From "Tesoro del Mondo" (Treasure of the World)
Antonio Neri 1598-1600
If Rome did figure in the young Neri's itinerary, a visit to Cardinal Francisco Maria Del Monte would have been de rigueur. The Medici family ruled Neri's home region of Tuscany and Cardinal Del Monte was the Medici's informal ambassador in Rome. He was a dedicated patron of the arts, an amateur alchemist, a collector of glass and a trusted successor to Grand Duke Ferdinando in the College of Cardinals. More significantly, he was a close friend and advisor to Neri's sponsor Don Antonio de' Medici ever since that prince was a child. Del Monte's biographer Zygmunt Waźbiński offers, "It is very likely that Cardinal Del Monte, with his interest in glass, had known then (in 1598) the [future] author [Neri] of L'Arte Vetraria." 
|Michelangelo Caravaggio, c. 1597|
As the sixteenth century ended and a new one dawned, Del Monte sheltered the rough-and-tumble painter Michelangelo Caravaggio, whom he set up with an in-house studio and an allowance. However, in 1606, the master of Realism fled Rome after reportedly murdering a tavern waiter over a tennis wager, but not before executing his only known fresco on the vaulted ceiling of Del Monte's own alchemy laboratory. Looking out over Rome, on the panoramic Pincio, in the Villa that later became the Casino Ludovisi and is now known as the Casino dell'Aurora, Caravaggio put his brush to work. According to early biographer of artists, Gian Pietro Bellori, he executed the oil painting on the vaulted ceiling of the small alchemical laboratory (now a corridor) sometime between 1597 and 1600.  Depicted in the mural are the three brothers Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto: the masters of the universe. The image is a double allegory of the three basic chemical substances of Paracelsus (salt, sulfur and mercury) and the four Aristotelian elements (air, earth, water and fire). Jupiter with the eagle stands for sulfur and air, Neptune with the seahorse stands for mercury and water and Pluto with the three-headed dog Cerberus stands for salt and earth. Jupiter is reaching out to move the central celestial sphere in which the sun (fire) revolves around the earth. 
 Neri 1598-1600, f.xxviii-v. (see bibliography).
 For more on the alchemical interpretation of this illustration see Grazzini 2012.
 Neri 1612.
 Bellori 1672, pp. 197-216.
 Wallach 1975, pp. 101-112.
* this post first appeared in a slightly different form on 4 July 2014.
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