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Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

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Piero de’ Medici takes delight in his studiolo

Piero de’ Medici takes delight in his studiolo

He has himself carried into a studio…. When he arrives here, he looks at his books. They seem like nothing but solid pieces of gold. They are most noble both within and without; [they are] in Latin and the vulgar to suit man’s delight and pleasure. Sometimes he reads one or the other or has them read. He has so many different kinds that not one day but more than a month would be required to see and understand their dignity. Let us leave aside the reading and the authors of these books. It is not necessary to list them, because he has them in every discipline, whether in Latin, Greek, or Italian, so long as they are worthy. He has honored them, as you have understood, with fine script, miniatures, and ornaments of gold and silk, as a man who recognizes the dignity of their authors and through love of them has wished to honor their works in this manner. Then on another day he runs over all these volumes with his eye for his pleasure, to pass the time and to give recreation to his sight….

He has effigies and portraits of all the emperors and noble men who have ever lived made in gold, silver, bronze, jewels, marble, or other materials. They are marvelous things to see. Their dignity is such that only looking at these portraits carved in bronze—excluding those in gold, silver, and in other noble stones—fills his soul with delight and pleasure in their excellence. These give pleasure in two ways to anyone who understands and enjoys them as he does: first for the excellence of the image represented; secondly for the noble mastery of those ancient angelic spirits who with their sublime intellects [have] made such vile things as bronze, marble, and such materials acquire such great price. Valuable things such as gold and silver have become even greater through their mastery, for, as it is noted, there is nothing, from gems on, that is worth more than gold. They have made it worth more than gold by means of their skill. As has been said above, they have made everything viler than gold worth much more than gold itself. He takes pleasure first from one and then from another. In one he praises the dignity of this image because it was done [by the] hand of man; and then in another that was more skillfully done, he states that it seems to have done by nature rather than by man. When we see something made by the hand of Phidias or Praxiteles, we say that it does not seem by their hand. It appears to have come from heaven rather than to have been made by man. He takes greatest pleasure and delight in these things. Another day he looks at his jewels and precious stones. He has a marvelous quality of them of great value and cut in different ways. He takes pleasure and delight in looking at them and in talking about the virtue and value of those he has. Another day [he looks] at vases of gold, silver, and other materials made nobly and at great expense and brought from different places…various strange arms for offense and defense. The observer can only admire such things….

In short, worthy and magnanimous man that he is, of many virtues and polite accomplishments, he delights in every worthy and strange thing and does not note the expense. I was told that he had so many different things that if he looked at [each] one of them for a day it would take a month [to see them all].


Filarete (Antonio Averlino), Treatise on Architecture, trans. John R. Spencer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965), 1: 320.