The considerable number of Florentine paintings “in the modern manner” hanging in the Galleria dell’Accademia’s David Tribune includes a monumental altarpiece of the by Carlo Portelli – dated 1566 and formerly in the church of Ognissanti – which may rightly be considered to be his masterpiece. Yet this painter’s work has never received the critical acclaim that it deserves, despite his being the recipient of important commissions in his own day and one of the artists most active in the large decorative schemes commissioned by the House of Medici.

Allegoria dellImmacolata Concezione 1566Thus there was every good reason for using this visionary painting, reminiscent of the style of Rosso Fiorentino and which so shocked poor Raffaello Borghini (1584) with its brazen and irreverent display of Eve’s nudity in the foreground, as the centerpiece of an exhibition comprising all of the pictures that can be reliably attributed to Portelli. Thanks to further research and study specially commissioned to tie in with the exhibition, it has proven possible to clarify Portelli’s role in Florentine art in the age of Vasari once and for all. The exhibition, which comprises some fifty paintings, drawings and documents, sets out not only to enhance the Galleria dell’Accademia’s own altarpiece but also to encourage the crowds that daily visit the gallery to discover an artist hitherto known only to the experts, when in fact he deserves far wider appreciation for his originality, his imagination and his ability to translate inventive concepts into painting in the manner of Vasari. After moving to Florence from Loro Ciuffenna, his birthplace, at an unspecified date, Vasari tells us that Carlo trained in the well-established, if crowded, workshop of Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio and that by 1538 he had already enrolled in the Company of St. Luke, or Painters’ Guild. The following year he was working with Salviati on the apparatus for Cosimo I’s wedding to Eleonora of Toledo, completing an ephemeral painting of the for which the Louvre has a preparatory drawing by Salviati (on display in the exhibition).

Galleria dell’Accademia
Via Ricasoli, 58/60, Firenze