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Rafaello Gualterotti
Italian, 1543-1639
c. 1589

SN 36, oil on canvas

From: "The Pages"

The life of Raffaello Gualterotti is obscure except for his connection with two Medici wedding festivals in 1579 & 1589. Francesco de’ Medici married Bianca Capello. (1579) & later, Ferdinando de’ Medici married Christine de Lorraine, granddaughter of Catherine de’ Medici, Queen of France. Gualterotti sketched 65 designs and wrote 2 books on these occasions.

He worked mainly in Florence, and probably in the studio of Alessandro Allori, influenced by Giovanni Stradano (Stradanus).No other paintings by this artist are known (Tomory, p27).

The painting shows Piazza Santa Croce, where a ball game is taking place. The game was played by yound gentlemen and courtiers, and was similar to football. Players could use only fists and feet, however. Each team had 27 men: 15 innanzi (linemen), 5 sconciatori (quarterbacks), 4 datori innanzi (halfbacks), and 3 datori addietro (fullbacks). In the picture, the game is underway with the players in 3 rows. Spectators are in the balconies and all around the field, facing the palace. The game would last about an hour.

The boy and dog in the foreground seem to come from Allori’s “Allegory of Florence,” and the horsemen on the right from an engraving by Stradanus, “War of Siena.” (Tomory p 27)

The picture was once attributed to Allori, but Suida gives it to Gualterotti , on the basis of an engraving by Baldi & Marsili after drawings made by Gualterotti for his book. Since no other paintings by Gualterotti are known, it is purely surmise that he is the artist.

In this period, Italy was not the united country it is today. It consisted of a number of princely states. Therefore, when a powerful family like the Medicis entertained at a wedding festival, many noble families plus their retinues were guests. This meant housing and entertaining huge numbers of people. The revelry lasted for ten days to two weeks, with games, parades, mock naval battles, theatrical presentations and spectacles mounted for the guests’ pleasure. But prior to the actual celebration, in the case of the 1589 wedding, the bride spent a month just getting to Florence by way of majestic courtly parade through several Tuscan cities. In today’s currency, such an affair would cost 7 or 8 million dollars!

Additional Bibliography:

Exhibition Catalog: “Pontormo to Greco, the Age of Mannerism.” Indianapolis, Indiana, 1934.

Hibbert, Christopher. “The House of Medici – Its Rise & Fall.” NY, 1980

Sutton, Denys. “Masterworks from the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art.” Wildenstein Galleries, NY, May 1981.

Saslow, James M. “The Medici Wedding of 1589.” Yale University Press.

Ferrazza, Roberto. “Palazzo Dovanzati e le Collezioni di Elia Volpi.” 1944, pp203-221