Sheila Barker

Sheila Barker is a Samuel H. Kress Curatorial Fellow at the Medici Archive Project.

Articles by the author


The art of poison

One of the many arts cultivated in Renaissance Italy was the black art of poisoning. The Medici Granducal Archives are teeming with references to this nefarious branch of chemistry, including a series of documents confirming Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici's involvement in a plot to assassinate Piero Strozzi


An age of wonders

Discovered in a Roman avviso in the Medici Granducal Archive-just one of thousands of such handwritten journalistic reports to reach Florence in the seventeenth century-is a brief but extraordinary account of the meeting of two hermaphrodites. At the very end of this document, dated November 11, 1662, the


Canvas is for commoners

On 20 July 1658, Torquato Montalto wrote to Giovanni Battista Gondi, Two rooms were decorated for Her Ladyship the Bride with crimson damasks with very rich gold fringes and lacework, and there I saw a great number of very large ebony chests. I also saw the gift made by Lord


The powder of persuasion

The Count of Warwick pays his reverences to His Most Serene Highness the Lord Duke, and he will give me a book in praise of chemistry by Doctor Cornacchino who teaches at Pisa, as well as a certain miraculous powder, which I tried a little of yesterday to my great


Read all about it!

Though the majority of the Medici Archives are filled with records of day-to-day communication in a large bureaucracy, there are several entertaining reports from agents and observers from the political power centres of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century western Europe. So much detailed information was sent from cities such