Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Judith Meighan, Professor of Art History
Mary Gilbert Palmer, Jewelry Historian
Art and Music Histories
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Arts and Humanities
In 1545, Eleonora di Toledo, the wife of Cosimo de’ Medici Duke of Florence, sat for her state portrait by Agnolo Bronzino. Bronzino depicted Eleonora in formal attire adorned with many jewels. This thesis examines both the iconographic significance of her jewelry and the methods of jewelry construction. Divided into three chapters, this investigation looks at Medici symbols within the jewelry design, alterations to the jewelry in portrait replications, and the techniques used in the creation of the jewelry.
In the first chapter of this thesis, I discuss Medici imprese (a familial emblem or coat of arms) integrated into the jewelry that Eleonora di Toledo wears in the 1545 portrait. I argue that Eleonora’s fashionable jewelry symbolized Cosimo’s dynastic pretensions and the political rebirth of Florence.
The second chapter is a study of alterations to Eleonora’s original jewelry of 1545 as depicted in three later portrait reproductions: Eleonora with son Francesco of 1549, the posthumous Eleonora di Toledo of 1562, and her portrait of 1575 in the studiolo of Francesco. My analysis revealed that Bronzino painted a fabricated imitation of Eleonora’s jewelry in the former two portraits while the latter displays changes mimicking popular Renaissance wedding jewelry that served to emphasize Eleonora’s long and happy marriage to Cosimo.
In the third chapter, I discuss the art of the Renaissance goldsmith, focusing on the materials and techniques for creating Eleonora’s jewels as recorded in Benvenuto Cellini’s treatises. To understand the process, I spent five months making replicas of her portrait jewelry in a metalsmithing studio. In addition to comparing and contrasting my methods against Cellini’s, I document my experience and elaborate on the effort required of a contemporary jeweler to recreate Renaissance pieces historically made by a team of artisans.
Marsolek, Laura, "The Jewelry of Eleonora di Toledo in the Official 1545 Portrait by Bronzino" (2013). Honors Capstone Projects - All. 24.
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