The Uffizi Gallery presents Jona Ostiglio, the Jewish painter of the Medici court

According to the magazine, on November 16, Florence’s Uffizi gallery presented the results of its investigation into John Ostiglio, a Jewish artist who worked illegally at the Medici court in the 17th century. Art Knowledge.

His works are kept in this museum in Florence as well as in Rome.

The man, an unknown artist, belonged to the Jewish community of Florence, which at the time contained about 200 families in a ghetto the size of a football field. Its members could only work in certain fields and their relationship with Christians was strictly regulated.

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Thus, the existence and life of Jona Ostiglio have been of great interest to researchers, at that time the man was a titular member of the prestigious academy founded by the famous artist Giorgio Vasari.

“It’s quite a discovery,” said Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Gallery, who now wants to give Ostiglio and his work all the recognition they deserve.

Thus, several pieces attributed to Ostiglio are part of the famous collection of the Uffizi Gallery.

Ostiglio, who was born between 1620 and 1630 and died after 1695, was a professional painter in Florence who worked for powerful families in the city at a time when Jews were not allowed to perform such work – hence the illegal nature of his work.

Piergabriele Mancuso, director of the Jewish studies program at the Medici Archive Project, which presented its findings at the Uffizi Gallery, wondered during a press conference introducing Ostiglio whether “there was an exception to the rule or something more common. Practice more than what was thought at the time.” “An open question,” the researcher said.

Mancuso became interested in Ostiglio while doing research for an exhibition about the Jewish ghetto in Florence to be organized by the Uffizi Gallery later next year. He was thus able to construct a portrait of Ostiglio from literary sources and archives.

According to Italian researchers, recent discoveries about the artist are of historical importance.

“Our idea is a unique Jew who is familiar enough with the Christian environment and is not afraid to deviate from the rabbinic laws that lead him in a more orthodox way,” Professor Mancuso said. New York Times. “His behavior was on the fringes of Jewish and Christian society at the time. »

Professor Mancuso attributed eight works to Ostiglio, believing him to be the author. These include still lifes of fish and several landscapes.

“Landscape, Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, Jona Ostiglio. (Credit: Gallerie degli Uffizi)

Ostiglio also painted an important family tree of Florence’s aristocratic Mannelli family that hangs in the reading room of the city’s State Archives, confirming that it worked for Florence’s noble families, “and it was highly valued,” Professor Mancuso said.

“Jews weren’t allowed to be goldsmiths, artists or guild members, so it’s quite unusual,” said Andreina Contessa, director of the historical museum of the Miramare castle and park in Trieste and former chief curator of the Nahon Museum of Italian Jews. Art in Jerusalem.

Ostiglio’s story also highlights the interactions between Jews and Christians and the importance of Jewish culture in various artistic forms, including painting, explained Silvana Greco, professor of the sociology of Judaism at the Freie Universität Berlin and co-curator of the exhibition. Jews and Renaissance Art in 2019.

Although Ostiglio was not the only Jewish artist working in Italy at the time, Mancuso says, Jews were more likely to practice art because of the discrimination against them. Ostiglio was nevertheless a professional artist and was recognized as such.

“The rule was that they couldn’t join the guilds—not because they couldn’t work; they could, but they worked without signing their names,” says Andreina Contessa

A few Jewish sculptors worked in both wood and marble, but they were considered artisans rather than artists, Mancuso explained.

According to him, until the 20th century, Ostiglio was the only Jewish member of the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts, founded by Vasari and patronized by the Grand Dukes of Medici.

Future research will aim to discover whether there are other works by Jona Ostiglio in the archives of other influential families in Florence.

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