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Relief - Cosimo III de' Medici
  • Cosimo III de' Medici
    Torricelli, Giuseppe Antonio, born 1659 - died 1719
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Cosimo III de' Medici

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Florence (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1680-1694 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Torricelli, Giuseppe Antonio, born 1659 - died 1719 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bust in low relief of coloured marbles on ground of pale green marble backed onto slate.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 6, The Lisa and Bernard Selz Gallery, case CA13

This colourful relief, probably showing Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand-Duke of Tuscany, was made as a pair with one of his mother, Vittoria della Rovere (Museum no. 146-1869), in the Grand-ducal workshop that specialised in hardstone carving and inlay. The workshop was set up by Ferdinando I de' Medici, effectively as one of the 'state' factories (often referred to as the 'Medici workshops'), designed to produce high-quality works of art for the court in luxurious materials.

The pair of portrait reliefs, composed of intricately carved, highly polished pieces of marble, were probably made by Giuseppe Antonio Torricelli, a talented specialist in this type of carving that demanded a particular skill. They were probably commissioned by Cosimo III, and based on the dress his mother wears in her portrait, they date to after 1680. Cosimo also commissioned a stunning commemorative bust of his mother from Torricelli, dated to about 1697 (now in the Museo degli Argenti, Palazzo Pitti, Florence).

This exquisitely carved relief and its pair would have been displayed together as collectible treasures. Their craftsmanship and materials demonstrate the Baroque taste for such works, notably at the Medici court which promoted their production, and where it was much in vogue during Cosimo's reign.

Physical description

This oval Florentine pietre dure relief depicts a portrait bust of Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand-Duke of Tuscany, facing left. His wavy hair falls onto his shoulder. He is dressed in black with a grey squared collar. The portrait is set on an oval of grey-blue marble in two pieces backed with slate, and is carved from black marble faced with yellow marble in the features and whiteish stone in the collar and hair.

Place of Origin

Florence (made)


ca. 1680-1694 (made)


Torricelli, Giuseppe Antonio, born 1659 - died 1719 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Bust in low relief of coloured marbles on ground of pale green marble backed onto slate.


Height: 14.6 cm, Width: 10.5 cm, Depth: 1.6 cm

Object history note

This relief has been variously identified as Ferdinando II de' Medici (1610-1670) or his son, Cosimo III de' Medici (1642-1723), both of whom have similar features. However, based on painted and sculpted portraits, the latter is more likely, as it shows the distinctive features and clean-shaven chin associated with Cosimo - his father had a tuft of beard beneath his lower lip.

It was created as a pair with another depicting his mother, Vittoria della Rovere (1622-1694), shown when already a widow (Mus. no. 146-1869). The reliefs are attributed to Giuseppe Antonio Torricelli (1662-1719), a sculptor and gem-cutter who worked at the Galleria dei Lavori, the Grand-ducal workshops in Florence, specialising in hardstone inlay and carving. Cosimo, who was closely attached to his mother, commissioned her portrait from Torricelli soon after her death (now in the Museo degli Argenti, Palazzo Pitti, Florence). The artist was justly proud of what was an unusual achievement on that scale in hardstone (see New York 2008, p.190).

Scholars have associated the design of the bust and the Vittoria relief with the image of the Grand-Duchess in a bust by the court sculptor Giambattista Foggini (Galleria degli Uffizi; see Lankheit 1962, p.209; New York 2008, p.190), who also produced a portrait busts of Ferdinando II (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Widener Collection; paired with a bust of Vittoria), Cosimo III (Fürstlich Fürstenbergisches Schloss, Donaueschingen) and other members of the Medici family in c.1685. However, both this image of Cosimo and that of his mother can also be related to relief portraits on coins and medals. For example, the Florentine Piastra of 1680 shows Cosimo facing to the right (see Detroit and Florence, p. 130, cat. 85a).

The pendant reliefs are both created from coloured hardstone, pieced together like a jigsaw and backed onto slate. Vittoria's dress provides a clue to the dating, which must be after 1680 when she was already a widow, and the pair of portraits were probably commissioned by her son. Although perhaps ordered after the Dowager Duchess's death, Vittoria was granted control of the day-to-day administration of the state by her son, and a pair of portraits would therefore reflect their close personal and political relationship.

Purchased in Florence (through W. B. Spence, £2 10s.) in 1869.

Descriptive line

Plaque, relief in pietre dure, portrait bust of Cosimo III de'Medici, ascribed to Giuseppe Antonio Torricelli, Florence, ca. 1670-1694

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1869, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., p. 12
Pope-Hennessy, John, assisted by Lightbown, Ronald. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: HMSO, 1964, vol. II, pp. 590-1, cat. no. 630, vol. III, fig. no. 622
Lankheit, Klaus, ed. Florentinische Barockplastik. Die Kunst am Hofe der letzten Medici, 1670-1740, p. 60, n. 30 (p.209)

cf. The Twilight of the Medici. Late Baroque Art in Florence, 1670-1743. [exh. cat. The Detroit Institute of Arts, 27 March - 2 June 1974; Palazzo Pitti, Florence, 28 June- 30 September 1974]. Florence: Centro Di, pp. 130-1, cat. 8a [coin]
cf. Giusti, Annamaria, 'Medicean Production in Florence' in Pietre dure and the Art of Florentine Inlay, London: Thames and Hudson, 2006, pp.47-109

Labels and date

GRAND DUKE FERDINANDO II DE’MEDICI (b. 1610; ruled 1621 under tutorship of his mother and grandmother), 1628-1670)
Italian (Florence); about 1680-1700
Pietre dure
Attributed to Giuseppe Antonio Torricelli (1659-1719)

Although sometimes identified as Cosimo III, comparison with painted portraits suggests that this relief probably represents Ferdinando II, who became engaged to his one year old cousin Vittoria delle Rovere (whose pendant portrait is shown nearby) in 1623. The relief may be based on a design by the court sculptor, Giambattista Foggini
[1993 - 2011]


Pietra dura; Marble; Slate


Low relief


Sculpture; Portraits


Sculpture Collection

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