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Johannes Stradanus: de decoraties voor intochten en uitvaarten aan het hof van de Medici te Florence

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Sources show that the Flemish artist Johannes Stradanus, whose career flourished from about 1555 in Florence, collaborated on several occasions on large-scale, temporary decorations, most of them commissioned by the grand dukes de'Medici, for important dynastic events such as baptisms, entries into cities and funerals. A multitude of artists and craftsmen carried out these decorations on the basis of often complicated iconographic programmes. In 1564, for instance, on the occasion of Michelangelo's funeral in S. Lorenzo, Stradanus painted the grisaille Michelangelo in 1529 in his dwelling in the Giudecca being received by the nobles of Venice by order of the Doge Andrea Gritti and the Signoria. In 1565, for the triumphal entry into the city of Johanna of Austria, he painted all the pictures decorating the triumphal arch erected on the Canto de' Tornaquinci. These consisted of five scenes glorifying the following exploits of rulers of the House of Austria: Rudolf conferring the Archdukedom of Austria on Albrecht I, Maximilian II being crowned emperor, Ferdinand I defending Vienna against the Turks, Albrecht slaing Adolf of Nassau in a battle, Philip II of Spain receiving the corona obsidionalis from Malta and two large trompe-l'oeil street views. In 1574, for the funeral of Cosimo I de'Medici in S. Lorenzo, Stradanus was probably involved in the painting of the skeletons and coats of arms. Furthermore, on the occasion of Francesco I de' Medici's funeral in S. Lorenzo in 1587, he painted the grisaille Francesco visiting his betrothed, Johanna of Austria, in Innsbruck; in 1588, for the entry of Ferdinando I de' Medici into Pisa, the canvas The burial of Pope Stephen I in the catacomb of Callixtus for the decoration of S. Stefano dei Cavalieri; in 1589, for the entry of Christina of Lorraine, the painting The retreat of the Turks after the siege of Vienna, as part of the decorations on the Canto de' Bischeri. Finally, in 1598, for the obsequies in memory of Philip II of Spain in S. Lorenzo, the grisaillc The siege and capture of Antwerp; for the same occasion he also provided the design for the grisaille The conquest of the Philippine islands, painted by his son Scipione. Stradanus' first commissions date from the start of his career in Florence, when he was working in Vasari's studio. As one of the master's assistants in decorating the Palazzo Vecchio, he had already gained ample experience in large-scale painting for the Medici. After leaving Vasari's studio in about 157 and setting up as an independent artist, Stradanus remained one of the leading Florentine artists who received commissions for official large-scale decors. He retained this status up to a venerable age, a sign of the appreciation he continued to enjoy in this field. Unfortunately none of Stradanus' decorative work has survived, with the exception of the canvas in Pisa. An impression of his skill in this field in conveyed by contemporary sources and the sketches, drawings, etchings and engravings presented in this article. This material clearly shows that in his long and productive life Stradanus was not only active as a painter of frescos and altarpieces and a designer of tapestries and engravings, but also played a prominent role at the court of the Medici as a painter of decorations.

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