A few years later, Agnolo Bronzino depicted a goldfinch in a more secular scene, a royal portrait of the infant Giovanni de’ Medici. Commissioned by Giovanni’s parents Cosimo I de’ Medici and Eleonora of Toledo, this work portrays their son (and future Italian cardinal) dressed in a highly detailed red costume, clutching a goldfinch. He is shown as a lively baby, instead of as a “tiny adult,” as many children at the time were portrayed, and which can been seen a bit in Raphael and Botticelli’s workshop’s works. And is it merely a coincidence that Giovanni has been portrayed in the same way the Christ Child usually is—holding a goldfinch? Probably not considering that he came from a family that controlled the banks and the papacy; a family who would not have shied away from making references of their divine power.
contemporaries who frequently displayed dark still lifes with dead birds, Fabritius’ work is precise and flooded with light, perhaps showing his preference or alluding to the divine nature of the goldfinch.
Whole Wheat Goldfinch Crackers
3 cups coarsely grated cheddar, preferably white cheddar so that you get a goldfinch instead of an orange-fish
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon onion powder
pinch of salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor, pulsing until the mixture forms a cohesive dough, a couple of minutes. Divide ball of dough into 4 small discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
While your dough is chilling, make your goldfinch cookie cutter—you can really use whatever shape you wish, and if you are unable to find a store-bought cookie cutter to your liking, feel free to make your own. I used a 1 in. thick brass strip, purchased from my local hardware store and bent into the shape of a bird. The metal is very pliable, but feel free to use needle-nose pliers if you need a sharp angle. After you are happy with your cookie cutter shape, connect the ends together with duct tape (preferably in a cool, leopard-print pattern, but drab old gray will work just as fine).
Preheat your oven to 350°F, and when ready, roll a disc of the dough out on a lightly floured surface, until about 1/8 inch thick. Cut shapes and transfer to a silicone baking mat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet, and bake for about 12 minutes, until just starting to turn gold around the edges. Let cool for a 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, and then transfer to a wire cooling rack for about 15 additional minutes.
Recipe adapted from from Smitten Kitchen, makes 70-80 small crackers
Featured art: Studio of Sandro Botticelli, The Madonna and Child with a goldfinch, oil, tempera, and gold on panel, arched top (image via Christie’s Images Ltd., 2013)
Raphael, Madonna of the Goldfinch, 1505-1506, oil on panel
Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of Giovanni de’ Medici as a Child holding a Goldfinch, c. 1545, tempera on panel
Carel Fabritius, The Goldfinch, 1654, oil on panel