Frieze for the Portico of Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano

Glazed terracotta frieze depicting figures in classical armor standing on either side of an ancient temple.

Bertoldo di Giovanni (ca. 1440–1491) and collaborators
Frieze for the Portico of Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano, ca. 1490
Glazed terracotta
(Section 3): 22 7/8 × 127 9/16 in. (58 × 324 cm)
Villa Medicea di Poggio a Caiano, Polo Museale della Toscana
Gabinetto Fotografico delle Gallerie degli Uffizi

This central section of the frieze would have aligned with the main entrance to the villa. Mars emerges from the Temple of Janus, the two-faced god of beginnings, who guards the temple doors and looks into both the future and the past. The section is seen to represent the Birth of the Year and may refer to Lorenzo de' Medici's birth on January 1, 1449 (although in Renaissance Florence the year began on March 25). The soldiers allude to war, as do the presence of Mars, god of war (but also of renewal and spring, the beginning of the agricultural year), and the open doors of the Temple of Janus, which were closed in times of peace. In the reading of the iconography as a depiction of the fate of just and unjust souls, this section is seen to represent the effects of injustice: war.


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