While moseying through Florence’s Uffizi Gallery two weeks ago, I was drawn to the portraits of the famous Medici family, who were basically the “godfathers of the Renaissance.” Whenever I go to museums—and I love to go often, especially when I travel—something always catches my eye whether it’s color, landscapes, or, in this case, jewelry.
What struck me the most about the jewelry in these particular works of art was the intricate detail. Examining the paintings closely, I was impressed by how these Renaissance artists, including Bronzino and Titian, were able to capture jewelry with the same amount of depth and life-like description as seen in the subject’s face, eyes, hands, and clothes. Jewelry was clearly very important during that era—it was a sign of wealth and social status. As the most powerful family in Florence at the time, the Medici family loved to accessorize.
In one Bronzino portrait of a little girl, who couldn’t have been more than five-years-old, she’s pictured wearing pearls (so womanly for a kid!) and her father’s medallion. The meticulous engraving within the medallion and even the roundness of her pearls are extraordinary. In a handful of other Bronzino paintings, the most elegant women are seen wearing layers upon layers of the most exquisite jewelry right down to their chain belts and jewel-like buttons.
In a nearby Titian painting of a nude women waiting for her housemaids to dress her, it was interesting (and funny) to see that she already had on her jewelry—a bracelet, earrings, and a pinky ring (these appeared to be particularly popular among this family).
Seeing beautiful and historical images like these are so inspirational to me. It just reinforces the importance and timelessness of jewelry and certain styles. In terms of fine jewelry, it really hasn’t changed that much at all: gold, pearls, lockets, broaches, rings, cuffs, bracelets, and earrings. They were layering in the 1500s—and I like to layer now! I get such a kick out of that. It just goes to show you that you can go back 500 years to get ideas. And I did.
P.S. Later this week, we’ll look back at more ancient artwork that has inspired our style in the column Life Imitates Art. Also, our Digital Memories columnist will discuss the best digital frames on the market.
[Photography of artwork courtesy of Wikimedia]