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Jacopo Ligozzi, «another Apelles»

05-27-2014 | 09-28-2014

The Bolognese naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi described Jacopo Ligozzi as «another Apelles» due to his extraordinary skill in portraying plants and animals «a’ quali non mancha se non il spirito» (which lack nothing but a spirit). The rhetorical formula Aldrovandi used to express the verisimilitude of Ligozzi’s naturalistic images is deeply rooted in a broad classical tradition; the artist himself achieved the results of unprecedented naturalness through a refined technique, where the fineness of the outline is combined with the variety of the colour.

The forty-four botanical plates displayed here are part of the vast core of work commissioned by the Grand Dukes Francesco I and Ferdinando I de’ Medici, now conserved in the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi. It represents a section of the Jacopo Ligozzi, «pittore universalissimo» exhibition held in the Palatine Gallery of the Pitti Palace and organized in collaboration with the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe. There you can appreciate the heterogeneous production of the Veronese artist, while this section focuses on a single aspect of his extensive naturalistic production.

The drawings effectively illustrate his meticulous care and the splendour of the colours, characteristics that ensured Ligozzi a wide reputation. In fact, they allow us to verify the careful preparation of the paper which preceded the imperceptible stroke of black chalk outlining the plants, while overlapping glazes were applied to the first pictorial layer for the lenticular focus on the details. Jacopo used changing luminosity to reproduce the life of the plants with optical clarity; each plate is therefore an unicum, where the microcosm of the individual “plant portraits” is explored.

Some significant details were introduced by the artist to indicate the period of execution – such as Clitoria and Euphorbia, respectively dated 1586 and 1587 – or to suggest the vitality of the plants through the illusionistic inclusion of small insects, such as in Leucojum Vernum, or even to make us think about the evolution of the plant world, from budding to blossoming to withering, as in Anemone hortensis. The reflection on the passage of time in the life of plants, like that of all living organisms, is a constant feature in the entire artistic production of Ligozzi, a deeply devout man who even signed some works with a Christogram combined with his initials. 


Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo

Direzione Regionale per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici della Toscana

Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico

e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze

Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi

Firenze Musei

Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze

Curated by

Maria Elena De Luca, Marzia Faietti, Giorgio Marini

Exhibition Management

Marzia Faietti


Giusi Clausi, Gianluca Matarrelli

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