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Roundel - Stemma of the Minerbetti family

Stemma of the Minerbetti family

  • Object:

    Roundel

  • Place of origin:

    Florence (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1480-1520 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    della Robbia (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Polychrome enamelled terracotta and porphyry

  • Museum number:

    62-1882

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 50a, The Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery, case WS

The Minerbetti family played a key role in the political framework of Florence between 1300 and 1700, notably under the Medici. Their coat of arms or stemma, with three swords in a pile fanwise, are still visible on their palazzo in Florence. The same coat of arms also occurs on the tombs of the Minerbetti family in the renowned church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence. This stemma features the papal keys and tiara, a right that the Pope granted only as an exceptional honour. However, other members of the family could inherit this right and it is therefore uncertain who commissioned this relief.

It is of polychrome enamelled terracotta made in Florence by the workshop of the Della Robbia, in about 1480 to 1520. The Della Robbia family was an Italian family of sculptors and potters. They were active in Florence from the early 15th century and elsewhere in Italy and France well into the 16th century. Family members were traditionally employed in the textile industry, and their name derives from rubia tinctorum, a red dye.
Luca della Robbia founded the family sculpture workshop in Florence and was regarded by contemporaries as a leading artistic innovator, comparable to Donatello and Masaccio. The influence of antique art and his characteristic liveliness and charm are evident in such works as the marble singing-gallery for Florence Cathedral. He is credited with the invention of the tin-glazed terracotta sculpture for which the family became well known.

Physical description

A circular coat of arms in polychrome enamelled terracotta and porphyry. On the porphyry disc in the centre, framed with a enamelled terracotta garland of green leaves, fruit and yellow flowers, is a Tuscan shield bearing the Minerbetti arms (gules, three swords in pile, fanwise, argent).

The pile is the large V-shape extending from the top of the shield to its foot in which the swords are fanned. On a background of gule (red) porphyry, the shield and the swords are in argent, the tincture of metals in heraldry, frequently depicted as white. Between the hilts of two swords on the left is the emblem of a papal tiara and crossed keys. The ribbons of the white shield are enamelled in yellow.

Place of Origin

Florence (made)

Date

ca. 1480-1520 (made)

Artist/maker

della Robbia (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Polychrome enamelled terracotta and porphyry

Dimensions

Depth: 14.8 cm, Diameter: 87.4 cm, Weight: 60 kg estimate

Object history note

Purchased in Florence through Mr J.C. Robinson, £2, in 1882.

Historical significance: The Minerbetti family played a key role in the political framework of Florence between 1300 and 1700. Despite being of British origin, they filled key functions and positions in the political and administrative areas of the city. A key family member was Andrea Minerbetti, who as Gonfaloniere of Justice in 1434, (when Cosimo the Elder returned from exile in Venice) was recorded for his declaration that whoever generated conflict with the Medici should be removed. This brought the Minerbetti family great favour with the Medici, highlighted by Giovanni Minerbetti being appointed as Ambassador to the court of Spain in 1560 under Cosimo I de' Medici. Throughout the Medici's de facto rulership and into that of the Princes of Lorraine, they produced a total of 33 priors and 12 gonfaloniers, highlighting their exceptional political longevity.

The Minerbetti family existed until 1771 but had no male heirs to their dynasty. Their palazzo on the via de' Tornabuoni maintained its simple characteristics during the century but was well-known for its solid construction and powerful aspect, with eight windows for each of its three stories. The austere elegance of the façade and the private atmosphere of the interior arguably reflect the family's wealth and social standing.

The Minerbetti coat of arms or stemma, with three swords in a pile fanwise, are still visibile on their palazzo in Florence. The same coat of arms also occurs on the tombs of the Minerbetti family in the renowned church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence. This stemma features the papal keys and tiara, a right that the Pope granted only as an exceptional honor. However, other members of the family could inherit this right and it is therefore uncertain who commissioned this relief.

The stemma is displayed in a frame which, although not original to it, is of the same type as those used by the della Robbia workshop to surround coats of arms.

Historical context note

On account of the presence of the papal keys in the left-hand corner, Marquand (Robbia Heraldry) indentified the arms as those of Francesco di Tomasco Minerbetti, Bishop of Arezzo, a friend of Pope Leo X and Councillor of State under Alessandro de' Medici and Cosimo I.

Longhurst and Maclagan note that tombs of other members of the Minerbetti family in Santa Maria Novella also have shields charged with crossed keys, such as Tommaso Minerbetti (d.1499)

From a passage in Vincenzo Borghini ('Dell'arme delle famiglie fiorentine) it appears that the initial grant of the right to bear the papal keys and tiara was usually associated with Papal knighthood or with an embassy of congratulation to a newly elected Pope. Borghini also states that the descendents of the original recipient retainged the charge on their arms, and cites those of the Canigiani and Soderini families as examples of this practice. A note by Manni confirms these statements.

Descriptive line

Coat of arms, polychrome enamelled terracotta, of the Minerbetti family in a circular frame, by the workshop of the Della Robbia, (Italy) Florence, about 1480-1520

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

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington Museum acquired during the Year 1882. London, 1883, p. 7
MacLagan, E, and Longhurst, Margaret, H. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture. London: V&A, 1932, p. 84
Pope-Hennessy, John. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1964, p. 252
Marquand. Robbia Heraldry. Princeton: 1919, pp. 184-5, No. 234
Borghini, Vincenzo. 'Dell'arme delle famiglie fiorentine'. Discorse. ed. Manni, iii, Milan, 1809, pp. 177-8

Materials

Terracotta; Porphyry

Techniques

Enamelled

Subjects depicted

Garland; Leaves; Ribbons; Swords; Fruit; Keys; Shield; Flowers; Tiara

Categories

Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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