Thanks, Kate, for the illustrations and summary of Valencian lusterware. I don't know if any of it is useful for dating Medici insignia or not. I certainly won't, without studying it further.
I read Vertova, 1979, and Fahy, 1989. Interestingly for us, one of the main reasons for dating the Cupid and Psyche panel to the 1444 wedding was the presence of what appeared to be Medici devices. The one that Vertova talks about is on the portal Cupid's palace, which is thus assimilated to the groom's, Piero's. Fahy says it was identified as the Medici coat of arms, five balls on a golden shield. I can't make out these details myself. There is also the little plant coming out of the middle vase in Thornton's illustration, which divides at the top into three parts.
Schubring saw it as a reference to Piero's "three heron feathers" (Fahy p. 288). So the Cupid and Psyche panel must have been done for Piero's wedding, Wilhelm Bode concluded, with many after him agreeing. Fahy says in reply (p. 289):
Yet any gardener with common sense will be skeptical about the symbolism of the tripartite top of the middle plant because it is such a common form. Moreover, the display of such devices was not restricted to individual members of the family (18). Nor, indeed, to the Medici. Other Florentine families often used Medicean symbols to show their loyalty to the leading family of the city. The Medici coat of arms appears, for example, on a tree in one of the panels mentioned above which Botticelli produced for Antonio Pucci. The supposed alluision to Piero de' Medici's wedding, therefore, cannot serve as a terminus post quem.
18. See Francis Ames-Lewis, "Early Medicean Devices", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (1979), 122-143.
The Botticelli panels are wainscotting panels, 1483, illustrating Boccaccio's story of Nastagio degli Omesti, that Pulci commissioned for the wedding of his son Giannozzo to Lucretia Bini (Fahy p. 287). It is the 3rd panel at http://www.abcgallery.com/B/botticelli/ ... lli26.html
, another example of seven palle after 1465 (although the 1448/9 birth tray has 8: http://worldvisitguide.com/oeuvre/photo ... 722.html#;
I don't know any post-1465 examples of that).
It seems to me that the Botticelli is not a convincing counterexample. It is one thing to have the Medici arms in a wedding feast presided over by Jupiter in a forest, and quite another to have them over the doorway to the groom's
palace. If, as is likely, the panels are for a wedding, then it is probably one with a Medici groom. But there were Medici weddings in 1469 and 1487. There remains the feathers-like plant, however. If indeed it is symbolic, does it point to Piero in particular? I'll get to that in a moment.
Fahy's positive argument for a later dating is surprisingly thin; the jagged rocks that made people think of Pessellino (not just me!) he says also appear in a Madonna and Child that is by the "Master of the Argonauts". As for the Cupid and Psyche, he just asserts that to his eye it is by the same artist who did the first panel of the Argonauts cassone, c. 1470, but better done, so c. 1475. Also, the other panel is clearly by an artist not active until the 1470s, Biagio d'Antonio, and the two panels were surely done around the same time. (I added this last sentence the next day.) I don't know how art historians can just tell these things. I certainly can't, from the black and white photos they show us, or the low-resolution color images on the Web. Fahy speculates that the artist might be Francesco Rosselli, who started out as a miniaturist but is mainly known for his engravings after Baldini of Triumphs and Sibyls, and also for his engraved maps. I don't see much similarity myself; if so, he is in the same milieu as the tarot cardmakers of that time.
Now I want to get back to Piero's device of the three feathers. In 1444, who besides Piero would even know about Piero's device? It is not in the same league with the palle. And did Piero even have such a device then? I am led to Ames-Lewis's article, which Ross cited but which I didn't read for myself, being focused then on Decker. There are some things in it that Ross didn't cite that are of interest.
The diamond ring with feathers are first present in public in 1448, when Piero put his devices, as opposed to the Medici family's, on the Cappella di Crocifisso in S. Miniate al Monte, together with SEMPER and a falcon (Ames-Lewis p. 140). So likely he would have had the device in 1444, but not as something generally known. The falcon is a generic image in medieval heraldry that Piero decided to adopt (p. 137). The diamond ring may have come from the Estense, granted by them in 1438 (Ames-Lewis p. 141), just as it had been to the Sforza in 1409 (p. 130). As for the feathers (p. 129; some of this has been quoted by Ross):
The diamond ring with feathers may suggest that the bearer is eternally just, since ostrich feathers (believed all to be the same length) symbolized Justice 30; on the other hand, the feathers used by the Medici may be those lost by the moulting falcon (a variant of Piero di Cosimo's personal device) and may imply the same symbolic and heraldic characteristics as the falcon itself. Giovio associated the colours given to the feathers of the full family device with those of the Theological Virtues, implying that the bearer is forever controlled by Faith, Hope and Charity: this may well be an element in the symbolism of Piero's livery colours. 31 In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, writers of emblem books developed further elaborations of these ideas, but it is likely that the early Medici intended their family device to carry no more than a general implication of eternal faithfulness and strength. 32
30. The earliest reference to the Medici feathers as those of the ostrich known to me is in Cod. Vat. Lat. 5381, on the decorations for a festa in Rome in 1513: 'Tutto e fatto di leoni et anelli con diamanti ornate di penne di strutto'; see H. Janitschek, 'Das Capitolinische Theater vom Jahre 1513', Repertorium fiir Kunstwissenschaft, v, 1882, p. 264 n. 14...
So Piero's feathers are either generic or come from a falcon, not an ostrich. The rest of note 30 says more on ostrich feathers. The Sforza of Pesaro used them in a 1475 wedding. St. Gregory, in his Moralia
, compared ostrich feathers (= Hypocrites) unfavorably with those of the falcon (= the Faithful). But "Classical writers like Pliny, however, make no such complimentary statements about the falcon" (p. 137). It is a medieval symbol.
More relevantly (same page):
The Gonzaga inventory of 1407 includes 'Unum banchale nigrum vetus cum pennis strucij rubeis et albis', see W.
Braghirolli, Sulle manifatture di arazzi in Mantova, Mantua 1879, p. 69: Mantua may have been the source for Medicean usage.
He will elaborate on that hypothesis later (see below). Footnote 31, quoted by Ross, talks about Giovi, who attributed the use of colored feathers to Lorenzo di Piero; "but there are numerous examples in Piero di Cosimo's usage", Ames-Lewis says. Footnote 32 cites later emblem books on the association of precious stones with beauty and goodness, and (I think) strength and constancy, for which I give the Latin and Italian:
For example F. Picinelli, Mondo Simbolico, Milan 1653 (hereafter Picinelli) p. 363: 'Perche ne dalle fiamme, ne dalle martellate, e offeso, fii chi gli soprapose: NEC FERRO, NEC IGNE; 6 pure: SEMPER IDEM; 0veramente: SEMPER CONSTANS, e dimostra generositt, e fortezza di cuore invincibile, e insuperabile da i piuh duri contrasti'...
On the other hand, speaking of the device of the ring with three feathers, which appears on a youth's sleeve in an early Florentine print of a youth and a girl holding a ball between them, he says that while it might have been a specifically Medici commission (p. 131):
... the device and motto perhaps had a more general significance of eternal love, and both prints and the diamond ring device may have had a wide general circulation and cannot be interpreted as exclusively Medicean.
That generalization would seem to apply to marriage gifts such as cassone panels.
Then there is the question of the colors. First, what were Piero's livery colors? Ames-Lewis says (p. 136):
The falcon-decorated standard listed in the 1456 inventory follows immediately after 'Una filza di frappe di taffecta alla divisa di P.'. 68 By analogy with the use of the term 'alla divisa' in the 1469 Ricordo, 'alla divisa di
Piero' probably describes his livery colours, white, purple and green,...
A few lines later he adds:
Colour begins to play an important part in Piero de' Medici's works at about this time: the glazed terracotta roof-tiles of the Cappella del Crocifisso vary between white, dull light mauve-pink and dull green, the colours of the Theological Virtues. Giovio suggested that the use of the colours of the Virtues on the feathers of the Medici device was an elaboration introduced by Lorenzo di Piero, 69 but it occurs frequently in Piero's use of the device. The Medici standard for the 1459 spettacolo was 'di seta vermiglia, candida e verde', and the floor of the Palazzo Medici chapel is made of an inlaid pattern of white marble, porphyry and serpentine.70 The groom leading the horse ridden by Piero di Cosimo in the Cappella Medici frescoes wears a doublet which beautifully illustrates Piero's livery (P1. 38c). It is divided into two halves, one with a pattern of alternating lozenges in dull carmine-rose and deep apple-green separated by white lines, the other with a white diamond ring on the dull carmine-rose ground with, knotted to it at the base, a long white scroll with a deep apple-green reverse inscribed (S)EMPER. Green, white and red were well-known in the early Quattrocento as the livery colours of the Gonzaga of Mantua: they can be found for example on the Gonzaga heraldic flower device which sometimes had petals with concentric circles of green inside, white, and red at the edges.71 This livery is worn by figures in Pisanello's frescoes at Mantua, and in the frescoes of the Palazzo Schifanoia, which suggests that the Este of Ferrara also adopted it at some stage.72
The use of livery colours and of the motto SEMPER is first found, like Piero's falcon, on the Cappella del Crocifisso in S. Miniato. ...
The footnotes here merely document his statements, except for footnote 70:
70 These coloured marbles were used again by Verrocchio for the tomb-slab of Cosimo de' Medici and for the tomb of Piero and Giovanni de' Medici, both in S. Lorenzo (Seymour, pp. 50-55). It is a happy coincidence that the symbolic colours of the Theological Virtues, adopted by Piero for his livery, correspond with the colours of these marbles: a coincidence which was often exploited by the Medici and their artists for decorative purposes.
There is no way to be sure that Piero intended the symbolism of the three theological virtues in the use of their colors. It might be just coincidence. But that they are all over the Medici Chapel and its frescoes, in their tombs, and on the roof of the Cappella del Crocifisso is at least suggestive.
It is only at this point that Ames-Lewis talks about the Lorenzo birth tray of 1 January 1448/9, with the full device in the three colors "white, red, and green" (p. 137). By now I think he has also given ample evidence that these colors were in fact in effect for Piero (here I am addressing a question that Kate raised). He gives a second example in a copy of a new translation of Plutarch, Vitae Alcibiades
, and three more manuscript examples in footnote 74.
Later Ames-Lewis talks more about the livery colors (p. 140f, my highlighting):
Piero de' Medici was, it appears, the leading light in the introduction of a vocabulary of Medicean emblems which was taken up and greatly expanded by his sons. In this respect Piero was emulating a characteristic of Italian court life already current in such centres as Milan, Naples, Ferrara and Mantua, and even adopted specific devices used in those courts. Piero's livery colours may derive from contacts with the Gonzaga court at Mantua,
and it may be that the Este empowered him to adopt the diamond ring as the family device of the Medici: it first appears in the Paris Petrarch made for Piero only a few years after his sojourn in Ferrara at the time of the Council
in 1438 (P1. 37a).91 Links developed with the Este in 1438 may also be more generally significant to the development of courtly attitudes in the Medici.
At the same time, the colors weren't essential, even in the Medici Chapel (p. 137).
Another important example of this full device is on the trappings of Piero di Cosimo's horse in the Cappella Medici frescoes. Here however, as elsewhere in the Chapel decoration, the feathers are not coloured: they are part
of the gold pattern on the deep scarlet ground of the bridle. Colour symbolism was evidently not indispensable to the meaning of the device: in Piero's manuscript of Pomponius Mela, Cosmographia the feathers are painted gold;75 in the 1469 giostra Giuliano di Piero, riding in Lorenzo's cortege, wore 'una berretta di velluto nero con 3 penne d'oro filato suvi ritte .. .,' 76 and one of the Magi's retinue in the Cappella Medici wears a head-band with three gold feathers. In the same decoration three figures, traditionally identified as Piero de' Medici's three daughters, wear similar headbands with red and blue feathers; and in the decoration of Piero's copy of Cyprian two examples of the device have respectively one mauve and two green, and two mauve and one green, feathers.77
Ames-Lewis has much more to say about the ring, the falcon, and also the peacock. But I think I've cited enough to show that he is quite justified in a attributing the three colors to Piero in particular, starting no later than a few years after 1438, with the link to the theological virtues and the Magi perhaps at the beginning, probably by 1448, and more likely still by 1459. We can also add the 16th century testimony of Giove, although his claim only goes back as far as Lorenzo; that he was not intentionally making this up is indicated by another comment that Giove makes, saying that he "was unclear about the meaning of three interlocked rings":
'. . . ma a dirvi il vero, con ogni diligenza cercando, non potei mai trovare precisamente quel che volessero
significare, e ne stette sempre in dubbio papa Clemente .. .'
(p. 129 n. 31; I added the last sentence plus the quote the next day). At the same time, the presence of three feathers, or something like them, in an artwork does not necessarily mean Piero; it might have just been a generic symbol of eternal love. And we cannot always conclude that the feathers even with Piero were those colors, the ones of the Magi and the theological virtues, although Piero, in Ames-Lewis's reasonable view, did intend the association when he used them.
Whether the feather-like plume on the Charles VI Hanged Man is one of those feathers I doubt, if only because of its singleness and a plume unlike Piero's simpler feathers. The ostrich feather as justice seems good enough.
Note: I edited this post the next day so as to add two sentences, one near the beginning and the other, plus a quote from Giove, near the end; to get to them, find "next day" in the post.