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Luca Giordano, Minerva as Protectress of the Arts and Sciences

Key facts
Full title Minerva as Protectress of the Arts and Sciences
Artist Luca Giordano
Artist dates 1634 - 1705
Series Modelli for the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence
Date made early 1680s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 73.5 × 88 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the Trustees of Sir Denis Mahon's Charitable Trust through the Art Fund, 2013
Inventory number NG6638
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Minerva as Protectress of the Arts and Sciences
Luca Giordano

This modello, or detailed oil study, is one of a group of 12 that Giordano made in preparation for the ceiling frescoes in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence in 1682–85. This scene corresponds to that painted on one of the two short walls, above the entrance to the grand Galleria.

It shows Minerva, goddess of wisdom and crafts, entrusting the key of knowledge to a seated figure representing Intellect and a hammer to the kneeling figure of Craftsmanship. Minerva is accompanied by the messenger god, Mercury, while the naked figure of Truth kneels beside her. To the left is the she-wolf that, according to legend, suckled the infants Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome. In the background is probably Amphion, one of the founders of the ancient Greek city of Thebes, also known for his musicianship. He is playing a viol so beautifully that he has attracted a flock of birds.

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Modelli for the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence


This group of ten paintings was made by Giordano as a series of detailed oil studies (or modelli) for the ceiling frescoes in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence, which are among the artist’s finest achievements. The modelli are part of a set of 12 (the other two are in private collections).

Nine of the paintings relate to the ceiling of the highly ornate Galleria, built to house a precious collection of antiquities and function as a public reception room. The other is associated with the ceiling of the adjacent Library. The overall theme in the Galleria is the elevation of mankind through Wisdom and Virtue, using allegorical and mythological figures to represent different strengths and traits. It culminates in a centrepiece which presents the wealthy Medici family as the paradigm of both these qualities.

Giordano seems to have worked up these modelli to clarify his designs and may have presented them to his client, the Marquess Francesco Riccardi, for approval before the frescoes were executed.