The Tesoro dei Granduchi at Palazzo Pitti launched Homage to the Grand Duke: Memories of Silver Plates, on the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist, Florence's patron saint.
Running until September 24, 2017, the exhibition highlights a collection of silver plates carried out by some of the most significant Roman artists of the 17th and 18th centuries, a testament to the House of Medici's diplomatic relations with Rome during the era. Also on display are numerous drawings, documents and associated pieces.
The lavish plates are known as the piatti di San Giovanni ("Saint John's plates") for their use as (strategic) gifts linked to the annual celebration of Florence's patron saint on June 24. Their story goes back to the Cardinal Lazzaro Pallavicini, originally of Genoa, who had lofty aspirations for his family, hoping to elevate himself, his children and descendants to the highest heights of Roman aristocracy. The 1670 marriage of his niece Maria Camilla to Pistoiese noble Giovan Battista Rospigliosi received the blessing of then-Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III de' Medici, which helped Pallavicini tremendously. To recognize the Duke's favor, Pallavicini declared that the Rospigliosi must, over time, provide the Grand Duke with a substantial collection of silver worth about 300 Roman scudi.
Beginning with the death of Cardinal Pallavicini in 1680 and continuing for 58 years, Cosimo III and his successor, Gian Gastone de' Medici, received prestigious silver basins and plates, all featuring stories illustrating the Medici family's splendor and triumphs. Eike Schmidt, Director of the Uffizi Gallery, commented that the plates "represented a celebration of the House of Medici, acknowledging and bearing witness to the great merits in the Tuscan government through figurative representations that connect back to both eternal values and incidental facts."