Italian Intrigue

“Gems of the Medici” Exhibit at HMNS

Seth Vaughan
December 17, 2012

With the arrival of one remarkable study of Florentine creation, Houston is having an Italian moment. The Houston Museum of Natural Science’s “Gems of the Medici” exhibit (through March 31) presents striking engraved and carved gems from the House of Medici’s vaults. The Florence-based Medici family had a penchant for collecting objects that had previously belonged to sovereigns and members of the church. Extraordinary items on display include a 17th-century bust of a female Moor rendered in luscious baroque pearls, enamel, agate and diamonds (pictured); an early-15th-century carnelian creation, carved in the negative, that hauntingly depicts a Dominican friar known for his cautionary homilies; and a late-17th-century touchstone vase showing an intimate embrace between a gilt bronze cupid and a silver swan. Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Dr., 713.639.4629;