An Extremely Rare Florentine Military Spectacular

FESTIVALS. Parigi, Giulio (1571-1635)

Relazione d'uno spettacolo militare fatto in un prato del Palazzo de' Pitti. All'illustrissimo et eccellentissimo Signor Paolo Giordano Orsino, Principe di Bracciano.

Florence: Volcmar Timan, 1606


Quarto: [16] pp. With an added, folding engraved plate.


Modern boards. A fine copy. Short tear in outer blank margin of plate, not affecting engraving. Provenance: with the stamp of the Florentine collector Walter Ashburner (1864-1936). Extremely rare. I have located only 2 copies: BN Spain, Cambridge UK. The copy in the Ruggieri sale catalogue (1873) lacked the plate.

This account is signed by the famous architect and set designer Giulio Parigi, creator of the ephemeral décor for numerous parades, jousts, tournaments, theatrical performances, and parties. The spectacle described was staged by Grand Duke Cosimo II de' Medici (1590-1621) in honor of the visiting dignitary Paolo Giordano II Orsini, Duke of Bracciano (1591-1656), famous patron of the arts.

For this spectacle, a mock battlefield was created by Parigi in the gardens of Palazzo Pitti, with a fortress in the center that was imagined to have been taken over by Turks in the name of "Selina da Selim", their famous Lord. This campowas the scene of a spectacular four-hour mock battle, complete with cavalry, choreographed by Silvio Piccolomini (d. 1634), and accompanied by martial music. The "Turks" were in reality 70 German soldiers hired by the Medici and dressed as Turks. 

As General of Granducal artillery, an accomplished soldier, and the man who had trained the young Duke Cosimo in horsemanship, Silvio Piccolomini was an obvious choice for the role of choreographer. In an interesting coda, as Katherine Poole observes, in September of the following year (1607), "Piccolomini led a real military expedition of Christian knights against the Turks during the Cavalieri's conquest of the fortress at Bona, blurring the line between performance and reality."(Christian Crusade as Spectacle, p. 415)

Ruggieri, Catalogue des Livres rares et précieux composant la Bibliothèque de M. E.F.D. Ruggieri, 758 (describing a copy without the folding plate). Moreni, Medici, pp. 247-48