By: Amy Fredrickson
The exhibition “The Medici’s Painter: Carlo Dolci and Seventeenth Century Florence” is currently on display at The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The show began on 24 August and runs until 14 January 2018. The Davis Museum in Wellesley, Massachusetts previously displayed the exhibition, which is the first show dedicated to Carlo Dolci in the United States. Eve Straussman-Pflanzer and Francesca Baldassari curated this exhibition providing museum visitors with the opportunity to experience the artistic output of a prominent Medici painter. Curators selected over fifty works loaned from European and American private collections as well as museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Palazzo Pitti and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence; the Louvre Museum in Parisl and the Musée Fabre, Montpellier.
Carlo Dolci (1616-1687) began his painting career at the young age of nine when he undertook an apprenticeship in Jacopo Vignali’s workshop in 1625, a date which corresponds to his first documented works. He may have developed his ability to depict intense and subjective practices while working closely with Vignali. Archival documents show that at the age of 16, in 1632, Dolci was leading his own workshop.
Don Lorenzo de’ Medici noticed Dolci’s talent and employed the young artist. While working within the Medici court, he also held the patronage of Grand Duchess Vittoria delle Rovere, who was a fervent patron of the arts. Several of his paintings are listed in the inventories of the Medici villas. As is visible in the exhibition, Dolci’s works are typically highly emotional and meticulous depictions of religious subjects, and Dolci was known for his piety during his lifetime. In fact, he wrote that his “firm intention to paint only works that would inspire the fruits of Christian piety in those who saw them” emphasizes his religious passion. Curators also provide insight into his religious nature and his participation in a religious guild. Dolci’s style differs from other contemporary Baroque painters, especially that of Medici painter and rival Luca Giordano (1634-1705), which is addressed in the exhibition.
Dolci’s paintings showcase his ability to illuminate his subjects with radiant pallet choices, and vibrant colors. Some scholars believe his works show the influence of Netherlandish paintings. Though Dolci was not known to travel, Netherlandish examples would have been readily available from the Medici collection for his study.
By the 1640s, Dolci’s work was in such high demand in Florence that he executed copies of his own work in addition to workshop copies. Many of his works are smaller commissions depicting half-length single subjects, which showcase an intense religiosity while also portraying his sophisticated style.
During his lifetime Dolci’s work was well regarded in Florence; however, his style fell out of favor to collectors and connoisseurs during the 19th century. Unfortunately, his works were not revered for their highly religious nature, as they had been during the seventeenth-century. This exhibition is an opportunity to explore a highly regarded Florentine painter, and to study his work through a new lens. This is also the first time that many of his works, which are today part of private collections, are displayed to the public. Curators invite museum goers to form their own opinions on the work of a unique Florentine painter.
“Carlo Dolci (Italian, (Florentine), 1616 – 1687) (Getty Museum)”. 2017. The J. Paul Getty In Los Angeles. http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/474/carlo-dolci-italian-florentine-1616-1687/.
“Carlo Dolci | Artist | 1616 – 1686 | National Gallery, London”. 2017. Nationalgallery.Org.Uk. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/carlo-dolci.
McCorquodale, Charles, “Dolci, Carlo.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed September 8, 2017,
Straussman-Pflanzer, Eve, ed., The Medici’s Painter: Carlo Dolci And Seventeenth-Century Florence, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017)
The Penitent Magdalene, oil on canvas, c. 1670, The Davis Museum, Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College
Self-Portrait, oil on canvas, 1674, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence