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Marco Masseti

Abstract

From the end of the fifteenth century, the discovery of America and the improved trade routes to South Africa and the Indian subcontinent, brought Europeans far beyond the boundaries of the ancient world. Possession of the rarest animals, which formed tangible proof of the existence of new worlds, not only conferred great prestige upon European sovereigns and popes but also demonstrated the consideration due to such an immense empire of knowledge. An early account of such knowledge was rendered by the Florentine painter Andrea del Sarto in the frescos of the Medici villa of Poggio a Caiano (Prato, Italy), commissioned by Leo X, son of the ruler of Florence, Lorenzo il Magnifico, and pope from 1513 to 1521. This paper presents an attempt to investigate the taxonomic identity of all the animals portrayed, as well as their geographic origin, the documentary intention behind their collection, and the way they came into the possession of the Medici pope.