Friday 28 May 2021

An exquisite reliquary bust at the Diocesan Museum of Florence

My attentive readers will know that from time to time I like to draw attention to works of art in small museums that are unjustly negrlected by visitors to Tuscany. Today I want to describe a beautiful reliquary bust commissioned by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III and created in 1703. The bust is silver cast using the lost wax method and finished by chisel, with gilded copper details. It was intended for the Pieve di San Cresci located on the slopes of Monte Giovi (province of Florence). San Cresci lived during the 3C and is considered to be the evangeliser of the Mugello where he was martyred around the year 250.

For the execution of this splendid reliquary, the Grand Duke turned to his court artist, the sculptor, architect and great draftsman Giovanni Battista Foggini who executed the design, leaving the execution of the work to another great artist of the Medici court, the German silversmith Bernard Holzman who performed the work in silver, clothing the saint in finely decorated and chiseled Roman armour. The youthful face of the saint, bearded and with thick hair, is slightly turned to the right. On the base runs the inscription: Sancti Crescij Xp Martyris Caput.

From a stylistic point of view, you can see the high quality in the accuracy of the finishing of the details and in the pride of the figure, clearly derived from the classical models, already used in the Middle Ages by the Arezzo goldsmiths Pietro and Paolo and then again in the Renaissance also by Donatello when he made the reliquary bust of San Rossore in Pisa.

This reliquary is one of the many masterpieces exhibited in the all too neglected Diocesan Museum of Florence in Santo Stefano al Ponte. If you can spare the time during your visit to Florence, I strongly recommend spending a couple of hours there.

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Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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