A Thematic Reconsideration of the Galleria Rucellai of Jacopo Zucchi
Rudolphi, Adam Alexander
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This dissertation presents new research into the Galleria Rucellai, a longitudinal, decorated interior created by Jacopo Zucchi for Orazio Rucellai sometime between 1586 and 1591, arguing for a unifying theme, namely time. Zucchi's technical and artistic formation, his social and patronal milieu in the years leading up to the execution of the Galleria's frescoes, and the identities of the patron and his family are key considerations, each connected to the proposed theme. The linearity of time, both as a sequence of lived or historical weeks and years and as an experiential index for the visual material assembled and subsequently described by Zucchi in his later treatise on the Galleria, constitutes the unifying thread. In selecting time as a theme for this monumental domestic decoration program for Rucellai's Roman palace, Zucchi meditates on its very nature, from intangible and distant mythological origin narratives from antiquity and Rucellai lore to the biographies of figures both famous and forgotten from Ancient Rome, in the era of the Gregorian Reform of the calendar, which changed how time's passage is marked. Concepts of lineage and descent, whether mythological, familial, or dynastic, express the theme and allow digression into examinations of biography and character, oscillating between the exemplary and the infamous and culminating in a uniquely Italian iteration of vanitas imagery. This combination of exemplum virtutis and memento mori both emphasizes the persistence of a complex form of identity, composed of the physical body, recorded actions, and external, sometimes posthumous character appraisal, and exhorts the viewer to careful consideration of behavior and life choices in the face of death as an end to the human experience of time. Specific appeals to the histories of Florence and Rome, the two chief cities of both Zucchi and Rucellai, link the figures' own biographies, which flower into encomia that visually revisit, at indexical spots within the room itself, the accomplishments and character each. The entire project is crowned and completed in Zucchi's Discorso, a treatise that both elucidates the imagery and furthers the artist's carefully-constructed self-presentation through rhetoric, engagements with contemporary art theoretical debates, and challenges to Michelangelo's insuperability.