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Luca Giordano, Mythological Scene of Agriculture

Key facts
Full title Mythological Scene of Agriculture
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 121.4 × 192 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the Trustees of Sir Denis Mahon's Charitable Trust through the Art Fund, 2013
Inventory number NG6630
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Mythological Scene of Agriculture
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. The overall theme of these highly elaborate, showpiece frescoes is the progress of mankind by means of Wisdom and Virtue.

This scene corresponds with the right half of the ceiling decoration above the north wall of the grand Galleria, opposite the windows. Its theme is fertility. Ceres, goddess of agriculture, is sowing a field ploughed by the muscular Triptolemus, who also had agricultural associations. Flora, the flower goddess, sits with her back turned; watering the soil close by is the wind god Zephyr. Between them is Vertumnus, protector of gardens and husband of Pomona, goddess of orchards, who is pruning a pomegranate tree at the left. Ceres’s sister Juno rides a chariot drawn by two peacocks, while in the foreground a river god sits astride a stream.

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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.