Florence, the capital of the Kingdom of Italy at the time.


Ph. Mus.e


Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella called it “a dream come true” to have the collection in its entirety, their homecoming marking nearly 150 years apart. The only other time the tapestries have been brought together since they were removed from Florence took place in 2015, when they went on display at the Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome, followed by a period in Florence for the Milan Expo. The tapestries will now return to the setting for which they were originally designed, the Sala dei Duecento in Palazzo Vecchio, to be revered in all their restored glory.


Commissioned by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I, in a bid to rival the great European pieces of the time, the 20 six-metre-high tapestries made of spun silk and silver were designed by three top-tier artists, Agnolo Bronzino, Jacopo Pontormo and Francesco Salviati. The collection will be on a rotating display in the Sala dei Duecento, which will be open to museum visitors when the city council is not in session. Four tapestries will be swapped out every six months to progress through the narrative of Joseph’s biblical story over the course of three-year exhibition.

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