Grinling Gibbons is probably the most skilled and most creative wood carver there has ever been. Stand in front of any of his pieces and marvel at the intricacy of the designs and the supreme skill in cutting into pale, almost white, limewood to create wonderful images in 3-D. This amazing wood carving is now in the Pitti Palace in Florence. It was made to celebrate the friendship between King Charles II of England and Cosimo III of the Medici family. The fact that it is still in existence is quite something as first it had to withstand the sea journey to the port of Livorna to get to Italy initially, then the flooding of Florence in 1966 and finally a fire at the Pitti Palace in 1984. It has recently been restored and is now exhibited in its glorious light colour contrasting with the darker background as shown here.
There are representations of the arts with one of them shown here – a goose feather (not yet made into a quill). Others include a paint palette and brushes, and a laurel wreath. Note, though, the carving of Grinling Gibbons’ name into the scroll at the bottom of the feather, and to the right beads, curling foliage, shells and bunch of grapes with the tendrils so delicately carved.
There are musical instruments, trumpets and what look like recorders as seen here, and even a musical score, the five staves, lines and notes clearly visible. Just above this is a medallion suspended from a chain with each link delicately carved. This sits on top of a quiver of arrows. And that in turn leads to a coronet, showing pearls and gems in exquisite detail.
Imagine Cosimo’s delight when on 16th December 1682 this package arrived and was unwrapped before him. Now who wouldn’t want to receive a Christmas present like this?