Just last week, I returned from a trip to Italy, Croatia and Amsterdam. As artists, our focus was the art and we visited some of the finest museums in the world. The Vatican Museum, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam are just a few of the “rock star” museums we visited. Very few art museums escaped our radar, but of the dozens of museums we visited, the Borghese Gallery in Rome was my favorite, and one painting in particular captured my heart, a small painting by Jacopo Zucchi, the Allegoria Della Scoperta dell’ America.
Reservations are required for this intimate museum experience and we have a limited two-hour time slot in which to tour the exquisite collection. Our son John wanders off on his own, and Art and I glide the marble-inlayed floors together through rooms filled with remarkable masterpieces. In the midst of all the monumental sculpture and larger than life paintings, a small painting by Jacopo Zucchi, the Allegoria Della Scoperta dell’ America, captures my eye. Water nymphs hold branches of coral and frolic with monkeys, parrots, and lobsters. Abalone shells ripe with pearls and a jeweled treasure-trove of shells and coral surround Neptune, who is crowned with red coral.
Perhaps it is my love of the ocean and that many of my jewelry designs are ocean and tide-pool themed but this small jewel of a painting delights me. When we catch up with John, he wants to show me a favorite painting of his. Can you guess which one it was?
A week later when we are in Dubrovnik, Croatia, I stumble upon a red coral jewelry workshop and learn about the deep sea Mediterranean and Adriatic Red Coral. I surmise that it is this type of coral that Jacopo Zucchi painted in his Allegoria Della Scoperta dell’ America; The Allegory of the Discovery of America.
Precious coral or red coral is the common name of Corallium Rubrum, a variety of coral species that grow at great depths. Its skeleton is durable and, when polished, is intensely red or pink in color and suitable for making jewelry.