Does anyone have published info on this 'allegorical impresa'? There are two Florentine family coat of arms with feline forearm/paws, neither of which perfectly matches the 'allegory' but perhaps the Morelli comes closest if you just switch out the 'volute' symbol at the top with a fleur-di-lys (possibly done as part of the allegory).SteveM wrote:Here is Ponte's Allegorical Impress with Stemma:
Morelli stemma: The leopards appear as a bit of surprise (one would think the feline arms were lions, in accord with the Florentine marzocco), but a leopard famously appears with a wolf and lion before Dante enters the Inferno while in the 'dark woods'. All three animals symbolizing various vices, but Dante surely drew on this biblical passage prophesying the destruction of those who refuse to repent for their iniquities (so the animals were both a vice and the manner of one's comeuppance): "Wherefore a lion out of the wood hath slain them, a wolf in the evening hath spoiled them, a leopard watcheth for their cities: every one that shall go out thence shall be taken, because their transgressions are multiplied, their rebellions strengthened" (Jeremiah 5:6).
If the leopard keeps a city in line – and the same feline forearms are on the shield - then the animals must symbolize the merits of the family in question in policing the city: Florence, as denoted by the fleur-di-lys, in place of the usual Morelli device at the top. The gender of the two leopards (the left one has a mane) must signify the gender of the two figures floating in the sky above each (like illuminations of deities from Pizan’s Othea). If the left figure with mandolin is male it must be Apollo (often he’s depicted with a mandolin or lute in his competition with Marsyas, but these are usually later in date). The woman on the right with book could be prudence, but it would be odd not to pair her with another virtue, such as Justice. We’ll come back to that.
The winged old man on crutches is obviously Time. The man stands on a mask but the scrolling, scalloped veil-like textile is usually attached to a heraldric helmet, which the shield below also calls out for. Allegorical figures adorning a helmet were common enough, such as the cupid on the helmet in the Apollonio di Giovanni joust cassone (for the winner of the joust below). Why then a mask instead, hanging on what appears to be a heavily pruned vine or tree? The closest cognate I can find is the ‘[Sc]Ipeo’ from the Sola Busca where a robed, time-like figure seemingly consults a spiritello, in place of the mask, on a pruned tree/vine.
Scipio famously – in Cicero’s Republic via Macrobius’ ‘Dream of Scipio’ commentary - saw the generations of Rome from his dream visit of the heavens. Is the mask then a dynastic symbol - like the stemma - to be borne by all past and future members of this Florentine family, protecting the city-state of Florence like the leopards? And what of the tree or vine the mask is attached to? It is arguably a pruned vine (hence its short stature) as the mask was often joined to putti or spiritelli in connection with classical imagery of the vine taken from sarcophagi, etc. Dempsey points out the spiritelli treading and gathering grapes on the base of Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes, a statue which connoted the same message of protecting Florence:
The vine motif is also seen in Jesus metaphors when he says he ‘is the vine’ or the ‘new wine’, but in the Renaissance this was an opportunity to connect to classical pagan sources and Christianize them; Dempsey again:Donatello’s bronze reliefs for the base of the Judith and Holofernes, rather than comprising the subject of his sculpture, instead function, as do the spiritelli on the frame of the Cavalcanti Annunciation, as a kind of ornament in action that comments upon and enlarges his main theme. [Dempsey goes on to describe each of the three faces of the base featuring wine-making spiritelli in detail, and regarding a putto on the third:…] bestows a kiss upon a mask affixed to a stone block, its mouth fitted with a water spout. The empty mask (larva) signifies a deluded fancy of the sort drink can induce – a folletto, or empty follow, a mere scarecrow used to frighten small children and animals – and the relief thus summarizes Holoferne’s fate and its cause [beheaded while drunk].” [Charles Dempsey, Inventing the Renaissance Putto, 2001: 56-58]
So we have Apollo, Time and an unidentified female hovering over the stemma of a distinguished Florentine family committed to honoring its own genetic line and the honor of Florence, like leopards. Who then is the female? I believe Virgil is the key, as in that same work cited by Dempsey for the vine motif – Georgics, aka Eclogues – is the most famous passage of all in the 4th Eclogue: the Cumaean Sibyl’s prophecy, interpreted as a foreshadowing of Christ’s birth.[Christ is the vine] “of whose vine we are the branches, in union with whom we acquire the fruits of eternal life And in both the spirits of renewed life symbolized by the grape racemes are overtly expressed by the infant putti, whether interpreted as spiritelli, genii, or as the souls of Dionysian initiates….The vernacular meaning of spirit of course encompasses that of the soul, even though spiritello refers not so much to the human soul as it does to the natural spirit (pneuma) animating the vine itself, whether with regard to its nourishing substance or its inebriative powers. And as such, Quattrocento identification of the infant Bacchoi on Roman sarcophagi as spiritelli follows Virigl’s second Georgics, verses 362-96, where the poet writes of the care of the new vine. [ibid, 66]
There you have it - Apollo on the upper left, happily reigning while playing music, the Cumaean Sibyl pointing to her book of prophecy in the upper right, and below them in the middle is Time-as-Saturn, returned god of the Golden Age, crowning the mask of the Morelli, whose generations will see to the protection of their own line and that of Florence.Now is come the last age of the Cumaean prophecy:
The great cycle of periods is born anew.
Now returns the Maid, returns the reign of Saturn [iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna]
Now from high heaven a new generation comes down.
Yet do thou at that boy's birth,
In whom the iron race shall begin to cease,
And the golden [age] to arise over all the world,
Holy Lucina, be gracious; now thine own Apollo reigns.