(b. 1486, Firenze, d. 1530, Firenze)

Triumph of Caesar

c. 1520
Fresco, 502 x 356 cm
Villa Medici, Poggio a Caiano

The twenty-five-year old Ottaviano de' Medici, on behalf of Cardinal Giulio de' Medici and his cousin Pope Leo X, commissioned Andrea del Sarto, Franciabigio and Pontormo for decorations celebrating the pope's father, Lorenzo the Magnificent, and other family members inside the family's villa at Poggio a Caiano. The iconographical programme, designed by the historian Paolo Giovio, aimed to evoke the celebrations of the Medici house through a series of episodes drawn from Roman history.

Work in the Salone was halted with the death of Leo X in December 1521. Pontormo was the only one to have finished his lunette fresco, frescoes by Franciabigio and Andrea del Sarto on the long walls were partially incomplete. The decoration was completed by Alessandro Allori in 1578-82, a commission of Grand Duke Francesco de' Medici.

The Triumph of Caesar is located on one of the long walls of the Salone. It presents an interlocking of Roman and Medicean history such as the return of Cosimo de' Medici from exile in 1434 or the donation of the Sultan of Egypt to the Florentines in 1487 of a menagerie of exotic animals. The figure in a red toga and blue cloak sitting on a marble throne is clearly identified as Caesar by his laurel wreath. Several older men are standing or kneeling before him, pointing to the men bearing animals and vases at the left edge of the painting.

This fresco, no less than the other frescoes in the main hall of the Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano, is brilliantly sensitive to its setting, which accounts for the angle and height of viewing and the open lighting.

In 1582 Alessandro Allori added several details to the right-hand part of the picture. The original edge of the frame ran immediately behind the figure of Caesar, and his elbow extended over the frame. The parts to the right of that and the putto were added by Allori, who signed the fresco under the putto: "Anno Domini MDXXI Andreas Sartius pingebat et A.D. MDLXXXII Alexander Allorius sequebatur."