The Medici and Muslims—Islamic culture at the Uffizi and the Bargello
"Ottoman silks and tiles, Mameluke carpets, Persian illuminated manuscripts, Syrian metalwork..., and Moorish ceramics adorned with Florentine family crests."
Before Italy was Italy, the Medici reined as perhaps the most important banking family and political dynasty during the Renaissance. Centered in Florence, their mercantile and financial networks connected peoples across the Mediterranean. Perhaps none was more important than the connection of the Medici with the Muslim world.
A new exhibit—shown across both the Uffizi Gallery and the National Museum of Bargello, both in Florence—seeks to illustrate those Renaissance connections and demonstrate how the Muslim world was every bit as rich in both financial and cultural terms if not as long-lasting as the Republic of Florence and the Medici fortune. In fact, the exportation of textiles from Florence to the Muslim world was a primary factor in the success of the Medici, and the numerous products imported in exchange indelibly liked the Muslim world to Florence. (The 2007 photo of the Bargello courtyard above is in the public domain).
Given the ongoing tensions between the West and Muslims, this exhibit was designed specifically to illustrate the historical connections as a way of promoting ideas that are counter to the primarily negative stories about Muslims today. By focusing on the initial Florentine appreciation of Islamic material culture (as well as their scholarly advancements that helped fuel the Italian Renaissance), visitors should gain a new appreciation for the heritage of the Muslim community that extends into the present.
By Farah Nayeri
August 17, 2018
The New York Times