The Mari-Cha Collection

A pair of imposing, late fifteenth-century Florentine panel paintings on loan from The Mari-Cha Collection are displayed in the West Gallery. Painted in 1487 to embellish a marriage chamber, the so-called Tornabuoni-Albizzi panels depict scenes from the Argonautica, the famous myth of Jason’s quest for the golden fleece. The Departure of the Argonauts by Pietro del Donzello (1452–1509) and The Argonauts in Colchis by Bartolomeo di Giovanni (active 1475–1511) are rare examples from a complete suite of painted domestic decoration that illustrates the high level of achievement typical of these artists, who worked in Florence at the same time as their better-known contemporaries Ghirlandaio and Botticelli. When recently shown at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, the panels notably illuminated aspects of Florentine culture during the golden age of Lorenzo the Magnificent. At the Frick, these compelling works offer a fresh perspective for appreciating many of the collection’s Renaissance masterpieces.

The Tornabuoni-Albizzi panels were painted for the marriage bedroom of Lorenzo di Giovanni Tornabuoni (1468–1497) and Giovanna degli Albizzi (1468–1488). Their marriage, which took place in the summer of 1486, was a dynastic alliance between two patrician families that had been mediated by the de facto ruler of Florence, Lorenzo de’ Medici. Such political marriages were celebrated typically with lavish entertainments and the commissioning of magnificent art objects and paintings, many of them meant to adorn the nuptial chamber. Lorenzo and Giovanna’s was one of the most splendid of its kind. An inventory of the chamber, taken in 1497 after the couple’s tragically early deaths, describes it as “beautiful.” Ranking among the grandest accouterments of that room, the Tornabuoni-Albizzi panels mark a crucial transitional stage in the development of Florentine domestic interiors when the custom of decorating rooms with paintings set into wall paneling at shoulder height began to complement the practice of presenting newlywed couples with pairs of elaborately carved and painted chests.

Pietro del Donzello, also known as the Master of 1487 (1452–1509)
The Departure of the Argonauts, 1487
Oil on panel
33 x 64 1/2 in. (83.8 x 163.8 cm)
The Mari-Cha Collection

Location: West Gallery

Bartolomeo di Giovanni (active 1475–1511)
The Argonauts in Colchis, 1487
Tempera and oil on panel
32 3/4 x 64 1/2 in. (83.2 x 163.8 cm)
The Mari-Cha Collection

Location: West Gallery