Cosimo’s four slaves

Cosimo’s four slaves

Beck, James

I Medici in Rete. Ricerca e progettualità scientifica a proposito dell’archivio Mediceo avanti il Principato, edited by Cotta, Irene, and Klein, Francesca (Florence, 2003)


From time to time, as an unreconstructed aficionado of archival research, I devote a block of time to seeking fresh notices or documentary confirmation concerning diverse arguments which I am currently addressing. Recently I returned to a study of Masaccio (again), in a situation where the documentary evidence for his activities in Florence is negligible. This lacuna is especially evident for the frescoes of the Brancacci Chapel, where not a single indication has surfaced to provide even the slightest hint of the circumstances surrounding their execution not to mention the division of labour between Masaccio and Masolino. Recognising that scholars have been scouring the archives for such notices for several centuries, I concluded that the usual avenues of research would probably not offer much by way of new data, so I sought less obvious avenues.

As happens frequently, as archive-oriented individuals know well, the trail of a particular problem often leads to little gems which, while not related to the problem at hand, can be rewarding to scholarship. I choose to dip into the vast holdings of the Carte Strozziane. These fascinating accumulations, which have also been combed by scholars over the years, contain a mixture of digests, copies and transcriptions, as well as original manuscripts, giving some likelihood that notices found there could have been overlooked.

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