Completed under the supervision of our favourite artist and architect Giorgio Vasari, and built between 1570 and 1575, this tiny room just off the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio was the studiolo of Francesco de’ Medici, who had taken over from his father Cosimo I in 1564 as the Duke of Tuscany.
From a total of 31 artists including Vasari himself, Giovanni Batista Adriani, Vincenzo Borghini, Alessandro Allori and Giovanni Stradano, this little place of solitude for Francesco was a cabinet of curiosities to house his collection of rare and precious items such as jewels, medals and precious stones, a secluded office away from watchful eyes and most interestingly a secret laboratory.
Only accessible from his bedroom (the opposite side from where we enter today), this was Francesco’s place of refuge from the outside world. He had little interest in the governing and politics of Florence, instead had a passion for alchemy and experiments; which links in to the central fresco of Prometheus receiving jewels from nature, showing that divine, nature and humanity are the goals of artistic and scientific interests. The walls are adorned with 34 paintings representing mythological, religious subjects, or trades, and were arranged to coincide with the objects in the cabinets below. Look for the four natural elements despited on the walls by Boghini; bones and engraved stones would be kept in a cabinet in the earth category, glass and metals under fire and pearls under water. The arrangement we see today may not be exactly how the paintings were originally, as shortly after the death of the Grand Duke, the room was left to neglect and dismantled in 1590, only to be reconstructed in the twentieth century.