(b. ca. 1540, Firenze, d. ca. 1596, Roma)
The Coral Fishersc. 1585
Oil on copper, 55 x 45 cm
Galleria Borghese, Rome
The elegant Coral Fishers (also referred to as Allegory of the Discovery of the New World) and the Allegory of the Creation (also in the Galleria Borghese) by Jacopo Zucchi formerly decorated Cardinal Ferdinando's studiolo in the Villa Medici in Rome.
It was probably thanks to the Florentine Jacopo Zucchi, in Rome from the papacy of Gregory XIII (1572-85) and to the taste of his patron Cardinal Ferdinando de'Medici that paintings designed for small rooms began to be imported. These paintings, which had the same artificiality as the decorative work produced in Giorgio Vasari's workshop in Florence for the Studiolo in the Palazzo Vecchio, were added to the collection being assembled by the cardinal for the Villa Medici in Rome. Although these were tiny paintings, executed for a private client, their fame reached the pages of Giovanni Baglione, who records among the 'many things' painted by Jacopo Zucchi for the cardinal, the furnishing of a 'studiolo in the palace built in the garden of the Medici with a painting representing fishing for coral with many naked ladies, but very small, among these there are many portraits of beautiful and distinguished Roman matrons of the day, and it is a marvellous thing to see.'
Some of the paintings made by Zucchi for this decorative scheme have been identified. Together with others then in Roman collections, they testify to his inventive skill and extraordinary imagination. Zucchi infused mythological scenes with an attention to naturalistic details, as in the Coral Fishers. His paintings are often small in scale and painted on copper, which, with their descriptive accuracy, connects them with the paintings produced by northern European painters then temporarily working in Rome.