AUGUSTUS J.C. HARE, FLORENCE
CHAPTER III: THE NORTH-EASTERN QUARTER
OR S. MICHELE, THE CATHEDRAL AND BAPTISTERY, S. LORENZO, PALAZZO RICCARDI, S. MARCO, THE ACCADEMIA, THE ANNUNZIATA
(TOGGLE) WITH SEPIA II:
At the left corner of the Piazza S. Trinità is a quaint Palace, called the Palazzo del Municipio, built by the father of Arnolfo in the thirteenth century.
Hence the narrow street called Borgo degli SS. Apostoli leads to the Uffizi. It was once remarkable as containing the houses of the famous family of the Buondelmonti.
The Church of the SS. Apostoli (right, in the Piazza del Limbo), whose foundation is apocryphally attributed to Charlemagne, was much admired and studied by Brunelleschi. It contains, at the end of the left aisle, at the 'Altare degli Angeli', a lovely specimen of Robbia work, and the tomb of Oddo Altoviti of Prato by Benedetto da Rovezzano.
Il y a dans la petite église romane des Santi-Apostoli un tabernacle d'un goût si exquis, tant pour le dessin généeral que pour les détails de l'ornementation, qu'il serait impossible de n'y pas voir un ouvrage, et même un des meilleurs ouvrages, de Luca della Robbia, si la lourde guirlande, aux couleurs ternes, qui retombe des deux côtés, n'accusait pas une main beaucoup moins habile et moins délicate que celle qui a fait les deux anges, dont la beautè frappe d'abord les regards. Cette première impression est encore fortifiée par l'espèce de fluide lumineux dont les figures et les moulures paraissent revêtues, par suite des teintes qu'y ont laissèes les dorures dont elles étainet rehaussées, et dont on aperçoit encore quelques trances. Or, nous savons que ce procédé supplémentaire était pratiqué par le chef de la famille; et c'est une raison de plus pour regarder ce délicieux monument comme une oeuvre commune de l'oncle et du neveu. - Rio.The adjoining Palazzo del Turco or Borgherini was built by Baccio d'Agnolo. In its walls is a lovely relief of the Virgin and Child by Rovezzano, and at the corner of the building wrought-iron torch-holders. The art-treasures of this house were courageously and successfully defended in 1529, against the agent of the King of France, by a woman, Margherita Acciajuoli, who declared that she would spend the last drop of her blood in defence of that which had been her father-in-law's wedding-gift. In the collection still preserved here are -
Giovanni Sanzio (father of Raffaelle). SS.
Sebastian and Pietro Martire.
Pinturicchio. Madonna and Child.
Fra Bartolommeo. Portrait of his friend, the good Bishop S. Antonino.
Bronzino. Copy of Raffaelle's S. John in the Wilderness.
Lorenzo di Credi. Holy Family.
Andrea Castagno. S. Jerome.
Murillo. Sketch for his famous Assumption.
This street enters that of the Por (Porta) Santa Maria just under the old Tower of the Palazzo Lambertesca, the rallying-point of the Amidei, so celebrated in their feuds with the Buondelmonti, and by whom the young Buondelmonte was slain.
Opposite is another highly picturesque old tower, once the Dwelling of San Zenobio, and still decorated with flowers on his festa.
A little beyond this, on the right, is the Church of S. Stefano, called 'ad Portam Ferream' from its iron gate, upon which may be seen the historic horse-shoe of the palfrey of Buondelmonte. Here, in 1218, the Amidei met to arrange the murder of Buondelmonte. Here also Boccaccio lectured, in 1378, on the Divina Commedia of Dante.
The Por Santa Maria leads (left) to the Mercato Nuovo, with a loggia built by Bernardo Tasso for Cosimo I in 1547. On one side is a fountain with a bronze boar by Tacca, a pupil of John of Bologna. From the corner of the Mercato the Via Capaccio leads to the Church of S. Biagio, now used for firemen. It occupies the site of Santa Maria sopra Porta, where the Carroccio, or war-chario, was kept and there a bell called 'La Martinella' - the 'Little Hammer' - tolled continuously for a month before the commencement of a war. The adjoining palace belonged to the Lamberteschi, and was afterwards used for the Guild of Silk.
North of the Mercato Nuovo runs the Via Porta Rossa, which leads into the Piazza della Signoria. Here, turning to the right, we enter the Via Calzaioli, or 'Stocking-Makers' Street'.
Calzaioli will always talk if you will listen - here on the stones that are still called the Son of the Lily it has heard the soft footfall of Ginevra's bare and trembling feet; here, where Guardamortà rose, it saw the lion tremble before a mother's love; here in its workship the Bronzino dwelt, and here, in its church, his bones were laid to rest; here Donatello and Michelozzo laboured for the love of arts and men hard by yonder against the little Bigallo; here flame and steel ravaged their worst after red Arbia; here the White Bands shivered and fled before their old hereditary foes: here, on Ascension Day, the Signoria went up with the gold and purple of ripe fruits, to lay them at the feet of that Madonna of Ugolino whose manifold miracles sustained the soul of Florence beneath the Devil's Plague; here, on the Feast of Anna, it saw Walter of Athens driven out of the city, and all good men and true trooping thither to render her thanksgiving, and all the Arts raising in memory the statue of their patron saint and the shields of their blazonries - all these things and a million more, has Calzaioli seen since its old towers and casements crowded hard on one another. - Pascarel.
Or San Michele was held in such veneration that strict laws were passed prohibiting any noise in its vicinity. No gambling was allowed within a prescribed limit, and the infringement of these rules was punished by a fine; and if it was not paid, the defaulter was either imprisoned for a month in the stinche, or he had to undergo what was called baptism - namely immersion several times in the Arno from one of the bridges. - Horner.The exterior of Or San Michele (which no one would take for a church) is adorned with windows of exquisite tracery and a noble series of statues erected by the different guilds. Beginning from the sout, they are: -
Baccio di Montelupo. St John the Evangelist
(as an old man - very unusual in art), erected by the
Silk-Merchants (L'Arte di Seta).
Donatello. St George of the Armourers, occupying the place of the Madonna of Simone da Fiesole, now inside the church. Given by the Physicians and Apothecaries (L'Arte dei Medici e Speziali).1
St George is in complete armour, without sword or lance, bare-headed, and leaning on his shield, which displays the cross. The noble, tranquil, serious dignity of the figure admirably expresses the Christian warrior: it is so exactly the conception of Spenser that it immediately suggests his lines: -
Upon his shield the bloodie cross was scored,Jameson's Sacred Art, ii.403
For sovereign help which in his need her.
Right faithful, true he was, in deed and word;ù
But of his cheere di seem to solemn sad;
Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.
S. George of Donatello
Nanni di Banco. S. James - by the Furriers
('L'Arte dei Vajai').
Donatello. S. Mark - by the Flax Merchants ('L'Arte dei Linajuoli')
Michelangelo stopped before the statue of S. Mark by Donatello, and, in allusion to its animated expression, exclaimed, 'Mark, why don't you speak to me?' - J.S. Harford.(West front) Nanni di Banco. S. Eloy - by the Blacksmiths (L'Arte dei Maniscalchi, e degli Orafi')
Cette ravissant figure rappelle l'une des fresques de la chapelle du pape Nicholas au Vatican. - Rio.Lorenzo Ghiberti (1420). S. Matthew - by the Stockbrokers (L'Arte del Cambio). The admirable statuettes relating to the Annunciation, on either side, are by Nicolò di Piero de' Lamberti di Arezzo.
When the saints were finished, Nanni discovered that they were too big for the niche destined for their reception, and in despair consulted Donatello, who promised to help him out of his trouble, if he would give a supper to him and his workmen; to which Nanni joyfully consented. Donatello set to work, and after knocking off portions of the shoulders and arms of the four saints, brought them into such close contact, that they could be placed in the niche without difficulty. - Perkins' Tuscan Sculptors.Donatello. S. Peter - by the Guild of Butchers (L'Arte dei Beccai).
Cette statue n'est pas exempte d'une certaine roideur, qui trahit plutot l'inexpereince que le défaut d'inspiration. - Rio.The interior of the church is filled with beauty and glowing with harmonious colour. The windows have rich remains of stained glass. The faded frescoes are by a pupil of Taddeo Gaddi, Jacopo Landini da Casentino.
On the right of the high-altar is the beautiful gothic shrine (1348-59), containing Ugolino's sacred picture of the Madonna.
In the great plague of 1348 Florence suffered fearfully; citizens without number, pest-stricken themselves, after seeing their whole families die before them, bequeathed their all to the Company (which had been formed in honour of the Madonna of Orsanmichele) for distribution to the poor in honour of the Virgin; the offerings of gratitude, after the plague had ceased, were also considerable, and the total sum thus accumulated was found, on final computation, to amount to more than three hundred thousand florins. The captains of the Company resolved to expende a portion of this treasure in erecting a tabernacle or shrine for the picture to which it had been offered, and which should exceed all others in magnificence. They entrusted the execution to Orcagna, who completed it in 1359, after ten years' labour, having sculptured all the bas-reliefs and figures himself, while the mere architectural details and accessories were executed with equal care by subordinate artists, under his own eye and direction.A poem by Sacchetti celebrates the beauties of this tabernacle: -
And there it stands! - lost, indeed, in that chapel-like church, from which one longs to transport it to the choir of some vast cathedral - but fresh in virgin beauty after five centuries, the jewel of Italy, complete and perfect in every way - for it will reward the minutest examination. It stands isolated - the history of the Virgin is represented in nine bas-reliefs - two adorning each face of the basement, and the ninth, much larger, covering the back of the tabernacle, immediately behind the Madonna; one of the three Theological Virtues is interposed between each couple of bas-reliefs, on the Western, Northern and Southern faces respectively, the corresponding space at the East, end, immediately below the large bas-relief, being occupied by a small door; - while, laterally, in the angles of each several pier that supports the roof, five small figures are sculptured, a Cardinal Virtue, in each instance, occupying the centre, attended, tothe right and left, but a Virtue of sister significance, and by twoapostles, holding scrolls of prophecy or gospel - each series of five having reference apparently to the peculiar merits exemplified by the Virgin at the successive points of her history, as commemorated in the bas-reliefs - the series of these bas-reliefs beginning with her birth, on the North side of the basement, and running round from left to right. I may mention her Marriage and Adoration of the Kings as peculiarly beautiful, and amomg the single figures those of Obedience, Justice and Virginity.
The general adjustment and the commettitura, or placing of different parts in this extraordinary shrine, is wonderful; Orcagna used no cement, but bound and knit the whole together with clamps of metal, and it has stood firm and solid as a rock ever since. In point of architecture, too, the design is exquisite, unrivalled in grace and proportion, - it is a miracle of loveliness, and though clustered all over with pillars and pinnacles, inlaid with the richest marbles, lapis-lazuli, and mosaic-work, it is chaste in its luxuriousness as an Arctic iceberg - worthy of her who was spotless among women. We cannot wonder, considering the labour and the value of the materials employed on this tabernacle, that it should have cost eighty-six thousand of the gold florins treasured up in the Orsanmichele - or hesitate in agreeing with Vasari, that they could not have better spent. - Lord Lindsay's Christian Art.
The altar of S. Anna was erected by the Signory after the expulsion of the Duke of Athens in 1349. The statue of S. Anna holding the Virgin on her lap was executed by Francesco di San Gallo in 1526. On the left of the altar is Simone's statue of the Virgin, which once stood in a niche outside.Che passa di bellezza, s'io ben recolo,
Tutti gli altri che son dentro del secolo.
Over the altar on the right of the church is a rude wooden Crucifix carefully preserved, because when it was attached to a pillar of the Loggia, the good Bishop Antonino used to pray before it in his childhood. Before this Crucifix also Savonarola used to be seen kneeling for hours.2 At the west end of the church, connected with it by an arch, is the grand old battlemented Palace of the Guild of Wool, repeatedly adorned with their emblem, the Lamb bearing a banner. On the opposite side of the Via Calzaioli is the gothic church of S. Carlo Borromeo.
On the north of the church is the Palazzo della Carità, which formerly belonged to the Guild of Butchers, afterwards to that of Builders, and on which the he-goat rampant may still be seen, one of the finest heraldic street-signs in Florence.
Or San Michele would have been a world's wonder had it stood alone, and not been companioned with such wondrous rivals that its own exceeding beauty scarce ever receives full justice.The northern part of the Via Calzaioli was occupied by the palaces of the Adimari family.
Surely that square-set strength, as of a fortress, towering against the clouds, and catching the last light always on its fretted parapet, and everwhere embossed and enriched with foliage and tracery, and figures of saints, and the shadows of vast arches, and the light of niches gold-starred and filled with divine forms, is a gift so perfect to the whole world, that, passing it, one should need to say a prayer for the great Taddeo's soul.
Surely, nowhere is the rugged, changeless, mountain force of hewn stone piled against the sky, and the luxuriant, dream-like, poetic delicacy of stone carven and shaped into leafage and loveliness, more perfectly blended and made one than where Or San Michele rises out of the dim, many-coloured, twisting streets, in its mass of ebon darkness and of silvery light.
The other day under the walls of it, I stood, and looked at its Saint George, where he leans upon his shield, so calm, so young, with his bared hear and his quiet eyes.
'That is our Donatello's', said a Florentine beside me - a man of the people, who drove a horse for hire in the public ways, and who paused, cracking his whip to tell this tale to me. 'Donatello did that, and it killed him. Do you not know? When he had done that Saint George he showed it to his master. And the master said, 'It wants one thing only.' Now, this saying our Donatello took gravely to heart, chiefly of all because his master would never explain where the fault lay; and so much did it hurt him, that he fell ill of it, and came nigh to death. Then he called his master to him. 'Dear and great one, do tell me before I die,' he said, 'what is the one thing my statue lacks'. The master smiled, and said, 'Only - speech'. 'Then I die happy', said our Donatello. And he - died - indeed, in that hour'.
Now I cannot say that the pretty story is true; it is not in the least true; Donatello died when he was eighty-three, in the street of the Melon; and it was he himself who cried, 'Speak, then - speak!' to his statue, as it was carried through the city. But whether true or false the tale, this fact is surely true, that it is well - nobly and purely well - with a people, when the men amongst it who ply for hire on its public ways think caressingly of a sculptor dead five hundred years ago, and tell such a tale standing idly in the noonday sun, feeling the beauty and the pathos of it all.
'Our Donatello' still for the people of Florence - 'Our own little Donatello' still, as though he were living and working in their midst to-day, here in the shadow of the Stocking-Makers' street, where his Saint George keeps watch and ward. - Pascarel.
An inscription at the corner of the Corso records the site of the Church of Santa Maria Nipaticosa, where S. Antonino used to preach from an outside pulpit. The site of the Loggia degli Adimari Caricciuli is also commemorated by an inscriptio.
On the left (by the Via degli Speziali) was the Mercato Vecchio of which Pucci wrote -
andMercato Vecchio al mondo è alimento
Ed ad ogni altra piazza il pregio serra;
This most interesting part of Florence was doomed by its ignorant and short-sighted Municipality in 1889, and the destruction is a disgrace which will cling to its members for ever.Le dignità di mercato son queste
Ch'ha quattro chiese ne' suoi quattro canti
Ed ogni canto ha due vie manifeste.
Le Proprietà di Mercato Vecchio.
On montre au milieu, sur le sol, un espace circulaire formé de transches de marbre alternativement blanches et noires, et régulièrement taillées suivant six rayons, en souvenir de l'antique char de guerre, le carroccio, que la république traînait à tous les combats, et qu'on remisait de ce meme endroit un usage singulier. C'était étroite place que les faillis, en vertu d'une ancienne coutume, devaient frapper trois foir de leur siège mis à nu avant d'obtenir leur concordat. A la façon dont la pierre est usée, on devine qu'elle a servi quelques fois.3 L. Simonin.
The ancient quarter of the Mercato Vecchio, when cleaned, restored, and put in order, would have offered the faithful image of a medieval town, as Rome and Pompei are samples of the Latin towns. Visitors could have walked in the old genuine Florentine city, in those very streets Dante trod, in that city where the Guelf and Ghibelline factions fought against each other for centuries; the birthplace of many Florentines illustrious in science, letters, arms; where so many conspiracies were plotted, and where one may say, without exaggeration, that every wall, every stone, recorded a page of Florentine history. - The Builder, Feb 23, 1880.Portions of three of the four churches of the Mercato existed till 1890: of S. Maria in Campidoglio only the double flight of steps which once led to the entrance; S. Pietro Buonconsigli had, over the entrance, a beautiful lunette by Lucca della Robbia, and an outside pulpit; S. Tommaso was the parish church of the Medici. The fourth church was S. Andrea. In one corner of the piazza was a Column, brought from the Baptistery, supporting a statue of abundance. The graceful and beautiful Loggia was designed by Vasari for Cosimo I. All these interesting objects, so long the admiration of Europe, have been swept away to make a hideous square containing a vulgar statue.
This, which was the 'Old Market' even in the eleventh century, was the oldest part of Florence, intersected by narrow alleys and full of quaint old houses. A cook-shop, five hundred years old, in the Mercato itself, had interesting majolica decorations. In the Via dei Vecchietti was the place called the Palazzo della Cavajola (of the Cabbage.woman) which belonged to the Vechietti. Here Bernardo received Giovanni da Bologna, who made the quaint charming bronze figure of the Devil, low down on the corner of the house, marking the site of a pulpit from which St Pietro Martire exorcised the Evil One.4 The Piazza dei Vecchietti was surrounded by a number of old houses bearing noble shields with the arms of the families they belonged to. The simple habits of the Vecchietti are commemorated by Dante: -
The quarter south of the Mercato Vecchio was occupied by the Amieri, whose chief, Messer Foglia, decorated the walls of his houses with sculptured fig-leaves, in allusion to his name. These might till recently be traced on houses near the Church of S. Andrea. Close to this spot stood the beautiful tabernacle of Fra Angelico, now in the Uffizi, in a sculptured marble frame which is preserved in the Bargello. Facing the site of the Piazza di S. Miniato tra Due Torre5 is the old palace of the Castiglione, of whom was the giant-warrior Dante da Castiglione, celebrated for his share in the famous duel fought in 1529 in the presence of the Florentine and Imperialist armies.E vidi quel de' Nerli e quel del Vecchio
Esser contenti alla pelle scoverta,
E le sue donne al fusco e la pennecchio. Par. xv.115
The destroyed Via Pelliceria, or 'Street of Furriers' was once the Goldsmiths' quarter, where the father of Baccio Bandinelli instructed his son in the goldsmith's art, and has had Benvenuto Cellini as a pupil. The Via Calimala (from kalos mallos, 'beautiful fleece') was the quarter of the foreign Wool-marchants. Over the interesting residence of the Guild of Wool was a lamb bearing a banner, and the rastrello, or rake of the Guelfs, with the lilies of Florence. At the corner of this street was a tabernacle, containing an image of the Virgin supposed to have arrested a great fire, inscribed: -
Not only has all the interest of all this centre of Florence been remorselessly swept away since 1889, but the square which has replaced it is the most hideous, the most utterly vulgar and ostentatious, which disgraces any town of Europe. In the excavations for making it, remains of a Roman temple and baths (also destroyed since) were discovered, with traces even of an Etruscan city, showing that an Etruscan town existed on the site of Florence, as well as on that of Fiesole. In the centre of the square is an equestrian statue of Victor Emmanuel II by Emilio ZocchiRuppo, spezzo l'orribil fuoco, fin qui volando,
Ma l'Imagin pia pote troncarlo in questo loco.
Returning to the Via Calzaioli, on the right (near the end), an inscription marks the house where the poet Salomone lived, and died in 1815.
On the left, where the street falls into the Piazza del Duomo, is the exquisitely beautiful little building called the Bigallo, a gothic loggia attributed to Andrea Orcagna, enclosed with iron gates by Francesco Petrucci da Siena.
The statuettes are by Nicolò Pisano.
The Madonna is interesting as the prototype of all future Madonnas of the Pisan school. In strict accordance with the spirit of early Christian art, which demanded the concealment of her figure, she is amply draped; and in token of her peculiar mission of showing Christ to the world, she holds Him far from her, as though her natural affections were absorbed in reverence for His divine nature. Perkins' Tuscan Sculptors.The chambers of the Bigallo contain some interesting frescoes relating to the Temporal Works of Mercy.
The Bigallo Madonna della Misericordia, with detail of Florence at her feet.
In the oratory is a beautiful predella, composed of what Vasari calls 'superb miniatures' by Ghirlandajo, and an image of the Virgin by Alberto Arnoldo, 1359.6
It is the only known work of the artist. The Madonna is a dignified matron, rigid in attitude and impassive in countenance, enveloped in a once star-spangled drapery, of which the massive and carefuly arranged folds fall over the lower half of the body of the Child, who sits poised upon her left arm. Although without beauty or expression, this group has a certain grandeur, from its impassiveness, like Egyptian statues, which seem immutable as fate, mocking at all approach to human sympathy. - Perkins' Tuscan Sculptors.
The Misericordia continues faithful to its work of six centuries. At a sound from the Campanile of the Cathedral, the Giornante, or day-worker, hastens to the residence in the Piazza, to learn his duties from the captain, or Capo di Guardia; a half-hour glass is turned to mark the interval between the summons and his arrival. Every Giornante is provided with his long black dress, and the hood which covers his face, only leaving holes for the eyes, so that he may not be recognised when upon his labour of mercy. The captain repeats the words, 'Fratelli, prepariamoci a fare quest'opera di misericordia' - 'Brothers, let us prepare to perform this work of mercy'; and, kneeling down, he adds, 'Mitte nobis, Domine, charitates, humilitates et fortitudines', to which the rest reply, 'Ut in hac opera te sequamur': after a prayer the captain exhorts the Brethren to repeat a Pater Noster and Ave Maria for the benefit of the sick and afflicted; then four of the number take the litter on their shoulders, and, preceded by their captain, the rest follow, bearing the burden in turns, and repeating every time when another set take it up, 'Iddio le ne renda il merito', to which those who are relieved answer, 'Vadano in pace' - 'Go in peace'. When sent for by a sick person, the Brothers assist in dressing the patient, and carry him down to the litter, where he is gently and carefully laid. The Brethren sometimes act as sick-nurses, to which office they are trained; but they may never receive any remuneration, not taste anything except a cup of cold water. As the Brothers of the Misericordia passed along the streets of Florence, all persons formerly raised their hats reverently; but this custom has not been generally observed during the last few years. - Horner.
The Grand-Duke wore the black robe and hood, as a member of the Compagnia della Misericordia, which brotherhood includes all ranks of men. If an accident takes place, their office is to raise the sufferer, and bear him tenderly to the hospital. If a fire breaks out, it is one of their functions to repair to the spot and render their assistance and protection. It is also amongst their commonest offices to attend and console the sick; and they neither recieve money, nor eat, nor drink, in any house they visit for this purpose. Those who are on duty for the time are called together, at a moment's notice, by the tolling of the great bell of the tower; and it is said that the Grand-Duke might be seen, at this sound, to rise from his seat at table and quietly withdraw to attend the summons. - Dickens.
While these brothers, 'black-stoled, black- hooded, like a dream', continue to light the way to dusty death with their flaring torches through the streets of Florence, the medieval traditions remains unbroken, Italy is still Italy. They knew better how to treat Death in the Middle Ages that we do now. These simple old Florentines, with their street wars, their pestilences, their manifold destructive violence, felt instinctively that he, the inexorable, was not to be hidden or palliated, not to be softened or prettified, or anyways made the best of, but was to be confessed in all his terrible gloom; and in this they found, not comfort, not alleviation, but the anaesthesia of a freezing horror. Those masked and trailing sable figures, sweeping through the wide and narrow ways by night to the wild, long rythms of their chaunt, in the red light of their streaming torches, and bearing the heavily draped bier in their midst, supremely awe the spectator, whose heart falters within him in the presence of that which alone is certain to be'. - W.D. Howells.
S. Reparata was for six hundred years (from 680 to 1298) the chief patroness of Florence. According to the old Florentine legend, she was a virgin of Caesarea, in the province of Cappadocia, and bravely suffered a cruel martyrdom in the persecution under Decius, when only twelve years old. She was, after many tortures, beheaded by the sword; and as she fell dead, her pure spirit was seen to issue from her mouth in form of a cove which winged its way to heaven.Modern 'improvements' have done much to spoil, but:
The Duomo of Florence was formerly dedicated to S. Reparata; but about 1298 she appears to have been deposed from her dignity as sole patroness; the city was placed under the immediate tutelage of the Virgin and S. John the Baptist, and the Church of S. Reparata was dedicated anew under the title of Santa Maria del Fiore. - Jameson's Sacred Art.
The Duomo was called S. Maria del Fiore, in allusion to the lily of the city arms, which marks the tradition that Florence was founded in a field of flowers. The noble document by which the building of this cathedral was decreed shows that the city was then governed by a body of men representing all the force and intelligence of the State. 'Since', it says, 'the highest mark of prudence in a people of noble origin is to proceed in the management of their affairs so that their magnanimity and wisdom may be evinced in their outward acts, we order Arnolfo, head-master of our commune, to make a design for the restoration of S. Reparata in a style of magnificence which neither the industry nor power of man can surpass, that it may harmonise with the opinion of many wise persons in this city and State, who think that this commune should not engage in any enterprise, unless its intention is to make the result correspond with that noblest sort of heart which is composed by the united will of many citizens'. - Perkins' Tuscan Sculptors.
Forty years ago, there was assuredly no spot of ground, out of Palestine, in all the round world, on which, if you knew, even but a little, the true course of that world's history, you saw with so much joyful reverence the dawn of morning, as at the foot of the Tower of Giotto. For there the tradition of faith and hope, of both the Gentile and Jewish races, met for their beautiful labour; for the Baptistery of Florence is the last building raised on the earth be descendants of the workmen taught by Daedalus; and the Tower of Giotto is the loveliest of those raised on earth under the inspiration of the men who lifted up the tabernacle in the wilderness. Of living Greek work there is none after the Florentine Baptistery; of living Christian work, none so perfect as the Tower of Giotto; and under the gleam and shadow of their marbles, the morning light was haunted by the ghosts of the Father of Natural Science, Galileo; of Sacred Art, Angelico; and the Master of Sacred Song. - Ruskin.By the side of the cathedral stands the beautiful Campanile of Giotto, occupying the site of an oratory of S. Zenobio, 'in which the Seven Servants of the Blessed Virgin were miraculously called to lead a life of contemplation'.
The characteristics of Power and Beauty occur more or less in different buildings, some in one and some in another. But all together, and all in their highest possible relative degrees, they exist, as far as I know, only in one building in the world, the Campanile of Giotto . . . In its first appeal to the stranger's eye there is something unpleasing; a mingling, as it seems to him, of over-severity with over-minuteness. But let him give it time, as he should to all other consummate art. I well remember how, when a boy, I used to despise that Campanile, and think it meanly smooth and finished. But I have since lived beside it many a day, and looked out upon it from my windows by sunlight and moonlight, and I shall not soon forget how profound and gloomy appeared to me the savageness of the Northern Gothic, when I afterwards stood, for the first time, beneath the front of Salisbury. The contrast is indeed strange, if it could be quickly felt, between the rising of those grey walls out of their quet swarded space, like dark and barren rocks out of a green lake, with their rude, mouldering, rough-graned shafts and triple lights, without tracery or other ornament than the martins' nests in the height of them, and that bright, smooth, sunny surface of glowing jasper, those spiral shafts and fairy traceries, so white, so faint, so crystalline, that their slight shapes are hardly traced in darkness on the pallor of the Eastern sky, that serene height of mountain alabaster, coloured like a morning cloud and chased like a sea-shell. And if this be, as I believe it, the model and mirror of perfect architecture, is there not something to be learned by looking back to the early life of him who raised it? I said that the Power of the human mind had its growth in the Wilderness; much more must the love and the conception of that beauty, whose every line and hue we have seen to be, at the best, a fading image of God's daily work, and an arrested ray of some star or creation, be given chiefly in the places which He has gladdened by planting there the fir-tree and the pine. Not within the walls of Florence, but among the far-away fields of her lilies, was the child trained who was to raise that head-stone of Beauty above her towers of watch and war. Remember all that he became; count the sacred thoughts with which he filled the heart of Italy; ask those who followed him what they learned at his feet; and when you have numbered his labours and received their testimony, it it seem to you that God had verily poured out upon this His servant no common nor restrained portion of His Spirit, and that he was indeed a king among the children of men, remember also that the legend upon his crown was that of David's: - 'I took thee from the sheepcote, and from following the sheep'. - Ruskin's Seven Lamps of Architecture.The bas-reliefs around the basement storey of the tower were all designed by Giotto, who himself executed those of Sculpture and Architecture; the rest being carried out by Luca della Robbia and Andrea Pisano. Above the reliefs are statues, several of them by Donatello.
Of representations of human art under heavenly guidance, the series of bas-relief which stud the base of this Tower of Giotto must be held certainly the chief in Europe . . . Read but these inlaid jewels of Giotto's once with patient following, and your hour's study will give you strength for all your life. - Ruskin.The Cathedral - Santa Maria del Fiore - was begun in 1298 by Arnolfo di Cambio, who was desired to build 'the loftiest, most sumptuous edifice that human invention could devise or human labour execute'. The magnificent conception of Arnolfo - 'lavoro di poesia' - was, however, dwarfed in execution. In 1331 the work begun by Arnolfo was entrusted to Giotto, who erected the tower and continued to work on the original design. A beautiful façade, on which many of the best sculotors of the time were employed, was erected soon after the death of Giotto, but was destroyed in 1575-87. The uninteresting modern façade, commemorating the short period which Florence was the Italian capital, is from the designs of E. de Fabris.In the old Tuscan town stands Giotto's tower,
The lily of Florence blossoming in stone, -
A vision, a delight, and a desire,
The builder's perfect and centennial flower,
That in the night of ages bloomed along,
But wanting still the glory of the spire. - Longfellow.
The exterior of the cathedral is encrusted with precious marbles and filled with beautiful sculpture. The northern porch is especially rich; also the southern side-door nearest the apse, with a garland of fig-leaf by Pietro di Giovanni.
Until the fifteenth century, the cathedral had only a wooden cupola designed by Arnolfo. Brunelleschi first suggested an octagonal cupola to rest upon a drum raised above the roof in 1417, and in 1429 he was accepted as architect. Then, as Michelet says, 'the colossal church stood up simply, naturally, as a strong man in the morning rises from his bed without the need of staff or crutch'. It is the earliest double cupola, and probably the widest, in Europe. When, a century afterwards, Michelangelo was desired to surpass, in S. Peter's at Rome, the work of Brunelleschi, he replied: -
Io farò la sorellaThe ball and cross were added by Andrea Verocchio in 1469.
Più grande già, ma non più bella.
The general effect of the Interior is bare, modern, and chilling. The pillars and arches are painted a uniform brown.
To tell the truth, the Duomo at Florence is a temple to damp the spirit, dead or alive, by the immense impression of stony bareness, of drab vacuity, which one receives from its interior, unless it is filled with people. - W.D. Howells, Tuscan Cities.The only colour comes from the rich stained glass of the narrow windows. The arches are of such great width that there are only four columns on either side of the nave.
Like all inexperienced architects, Arnolfo seems to have thought that greatness of parts would add to the greatness of the whole, and in consequence used only four great arches in the whole length of his nave, giving the central aisle a width of fifty-five feet clear. The whole width is within ten feet of that of Cologne, and the height about the same, and yet, in appearance, the height is about half, and the breadth less than half, owing to the better proportion of the parts and to the superior appropriateness in the details on the part of the gothic cathedral. - Ferguson.The low wall of the choir formerly supported a very lofty Ionic arcading, with columns, architrave, cornice, and balustrade.7
Proceeding round the church from the west door, we find, on the right of the entrance, the frescoed memorial to Giovanni Aguto, or Sir John Hawkwood, a captain of Free Companies, who, from 1364, for thirty years, 'led a soldier's life in Italy, fighting first for one town and then another - here for bishops, there for barons, but mainly for those merchants of Florence from whom our Lombard Street is named'.8 He did not scruple to transfer his services from one State to another for higher payument, and Forsyth not inaptly describes his portrait as 'prancing over the military praise which he obtained by traitorously selling to Florence the Pisans who paid him to defend them'. He was sumptuously buried by the grateful Florentines, after lying in state, wrapped in cloth-of-gold. His body is no longer here, for it was begged by Richard II from the magistrates of Florence, who wrote: -
Although we should consider it glorious to us and our people to possess the dust and ashes of the late valiant knight, nay, most renowned captain, Sir John Hawkwood, who fought most gloriously for us as the commander of our armies, and whom at the public expense we caused to be interred in the Cathedral Church of our city; yet, notwithstanding, according to the form of the demand, that his remains may be taken back to his own country, we freely concede the permission, lest it be said that your sublimity asked anything in vain, or fruitlessly, of our reverential humility.The monument is by Paolo Ucello, who obtained the surname from his love of birds. But the same artist are four heads of prophets, at the angles of the clock.
Hawkwood appears to me the first real general of modern times; the earliest master, however impoerfect, in the science of Turenne and Wellington. Every contemporary Italian historian speaks with admiration of the skilful tactics in battle, his strategems, his well-conducted retreats. Parise of ths kind is hardly bestowed, certainly not so continually, on any former captain. - Hallam.
In the South Aisle are the monuments of Brunelleschi, with a bust of the obscure Buggiani, and an epitaph by Carlo Marsupini; and of Giotto, placed here in 1490 by Lorenzo de' Medici, with a bust and ornamental frame by Benedetto da Majano, and an epitaph by Politian. On the opposite column is a portrait of S. Antonino, the good Dominican bishop, by Francesco Morandi.
Over the first door is the monument of Pier Farnese, another captain of Free Companies, who died of the plague in 1363. It was formerly surounted by an equestrian statue. Beyond the next column is a statue of Ezekiel by Donatello. Then comes the monument of Marsilio Ficino, a Greek, who was first President of the Platonic Academy. His bust is by Andrea Ferrucci.
Over the second door is the monument by Tino di Camaino of the Bishop Antonio d'Orso, who led his cathedral canons out in full armour against Henry VII, when he was beseiging Florence.
The stained windows of the southern transept are good works of Domenico Livi da Gambassi, c. 1434.
The lunettes over the doors of the two Sacristies - simple white on a blue ground - are the earliest works of Luca della Robbia, and represent the Ascension and the Resurrection. It was to the Sagrestia Vecchia that Lorenzo de' Medici escaped, after seeing his brother Giuliano killed before the altar, in the conspiracy of the Pazzi, April 26, 1478. Politian, who was with him, secured the door against the enemy, while Antonio Ridolfi sucked his wound, lest it should have been poisoned.
The moment when the priest at the high altar finished the mass, was fixed for the assassination. Everything was ready. The conspirators, by Judas kisses and embracements, had discovered that the young men wore no protective armour under their silken doublets. Pacing the aisle behind the choir, they feared no treason. And now the lives of both might easily have been secured, if at the last moment the courage of the hired assassins had not failed them. Murder, they said, was well enough, but they could not bring themselves to stab men before the consecrated body of Christ. In this extremity a priest was found, who 'being accustomed to churches', had no scruples. He and another reprobate were told off to Lorenze. Francesco de' Pazzi himself undertook Giuliano. The moment for attack arrived. Francesco plunged his dagger into the heart of Giuliano. Then, not satisfied with this death-blow, he struck again, and in the heat of passion wounded his own thigh. Lorenzo escaped with a flesh-wound from the poniard of the priest, and rushed into the sacristy. - J.A. Symonds.Behind the high-altar is a Pietà, an unfinished and, the inscription says, the last work of Michelangelo, executed in 1555, when he was in his eight-first year. [Now in the Opera del Duomo.] The crucifix over the altar is by Benedetto da Majano. Beneath the central altar of the apse is the famous Shrine of San Zenobio (the 'Arca di S. Zenobio') by Ghiberti, 1440.
Beautiful, indeed, is the relief upon its front, which represents the miraculous restoration of a dead child to life by the Saint, in the presence of his widowed mother. In the centre lies the body, over which the spirit hovers in the likeness of a little child, between the praying Saint and the kneeling motehr, around whom cluster a crowd of spectators. The story is exquistely told, the kneeling figures are full of feeling, the bystanders of sympathy, and the vanishing lines of the perspective are managed with wonderful skill, so as to lead the eye from the principle group, through the nearer and more distant spectators, to the gates of the far-off city. Two other miracles of the Saint are represented on the ends of the 'Cassa', and at the back are six angels in relief, sustaining a garland, within which is an inscription commemorative of this holy and learned man, who abjured Paganism in his early youth, bestowed his private fortune upon the poor, and was made one of the seven Deacons of the Church by Pope Damasus; he was subsequently Legate at Constantinople, and at the time of his deth held the office of Bishop of Florence. - Perkins' Tuscan Sculptors.In the chapels of the apse are:
On peut dire que jamais la mémoire d'un saint n'avait été consacrée par un pareil monument. Sous le rapport de l'art proprement dit, toutes les perfections y sont atteintes. - Rio.
Nanni di Banco. S. Luke.The Sagrestia Nuova has bronze doors by Luca della Robbia, and contains a lavatory by Buggiano.
Donatello. S. John the Evanglist.
Donatello. S. Matthew.
Niccolò Aretino. S. Mark.
In the north transept is a gnomen invented in 1468 by the Florentine Paolo Toscanelli. Here are fresco portraits, of Pietro Corsini, Bishop of Florence, 1405, by Santi di Tito, and of Luigi Marsili, a learned theologian, 1394, by Bicci di Lorenzo.
Over the first door, on entering the north aisle from the east, is a tomb attributed to Conrad, son of the Emperor Henry IV, but more probably that of Aldobrandini Ottobuoni, ob. 1256. Close by is a fresco of Dante expounding his Divina Commedia painted, when the church was used for lectures on that subject, by Domenico di Michelino, a pupil of Fra Angelico, in 1465. The inscription by Politian was added in 1470.
Dante, vêtu d'une robe rouge, tenant son libre ouvert, est au pied des murs de Florence, dont les portes sont fermées pout lui. Tout près, on découvre l'entrée des gouffres infernaus; Dante les montre de la main et semble dire à ses ennemis: Vous voyez le lieu dont je dispose. Mais il y a plus de douleur que de menace sur son visage qu'il penche tristement. La vengeance ne le console pas de l'exil. Plus loin s'élève la montagne du purgatorie avec ses rampes circulaires, et au sommet l'arbre en pue indistincts qui entourent toute la composition. Dante est là avec son oeuvre et sa destinée. Cette curieuse représentation est de 1450. Son auteur fut un religieux qui expliquait alors la Divine Comédie dans la cathédrale. Ainsi, cent trente ans après la mort de Dante, on faisait un cours public sur son poeme dans la cathédrale, et on suspendait aux parois de l'église l'image du poete à côté de celles des prophètes et des saints. - Ampère.The wooden urn above the next door is that of Don Pedro of Toledo, Viceroy of Naples, and father of the Grand-Duchess Eleanora, who was poisoned by his son-in-law, Cosimo I. Beyond this are a modern monument to the architect, Arnolfi di Cambio; a statue of the scholar, Poggio Bracciolino, by Donatello; and the monument of Antonio Squarcialupo, the musical composer, with a bust by Benedetto da Majano. Against the column opposite this monument is a picture of S. Zenobia, seated between S. Crescenzio and S. Eugenio, who kneel on either side.
The fresco of the cupola was begun by Giorgio Vasari, and finished by Federigo Zucchero.
We cannot visit the Cathedral without recalling the scenes which took place here during the preaching of Savonarola on the great 'revival' of the fifteenth century.
The people got up in the middle of the night to get places for the sermon, and came to the door of the cathedral, waiting outside till it should be opened, making no account of any inconvenience, neither of the cold nor the wind, nor of standing in winter with their feet on the marble; and among them were young and old, women and children, of every sort, who came with such jubilee and rejoicing that it was bewildering to hear them, going to the sermon as to a wedding. Then the silence was great in the church, each one going to his place; and he who could read, with a taper in his hand, read the service and other prayers. And though many thousand people were thus collected together, no sound was to be heard, not even a 'hush', until the arrival of the children, who sang hymns with so much sweetness that heaven seemed to have opened. Thus they waited three or four hours till the Padre entered the pulpit, and the attention of so great a mass of people, all with eyes and ears intent upon the preacher, was wonderful; they listened so, that when the sermon reached its end it seemed to them it had scarcely begun. - Burlamacchi.
The beauty of the past in Florence is like the beauty of the great Duomo.
About the Duomo there is stir and strife at all times; crowds come and go; men buy and sell; lads laugh and fight; piles of fruit blaze gold and crison; metal pails clash down on the stones with shrillest clangour; on the steps boys play at dominoes, and women give their children food, and merry-makers join in carnival fooleries; but there in the midst is the Duomo all unharmed and undegraded, a poem and a prayer in one, its marbles shining in the
upper air, a thing so majestic in its strength, and yet so human in its tenderness, that nothing can assail and nothing equal it. - Ouida, Pascarel.
In the first, Zacharias is represented as a venerable old man, writing at a table, near which stand a youth and two women, beautifully draped, and grouped into a composition whose antique simplicity of means shows how far Andrea had advanced beyond Niccola and Giovanni (Pisano), who could not tell a story without bringing in a crowd of figures. In the burial of S. John we see a sarcophagus, placed beneath a gothic canopy, into which five disciples are lowering the dead body of their master, two at the shoulders (one of whom evidently sustants the whole weight of the corpse), and two at the feet, while a sorrowing youth holds up a portion of the winding-sheet; a monk, bearing a torch, looks down upon the face of S. John from the other side of the Arca, and near him stands an old man, his hands clasped in prayer and his eyes raised to heaven. In these works we find sentiment, simplicity, purity of design, and great elegance of drapery, combined with a technical perfection, hardly ever surpassed, while the single allegorical figures show the all-pervading influence of Giotto, from whom Andrea learned to use the mythical and spiritual elements of German art, as Giovanni Pisano had used the fantastic and dramatic. When they were completed and set up in the doorway of the Baptistery, now occupied by Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise, all Florence crowded to see them; and the Signory, who never quitted the Palazzo Vecchio in a body except on the most solemn occasions, came in state to applaud the artist, and to confer upon him the dignity of citizenship. - Perkins' Tuscan Sculptors.Scarcely less beautiful are the northern gates, of 1401, by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Un travail immense, où des nations de bronze, dans des proportions très petites, mais très distinctes, offrent une multitude de physionomies variées, qui toutes expriment une pensèe de l'artiste, une conception de son esprit. - Madame de Staël.The eastern gates were executed by the same artist, 1447-1456. It was of these that Michelangelo said that they 'were worthy to be the gates of Paradise'.
'In modelling these reliefs', says Ghiberti, in his second Commentary, 'I strove to imitate Nature to the utmost, and by investigating her methods of work to see how nearly I could approach her. I sought to understand how forms strike upon the eye, and how the theoretic part of sculptural and pictorial art should be managed. Working with the utmost diligence and care, I introduced into some of my compositions as many as a hundred figures, which I modelled upon different planes, so that those nearest the eye might appear larger, and those more remote smaller in proportion'.Each of the gates is surmounted by a group in bronze, viz.: -
L'ouvrage dura quarante ans, dit Vasari, c'est à dire un an de moins qu n'avait vécu Masaccio, un an de plus que ne devait vivre Raphaël. Lorenzo, qui l'avait commencè plein de jeunesse et de force, l'acheva vieus et courbé. Son portrait est celui de ce vieillard chauve qui, lorsque la porte est fermée, se trouve dans l'ornament du milieu; toute une vie d'artiste s'était écoulée en sueurs, et était tombée goutte à goutte sur ce bronze! - Alexandre Dumas.
(Northern) Giovanni Francesco Rustici. S.
John Baptist preaching to a Pharisee and Sadducee.
(Eastern) Andrea da Sansovino. The Baptism of our Lord.
(Southern) Vincenzio Dante. The Decollation of S. John Baptist.
The detached prophyry columns near the eastern gates were a gift from Pisa in gratitude for the protection afforded by Florence in 1114.
The Interior of 'San Giovanni' is very dark. It is surrounded by sixteen columns, of which fifteen are of grey granite and one of white marble - the last believed to be the column on which the statue of Mars stood near Ponte Vecchio, and at the foot of which Buondelmonte fell, murdered by the Amidei. The cupola is covered with mosaics, having a huge figure of our Lord in the centre, surrounded by 'Angels, Thrones, Dominions, and Powers'. The mosaic of the Tribune is by Jacopo Turrita, author of the famous mosaic in S. Maria Maggiore at Rome. The high-altar has a beautiful frontal of silver repoussé work. [Now in the Opera del Duomo?]
The present font replaces one brought from S. Reparata in 1128. This was a large basin for immersion, surrounded by smaller basins, one of which was broken by Dante while saving a child from drowning. Speaking of the holes in which sinners guilty of simony are punished, he says: -
All the children born in Florence are still baptized in the present font. [Baptisms are now held in the parish churches.]Non mi parien meno ampi nè maggiori
Che que che son nel mio bel San Giovanni
Fatti per luogo de' battezzatori;
L'un degli quali, ancor non è molt'anni,
Rupp'io per un che dentro vi annegava:
E questo sia suggel ch'ogni uomo sganni. Inf. xix.16.
The beautiful tomb of Pope John XXIII (Baldassare Cossa) is by Donatello and his pupil Michelozzo Michelozzi. After Pope John was deposed by the Council of Constance, he came to Florence to humble himself to his successful rival, Martin V, and died here in 1417 in the Palazzo Orlandini. He was honoured with a magnificent fuenral, for which he had left the funds. He had provided for his tomb in his will. Pope Martin, still residing at S. Maria Novella, objected to the words, 'Quondam Papa', in the epitaph, and desired Cosimo de' Medici to alter them, but he proudly declined in the words of Pilate, 'Quod scripsi, scripsi'. A tomb, with a gothic inscription, on the left of this, commemorates Ranieri, Bishop of Florence.
This monument is curious as the subject of a Florentine tradition. A woman who made a fortune by the sale of vegetables, and was known in Florentine dialect as the 'Cavajola' (cabbage wife), bequeathed money to have the bells of Ognissanti and the Cathedral annually rung from the 1st November to the last day of Carnival for the repose of her soul. Her memory is held in much respect by her townspeople who believed that in some unaccountable manner her bones rest in the sarcophagus of Bishop Ranieri, whose tomb has thereafter been called La Tomba della Cavajola. - Horner.A Roman sarcophagus near the font is a relic of many of the kind which once stood on the outside of the building and were removed c. 1229. A lean Magdalen, in wood, is the work of Donatello. [Now in the Opera del Duomo.] Jacopo Bellini was forced to do public penance in the Baptistery (April 8, 1425) for thrashing one Bernardo di Ser Silvestri, who had thrown stones into his studio.
The interior of the Baptistery has a charm of solemnity, almost of sadness, like some old mother brooding over generations of her children who have passed away - old, old, meditative still, lost in a deep and silent mournfulness. The great round of the walls, so unimpressive outside, has within a severe and lofty grandeur. The vast walls rise up dimly in that twlight coolness which is so grateful in a warm country - the vast roof tapers yet farther up, with one cold pale star of light in the centre; a few figures, dwarfed by its greatness, stand like ghosts about the pavement below - one or two kneeling in the deep stillness; while outside all is light and sound in the piazza, and through the opposite doors a white space of sunny pavement appears dazzling and blazing. - Blackwoods, DCCV.The Piazza del Duomo contains several points of interest in Florentine history. The alley which leds from the piazza, behind the Misericordia, to the Via Calzaiuoli , records in its name of Via della Morta a curious story which is told by Boccaccio.
Antinio Rondinelli, having fallen in love with Ginevra degli Amieri, could not by any means obtain her from her father, who preserred to give her to Francesco Agolanti, because he was of noble family. The grief of Rondinelli cannot be described, but it was equalled by that of Ginera, who could never be reconciled to the marriage which was arranged for her. Whether, therefore, from a struggle with hopeless love, or from hysteria, or some other cause, it is a fact that, after this ill-assorted marriaged had lasted for four years, Ginevra fell into an unconscious state, and, after remaining without pulse or sign of life for some time, was believed to be dead, and as such was buried in the family tomb in the cemetery of the Duomo near the Campanile. The death of Ginevra, however, was not real, but an appearance produced by catalepshy. The night after her internment she returned to consciousness, and, perceiving what had ahppened, contrived to unfasten her hands, and crept as well as she could up the little steps of the vault, and, having lifted the stone, came forth. Then, by the shortest way, called the Via della Morta from this circunstance, she went to her husband's house in the Corso degli Adimari; but, not being received by him, who from her feeble voice and white dress believed her to be a spectre, she went to the house of Bernardo Amieri, her father, who lived in the Mercato Vecchio behind S. Andrea, and then to that of an uncle who lived close by, where she received the same repulse.The next side-street, Via dello Studio, contains the Collegio Eugeniano, founded for chorister-boys by Pope Eugenius IV in 1435. At the corner of this street an inscription marks the birthplace of Bishop S. Antonino.
Giving in to her unhappy fate, it is said that she then took refuge under the loggia of S. Bartolommeo in the Via Calzaioli, where, while praying that death would put an end to her misery, she remembered her beloved Rondinelli, who had always proved faithful to her. To him she found her way, was kindly received and carefd for, and in a few days restored to her former health.
Up to this point the story has nothing incompatible with truth, but that which is difficult to believe is the second marriage of Ginevra with Antonio Rondinelli, while her first husband was still living, and her petition to the Ecclesiastical Tribunals, who decided that the first marriage having been dissolved by death, the lady might legitimately accept another husband. - Osservatore Fiorentino.9
Close by, on the south of the piazza, are modern statues of its two architects, Arnolfo di Cambio and Brunelleschi, by Pampaloni.
Farther down the piazza, on the same side, is the stone inscribed 'Sasso di Dante' (now let into the wall), where Dante is said to have sat and gazed at the cathedral.
At the eastern angle of the piazza is a palace marked by a bust of Cosimo I, which was at one time the residence of Lorenzo de' Medici.On the stone
Called Dante's, a plain flat-stone scarce discerned
From others in the pavement - whereupon
He used to bring his quiet chair out, turned
To Brunelleschi's church, and pour alone
The lava of his spirit when it burned:
It is not cold to-day. O passionate
Poor Dante who, a banished Florentine,
Didst sit austere at banquets of the great
And muse upon this far-off stone of thine,
And think how oft a passer used to wait
A moment, in the golden day's decline,
With 'Good-night, dearest Dante!' - well, good-night!
I muse now, Dante, and think verily,
Though chapelled in the by-way out of sight,
Ravenna's bones would thrill with ecstasy,
Couldst know thy favourite stone's elected right
As tryst-place for the Tuscans to foresee
Their earliest chartas from. - Eliz. Barrett Browning.
An archway close to this palace leads to the Opera del Duomo or Museo di S. Maria del Fiore (entrance, 50 c.), which contains a most interesting collection of objects connected with the church. The First Hall, on the ground floor, contains a statue of the Virgin and Child from the original front of the cathedral, and the original font surmounted by an angel. On the stairs are admirable reliefs from the original coro by Baccio Bandelli and Giovanni Bandini.
In the Second Hall are: -
71 The ancient Cantoria, or singing gallery of the cathedral, by Luca di Simone and Marco della Robbia, 1431.
72 An exquisite Cantoria ascribed to Donato di Nicolo di Betto Bardi, 1433.
92,93 Andrea Pisano, 1406,70. Two admirable statuettes.
94 Pagno di Lapo Portigiani, XV c. A relif of the Madonna and Child.
95 Niccolò di Piero Lamberti, XV c., statues representing the Annunciation, from the old façade.
97 Magnificent silver dossale or altar front of XIV and XV c., with exquisite reliefs representing the story of S. John Baptist. This was taken every year to the Baptistery (S. Giovanni Battista) on the festival of the saint, till 1891.
98 Magnificent silver XV c. cross, ordered by the Arti dei Mercanti to contain a relic of the true Cross.
105,106 Exquisite reliefs of singing children, executed for the Cantoria by Luca della Robbia.
They represent a band of youths, dancing, playing upon musical instruments, and singing; the expression in each chorister's face is so true to the nature of his voice, that we can hear the shrill treble, the rich contralto, the luscious tenor, and the sonorous bass of their quartette. - Perkins' Tuscan Sculptors.The 3rd Hall contains models and plans connected with the cathedral at the different periods of its existence.
These happy children, standing or sitting in careless ease with their varied instruments in their hands, these fair-faced boys and maidens, blowing long trumpets, sounding their harp and lyre, and clashing their cymbals as they go, singing all the while for gladness of heart, breathe the very spirit of music. Not a detail is left out, not a touch forgotten. We see the motion of their hands beating time as they bend over each other's shoulders to read the notes, the rhythmic measure of their feet as they circle hand in hand to the tune of their own music, the very swelling of their thorats as, with heads thrown back and parted lips, they pour forth their whole soul in song. Never was the innocent beauty, the unconscious grace, of childhood, more perfectly rendered than in these lovely bands of curly-headed children thrilled through and through with the power and joy of their melody. - Church Quarterly Review, Oct. 1885.
The marble pillar which stands on the northern side of the Baptistery records the miracle wrought by the dead body of S. Zenobio during its translation from S. Lorenzo to S. Salvador, when a dead tree on this spot instantly budded and bore leaves upon being touched by the holy relic.
The Arcivescovado, behind the Baptistery, is of very ancient foundation, but has been much altered. Countess Matilda lodged there in the eleventh century, and the Emperor Baldwin in 1273. The bishopric of Florence was made an archbishopric by the gratitude of Martin V for the refuge had found in the city. In the Piazza dell'Olio, behind the Palace, are some marble arches built into a wall which once formed part of the suppressed Church of S. Salvador. An archway in this piazza formed the entrance to the Ghetto, the Jews' quarter in Florence, once enclosed by walls with four gates, and finally doomed to destruction in 1888. In the Church of S. Maria Maggiore, close to the Via Cerretani, Brunetto Latini, the Master of Dante (ob. 1294), was buried. In the Piazza is the Palazzo delle Cento Finestre, where Cigoli the painter lived. Close behind is the Palazzo Orlandini, enclosing the Palazzo Beccuti, in which John XXIII lived after he had been deposed at Constance.
The Borgo of S. Lorenzo, which opens opposite the Arcivescovado, leads speedily to the Piazza S. Lorenzo, in one corner of which is a statue of Giovanni delle Bande Nere (father of Cosimo I) by Baccio Bandinelli. Like most of the works of this conceited but indifferent master, it has been much ridiculed, and was thus apostrophised by the rhymesters of his time: -
Messer Giovanni delle Bande Nere,Giovanni delle Bande Nere (son of Giovanni de' Medici by his marriage with the famous Caterina Sforza, widow of Girolamo Riario, died in his twenty-ninth year, the day after having his leg amputated for a wound he received before Borgoforte. During the operation he refused to be bound, and himself with unflinching hand held the torch which lighted the operators.
Dal lungo cavalcar noiato e stanco,
Scese di cavallo e si pose a sedere.
The Church of S. Lorenzo was originally due to the munificence of the Christian matron Giuliana, who vowed to erect a church in honour of S. Laurence if she should give birth to a male offspring. The basilica she built was consecrated in A.D. 373 by S. Ambrose, and called the Basilica Ambrosiana, and here Bishop Zenobio was buried for fifty years, before his translation to S. Salvador.
In 1435 Brunelleschi was appointed to overlook the re-building of S. Lorenzo, but he only lived to see the Sagrestia Vecchia completed - the rest was altered and finished by Antonio Manetti.
San Lorenzo is 260 feet in length by 82 in width, with transepts 171 feet from side to side. No church can be freer from bad taste than this one; and there is no false constrcution, nor anything to offend the most fastidious. Where it fails is in the want of sufficient solidity and mass in the supporting pillars and the pier-arches, with reference to the load which they have to bear; and a subsequent attentuation and poverty most fatal to architectural effect. - Fergusson.In front of the high-altar a porphyry slab covers the remains of Cosimo de' Medici - Cosimo il Vecchio, Pater Patriae, who died August 1464.
Sur le pavé en porphyre recouvrant le caveau funèbre, on grava la modeste épitaphe qu'on y voit encore aujourd'hui, et remarquable par ces deux mots: Pater Patriae. C'était le titre que, trente années auparavant, l'enthousiasme populaire lui avait décerné au jour de son triomphe, et qu'au jour des ses funérailles un décret public avait de nouveau consacré en ordonnant de l'inscrire sur son tombeau. Un si beau titre aurait du suffire à la gloire de Cosme. Peut-être il ne lui eut été jamais contesté si, pour la dignité de leur nom et surtout dans l'intéret de l'Etat, ses descendants avaient toujours suivi les exemples donnés par leur illustre aïeul. - Dantier.In the north aisle is a monument by Thorwaldsen to Pietro Benvenuti, an excellent modern Italian painter.
He left to posterity the fame of a great and generous patron, the infamy of a cynical, self-seeking, bourgeois tyrant. - J.A. Symonds.
The chapel at the end of the north transept has a rich marble altar by Desiderio da Settignano, called by Giovanni Santi, 'Il bravo Desider, si dolce e bello'. It was the 'Gesù Bambino' above this altar which was carried through the streets by an army of children, who, at the instigation of Savonarola, called for every work of art of an immoral tendency, that it might be destroyed and burnt. The chapel on the right of the altar contains the porphyry monument of the Grand-Duchess Maria Anna Carolina, first wife of Leopoldo II, ob. 1832. At the end of the south aisle is a fresco of the martyrdom of S. Laurence by Bronzino. The bronze pulpits are by Donatello and his pupil Bertoldo.
In the south transept is the Sagrestia Vecchia, adorned with Corinthian columns, and reliefs of the Evangelists and statuettes by Donatello. In the centre of the pavement, half concealed by a table, is a sarcophagus-tomb, also by Donatello, erected by Cosimo Vecchio to his parents, Giovanni and Piccarda de' Medici. The sacristy also contains the monument of Giovanni and Piero - il Gottoso (the Gouty), sons of Cosimo de' Medici, erected by Giuliano and Lorenzo the Magnificent, the sons of Piero. Both these also rest here in their father's tomb, which is the work of Andrea Verocchio. On the wall is a profile of Cosimo 'Pater Patriae', who built this sacristy.
The Sagrestia Nuova is on the north side of the church, and has an external entrance. (Admission daily, 10-4, 50 c; on Sundays free). It was designed by Michelangelo, who was ordered by Clement VII (Giulio de' Medici) to construct it, instead of continuing the magnificent façade for the church, which had been ordered by his predecessor Leo X (Giovanni de' Medici). It was begun in 1523, and occupied Michelangelo for twelve years. Here are the famous monuments of Lorence, Duke of Urbino, grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and father of Catherine de' Medici, who died in 1519, and of his uncle Giuliano, third son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who was early weary of life, and composed a sonnet in defence of suicide. He died, probably of poison, aged thirty-seven, March 1516.10
The melancholy statue of Lorenzo is called 'Il Pensoso' - 'the thinker'. The want of architectural power in Michelangelo is nowhere more definitely shown than in these monuments. The narrow niches in which the Medici are confined would make it impossible for them to stand upright, and the disproportionate figures below are slipping of the pitiable pedestals which support them. The figures beneath the statue of Lorenzo are intended for Dawn and Twilight. Dawn, wearily awaking, is perhaps the finest of the four statues. Below the statue of Giuliano are Day and Night - Day a mere bozzetto.11 Most people, though they may not dare to confess it, will find it difficult to understand the praises which succeeding generations have heaped upon these statues.12
Four ineffable types, not of darkness nor of day - not of morning nor evening, but of the departure and the resurrection, the twilight and the dawn, of the souls of men. - Ruskin.It is of the figure of Night that Giovanni Battista Strozzi wrote: -
La Notte che tu vedi in si dolci attiTo which Michelangelo replied: -
Dormir, fu da un Angelo scolpita
In questo sasso, e purché dorme, ha vita:
Destala, se nol credi, e parleratti.
Grato m'è 'l sonno, e più l'esser di sasso,
Mentre che il danno e la vergogna dura;
Non veder, non sentir, m'è gran ventura:
Però non mi destar, deh! parla basso! 12
Perhaps of all the statues that of Lorenzo has been the most admired: -Michel's Night and Day
And Dawn and Twilight wait in marble scorn,
Like dogs upon a dunghill, couched on clay
From whence the Medicean stamp's outworn,
The final putting-off of all such sway
By all such hands, and freeing of the unborn
In Florence and the great world outside Florence.
Three hundred years his patient statues with
In that small chapel of the dim St Laurence:
Day's eyes are breaking bold and passionate
Over his shoulder, and will flash abhorrence
On darkness, and with level looks meet fate,
When once loose from that marble film of theirs:
The Night has wild dreams in her sleep, the Dawn
Is haggard as the sleepless, Twilight wears
A sort of horror; as the veil withdrawn
'Twixt the Artist's soul and works had left them heirs
Of speechless thoughts which would not quail nor fawn,
Of angers and contempts, of hope and love:
For not without a meaning did he place
The princely Urbino on the seat above
With everlasting shadow on his face,
While the slow dawns and twilights disapprove
The ashes of his long-extinguished race
Which never more shall clog the feet of men.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning.Is not thine hour come to wake, O slumbering Night?
Hath not the Dawn a message in thine ear?
Though thou be stone and sleep, yet shalt thou hear
When the word falls from heaven - Let there be light.
Thou knowest we would not do thee the despite
To wake thee while the old sorrow and shame were near.We spake not aloud for thy sake, and for fear
Lest thou shouldst lose the rest that was thy right,
The blessing given thee that was thine alone,
The happiness to sleep and to be stone:
Nay, we kept silence of thee for thy sake
Albeit we knew thee alive, and left with thee
The great good gift to feel not nor to see;
But will not yet thine Angel bid thee wake.
Swinburne, In San Lorenzo.
The Day and Night in the Medici Chapel have something terrible in their solemnity. They are all wrong, if you please, full of defects, impossible, unnatural, but they are grand thoughts and mighty in their character, and they overawe you into silence. I would counsel no artist to attempt to copy them or form his style upon them; let him rather absorb them as impressions than study them as models. - W.W. Story.
The statue that sits above the allegories of Monring and Evening is like no other that ever came from a sculptor's hand. It is the one work worthy of Michelangelo's reputation, and grand enough to vindicate for him all the genius the world gave him credit for. And yet it seems a simple thing enough to think of or to execute; merely a sitting figure, the face partly overshadowed by a helmet, one hand supporting the chin, the other resting on the thigh. But after looking at it a little while, the spectator ceases to think of it as a marble statue; it comes to life, and you see that the princely figure is brooding over some great design, which, when he has arranged in his own mind, the world will be fain to execute for him. No such grandeur and majesty have elsewhere been put into human shape. - Hawthorne.Opposite the altar is a Madonna and Child, also by Michelangelo, and, like almost all his statues, a mere sketch in marble. On one side of it is S. Cosmo by Montorsoli; on the other, S. Damian by Montelupo.
From its character of profound reflection, the figure of Lorenzo has acquired the distinctive appelation of 'La Pensée de Michel-Ange'. It is, in fact, the personification of contemplative thought. The head, surmounted by a casque of classical form, is gently declined; the elbow of the left arm reposes upon a casket on the knee of the statue; and the forefinger of the corresponding hand is placed upon the lip in deep meditation; the crossed legs indicate complete repose; and the right arm, with the hand turned back, leans with perfect ease upon the thigh. The flexure of the body is so plastic and easy, and the anatomical truth of the whole so perfect, that it seems like life suddenly congealed into marble. 'Vivos ducent de marmore vultus'. - J.S. Harford.
Nor then forget that Chamber of the Dead,
Where the gigantic shapes of Night and Day,
Turned into stone, rest everlastingly;
Yet still are beathing, and shed round at noon
A twofold influence - only to be felt -
A light, a darkness, mingling each with each;
Both, and yet neither. There, from age to age,
Two ghosts are sitting on their sepulchres.
That is the Duke Lorenzo. Mark him well.
He meditates, his hed upon his hand.
What from beneath his helm-like helmet scowls?
Is it a face, or but an eyeless skull?
'Tis lost in shade; yet, like the basilisk,
It fascinates, and is intolerable.
His mien is nobel, most majestical!
Then most so when the distant choir is heard
At morn and eve - nor fail thou to attend
On that thrice-hallowed day, when all are there;
When all, propitiating with solemn songs,
Visit the Dead. Then wilt thou feel his Power. - Rogers.
The head of the famous Day was probably left unfinished becayse Michelangelo perceived that it was turned beyond the limit permitted to nature without breaking the neck. - W.W. Story.
The stairs of the Sagrestia Nuova lead also to the Medicean Chapel (admission as at the Sagrestia Nuova) built as a Mausoleum by the Grand-Duke Ferdinand I, younger son of Cosimo I. It was begun in 1604, and is entirely covered with precious marbles and pietra dura work. The armorial bearings of the principal cities of Tuscany are introduced as decorations. The granite cenotaphs of the Medici stand around. The only ones which have statues are those of Ferdinand I (ob. 1608), by Pietro Tacca, and Cosimo II (ob. 1620) by Giovanni da Bologna.
The chapel de' Depositi is a work of Michelangelo, and the first he ever built; but the design is petty and capricious. The chapel of the Medici is more noble and more chaste in the design itself; though its architect was a prince, and its walls were destined to receive the richest crust of ornament that ever was lavished on so large a surface. - Forsyth.In the Cloister, which was designed by Brunelleschi, close to the entrance from the church, is the monument, by San Gallo, of Paolo Giovio, the historian, ob. 1552. He is represented in his robes as Bishop of Nocera. This cloister is, by ancient custom, the refuge of all homeless cats; any one wishing to dispose of a cat brings it here and abandons it, with the knowledge that it will be provided for. The feeding of the cats, which takes place when the clock strikes twelve, is a most curious sight. Broken meat and scraps of bread, &c., collected at house-doors, are brought in a sack, and from every roof and arch and parapet wall, mewing, hissing, and screaming, the cats rush down to devour it. In this cloister of a church so much connected with Michelangelo, we may note the kind of window-grating bulging out below, so common in Florence, called Kneeling Windows, which were invented by him.
In 1791 Ferdinand III gathered together all the coffins containing the royal bodies, and had them piled together pell-mell in the subterranean vaults of the chapel, caring scarcely to distinguish one from another; and there they remained uncared for, and protected from invasion only by two wooden doors, with common keys, till 1857. But shame then came over those who had the custody of the place, and it was determined to put them in place and order. In 1818 a rumour was current that the Medicean coffins had been violated and robbed of all the articles of value which they contained; but it was not till thirty-nine years afterwards, in 1857, that an examination into the fact was made. It was then found that the rumour had been well founded. The forty-nine coffins containing the remains of the family were taken down one by one, and a sad state of things was exposed. Some of them had been broken into and robbed, some of them were the hiding-places of rats and every kind of vermin; and such was the nauseous odour they gave forth, that at least one of the persons employed in taking them down lost his life by inhaling it. In many of them nothing remained but fragments of bones and a handful of dust; but where they had not been stolen, the splendid dresses, covered with jewels, the wrought silks and satins of gold embroidery, the helmets and swords, crusted with gems and gold, still survived the dust and bones that had worn them in their splendid pageants and ephemeral days of power; and in many cases, where everything that bore the impress of life had gone, the hair still remained, almost as fresh as ever. Some, however, had been embalmed, and were in fair preservation; and some were in a dreadful state of putrefaction. Ghastly and grinning skulls were thre, adorned with crowns of gold. Dark and parchment-dried faces were seen, with thin golden hair, rich as ever, and twisted with gems and pearls and golden nets. The cardinals still wore their mitres and red cloaks and splendid rings. On the breast of Cardinal Carlos (son of Ferdinand I) was a beautiful cross of white enamel, with the effigy of Christ in black, and surrounded with emerald, and on his hand a rich sapphire ring. On that of Cardinal Leopold, the son of Cosimo II, over the purple pianeta was a cross of amthysts, and on his finger a jacinth set in enamel. The dried bones of Vittoria della Rovere Montefeltro were draped in a dress of black silk of beautiful texture, trimmed with black and white lace, with a great golden medal on her breast, and the portrait of her as she was in life lying on one side, and her emblems on the other; while all that remained of herself was a few bones. Anna Luisa, the Electress Palatine of the Rhine, daughter of Cosimo III, lay there, almost a skeleton, robed in a rich violet velvet, with the electoral crown surmounting a black, ghastly face of parchment - a medal of gold, with her name and effigy, on one side, and on her breast a crucifix of silver; while Francesco Maria, her uncle, lay beside her, a mass of putrid robes and rags. Cosimo I and Cosimo II had been stripped by profane hands of all their jewels and insignia; and so had been Eleanora de Toledo and Maria Christina, and many others, to the number of twenty. The two bodies which were found in the best preservation were those of the Grand-Duchess Giovanna d'Austria, the wife of Francisco I, and their daughter Anna. Corruption had scarcely touched them, and they lay there fresh in colour as if they had just died. The mother, in her red satin, trimmed with lace, her red silk stockings and high-heeled shoes, the earrings hanging from her ears, and her blonde hair as fresh as ever; and equally well-preserved was the body of the daughter. And so, centuries after they had been laid there, the truth became evident of the rumour that ran through Florence at the time of their death, that they had died of poison. The arsenic which had taken from them their life had preserved their bodies. Giovanni delle Bande Nere was also there - the bones scattered and loose within his iron armour, and his rusted helmet with the vizor down. - W.W. Story.
The cloister is overlooked by the windows of the Laurentian Library, built by Michelangelo for Clement VII to receive the Medicean colleciton. A beautiful staircase by Michelangelo leads to it. The windows are filled with stained glass by Giovanni da Udine. The inlaid pavement of two different clays, is of great rarity and beauty. The ranves of presses are filled with precious illuminated MSS. The Library, which originated in the colleciton of Cosimo Vecchio, contains more than 7000 MSS, including original letters of Petrarch, many precious illuminated Missals, including the magnificent fiftennth-century choir-books of the cathedral, recetnly frought from S. Reparata, to which they were given by the Arte della Lana; also the famous copy of the pandects of Justinian, discovered in 1137 at Amalfi, and given by Leo X to the Duke of Urbino, but restored in 1786. Some of the illuminations are by the Oderisi, whom Dante extols as 'the honour of the art'.
The more precious MSS., in the iunner rooms, can only be seen by special permission of the direttore. The earlier of these come from the convent of the Angeli in the Via Alfani, and are many of them of the XIII c.; the later, from the Duomo, are mostly XIV and XV c. Some exquisite illuminations are by Lorenzo Monaco; others by Jean Fouquet. An Irish missal of the XI c. is of great interest. Others have pictures important as representing Florence in early times; in a picture of the Miracle of S. Zenobio the old cathedral of S. REparata is seen. In the Evangelists Siriaca, a MS of the VI s., is one of the earliest pictorial representations of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. A precious case inlaid with jewels is that which contained the documents relating to the Council of Florence. The Biblia Amiatina, brought from the monastery of Amiata, was written by Ceolfridus, a monk of the English Wearmouth, and taken by him to Rome as an offering at the sepulchre of S. Peter.
The designs of many of the glorious illuminations of the XII and XIV c. make it evident that much of the pictorial art of those centuries was inspired by the art of the jewellers.
A precious little volume of the Offices of the Madonna, with nine marvellous pictures, was executed for Lorenzo de' Medici. A colume on architecture has MS. notes by Leonardo da Vinci.
The Via de' Ginori, which continues the Piazza di S. Lorenzo, leads into the Via di S. Gallo.
One Sunday, Giotto, being on his way to S. Gallo, and having stopped in the Via del Cocomaro to tell some story, was so rudely caught by a pig running down the street, that he fell. He rose, however, very quietly, and, smiling, turned to the person nearest him, saying 'The brute is right. Have I not in my day earned thousands with the help of his bristles, and never given one of them even a cup of broth?' - Sacchetti.Here, on the right, at the corner of the Via Silvestrino, is the Palazzo Pandolfini, designed by Raffaelle. On the opposite side of the street the Convent Church of S. Apollonia has a door by Michelangelo. the convent is now a most interesting little Museum of the works of a very rare master, Andrea del Castagno (admission, 10 to 4, 25 c.[now, free]).
This is the best place for studying the works of this remarkable painter, who, the son of a peasant, showed his chief power in the delineation of the lusty limbs and sinews which were characteristic of those amongst whom he was brought up. The features of those he painted generally reproduce the coarseness of his passions.The convent contains: -
Cet artiste hypocrite, envieux, vindicatif, brutal, fut tout aussi peu attrayant dans sa personne que dans ses oeuvres. Plus ces personnages de la Villa Pandolfini se rapprochent, par leur caractère réal ou supposé, du type favori d'Andrea del Castagno, c'est à dire du type le plus analogue à sa propre nature, plus il a su les rendr d'une manière vigoreuse et saisissante. La figure de Farinata degli Uberti fait presque peur à voir, e l'artiste, en la traçant, avait certainement présente à l'esprit la damnation de ce patriote athée, telle qu'elle est peinte dans le dixième chant de l'Enfer. Il n'a pas réussi de meme dans le portrait d'Accaiuoli, brave et pieux fondateur de la Chartreuse de Floronce, ni dans celui de Boccace, ni surtout dans celui de Dante, dont il pouvait comprendre les rancunes beaucoup mieux que le génie. La seule figure vraiment grandiose qui soit sortie du pinceau d'Andrea est celle de la reine Esther; encore a-t-il plus consulté son imaginations que le reécit biblique, en transformant cette libératrice suppliante en libératrice impérieuse. - Rio.
School of Pollajuolo. An interesting figure of Justice from the old offices of the Sale e Tacci.
Two fine works of the School of Ghirlandajo, from the ancient Badia di Settimo, one representing S. Gregory the Great and S. Joseph kneeling by a Pietà; the other the Adoration of the Magi.
Neri dei Bicci. The Virgin adoring the Infant Christ, with S. Joseph in humble adoration behind. The careful botany of this picture is interesting: behind the Holy Child grows the giglio of Florence.
The 2nd Hall is the Chapter-House of the convent, for which Andrea del Castagno painted his deeply interesting Cenacolo, with the Crucifixion, Entombment, and Resurrection above it. The figures of the Last Supper are very characteristic of the coarse peasant nature of the painter, but the head of S. Andrew is fine; that of S. Thomas a remarkable example of foreshortening. Round the room (brought hither in 1891 from the Bargello) are the frescoes removed from the Villa Pandolfini at Legnaia. In the room for which they were painted (1435), the half-length figure of Esther, 'the deliverer of her country', occupied a central position over a door. On either side were the beautiful figures of sibyls. Beyond these, on the left, were the three poets, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio; on the right, Farinata degli Uberti, with Acciaoli and Philip of Spain.
The church of S. Jacopo dei Preti has a fine painted ceiling; restored 1893.
Beyond the Porta di San Gallo, which was built in 1284, is a Triumphal Arch, erected in honour of the entry of Francis II, husband of Maria Teresa - 'an arch in the most perfect opposition to the grave and austere architecture of the city which it announces'.12
At one corner of the Piazza S. Lorenzo rises the magnificent Palazzo Riccardi, now the Prefetura (admission daily, 10 to 4; on Sundays and festivals, 10 to 2), begun in 1430 by Cosimo Vecchio, from the designs of Michelozzo Michelozzi. Here, when Cosimo was being carried through the palace in his old age after the death of his favourite son Giovanni, the unhappy father was heard to murmur, 'Too large a house for so small a family'. Here, under his son Piero il Gottoso, the enthusiasm for learning, first animated by Cosimo, continued to have its centre. Marsilius Ficinus, who remained at the court, burnt a lamp before the bust of Plato, as before an altar; and Sacchetti relates how a passer-by, unreproved, took the candles which burnt before a crucifix, and placed them before the bust of Dante, saying 'Take them, for thou art the more worthy'.
The upper part of the palace is richly and carefully decorated, and gains greatly in effect by contrast with the grand basement storey of gigantic rough-hewn stones, upon which it rests. Rings for torches and banners are attached to the windows, and at one corner is a beautiful fanale by Niccolò Caparra. The immense gallery is painted by Luca Giordano - Luca fa presto'. Here Charles VIII of France, Pope Leo X, and the Emperor Charles V were lodged. Here also the Duke Alessandro, illegitimate brother of Catherine de' Medici and the last male lineal descendant of Cosimo Pater Patriae, was murdered by his distant cousin Lorenzino, who had been the minister of his pleasures.
On the way up to the chamber to which the dwarfish, sickly little tyrannicide has lured his prey, the most dramatic moment occurs. He stops the bold ruffian whom he has got to do him the pleasure of a certain unspecified homicide, in requital of the good turn by which he once saved his life, and whispered to him, 'It is the Duke!' Scoronconcolo, who had merely counted on an everyday murder, falters in dismay. But he recovers himself: 'Here we are: go ahead, if it were the devil himself!' And after that he has no more compunction in the affair than if it were the butchery of a simple citizen. The Duke is lying there on the bed in the dark, and Lorenzino bends over him with, 'Are you asleep, sir?' and drives his sword, shortened to half-length, through him; but the Duke springs up, and crying out, 'I did not expect this of thee!', makes a fight for his life that tasks the full strength of the assassin, and covers the chamber with blood. When the work is done, Lorenzino draws the curtains round the bed again, and pins a Latin verse to them, explaining that he did it for the love of country and the thirst for glory. - W.D. Howells.The room where this crime was committed was pulled down afterwards, and has been kept in ruins ever since. The palace was sold to the Riccardi by Ferdinand II in 1659, but was repurchased by the Grand-Duke in the last century, and is now public property.
The Riccardi Palace, notwithstanding its early date (1430), illustrates all the best characteristics of the style. It possesses a splendid façade, 300 feet in length by 90 in height. The lower storey, which is considerably higher than the other two, is also bolder, and pierced with only a few openings, and these placed unsymmetrically, as if in proud contempt of those structural exigencies which must govern all frailer constructions. - Fergusson.The court of the palace is surrounded by many of the sarcophagi which once stood outside the Baptistery, some of them exceedingly interesting and curious. The great Gallery is painted with the Apotheosis of the Medici by Luca Giordano (1632-1705). It was here that Charles VIII of France received the deputies of the Republic to discuss the terms of the treaty he proposed with the city; and here, when the King, impatient of delays, threatened to sound his trumpets, he received the famous answer of Pietro Capponi - 'If you sound your trumpets, we will sound our bells' - and the answer saved Florence.
But the gem of the palace is the Chapel (shown from 10 to 4, Sundays 10 to 2). It is entirely covered by most glorious frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli (1400-1478), painted by lamplight, as there was originally no window to the chapel. The altar-piece, removed to make the present window, must have represented the Virgin and Child, to whom the angels on either side the choir are kneeling in adoration or standing singing praises. All the rest of the walls is occupied by the procession of the Magi, winding through a rocky country, except at the angles, where the shepherds are represented leaving their flocks. The three kings are, as usual, portrayed of three ages, and the models are said to have been the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Emperor of the East, and Lorenzo the Magnificent. The details of beasts, birds, and flowers are most beautiful. One small portion of the fresco, where a secret staircase existed, is a later addition.
Behind the adoring angel groups, the landscape is governed by the most absolute symmetry; roses and pomegranates, their leaves drawn to the last rib and vein, twine themselves in fair and perfect order about delicate trellises: broad stone pines and tall cypresses overshadow them, bright birds hover here and there in the serene sky, and groups of angels, hand joined with hand, and wing with wing, glide and float through the glades of the unentangled forest. But behind the human figures, behind the pomp and turbulence of the kingly procession descending from the distant hills, the spirit of the landscape is changed. Serener mountains rise in the distance, ruder prominences and less flowery vary the nearer ground, and gloomy shadows remain unbroken beneath the forest branches. - Ruskin, Modern Painters.The Biblioteca Riccardi was collected by the Marchese Vincenzo Capponi: it is open to the public.
Serried ranks of seraphs, peacock-plumed, and kneeling in prayer; garlands of roses everywhere; contemporary Florentines on horseback, riding in the train of the three Magi kings under the low boughs of trees; and birds fluttering through the dim, mellow atmosphere; the whole dense and close in a opulent yet delicate fancifulness of design. - W.D. Howells.
Close to this palace is the Church of S. Giovannino, built for the Jesuits by Bartolommeo Ammanati, who gave his whole patrimony towards the work. He was buried here with his wife, Laura Battiferi. The body of the murdered Duke Alessandro was concealed in this church in 1536. In the neighbouring Via Martelli is the Palazzo Martelli, containing a beautiful statue of S. John Baptist by Donatello, which he presented as a token of gratitude to his early patron Roberto Martelli. On the opposite house is a relief of the Madonna by Mino da Fiesole.
The Via Cavour, on the other side of the Palazzo Riccardi, leads to the Piazza S. Marco. On the left is the Public Library (Biblioteca Marucelliana) founded by Francesco Marucelli, who died in 1703.
One whole side of the square is occupied by the great Monastery and Church of S. Marco, founded by the Silvestrini, a branch of the Vallombrosans, in 1290, but almost entirely rebuilt under Michelozzo Michelozzi. It is chiefly interesting from its association with Savonarola and Fra Angelico.
The convent is now a kind of Museum of History and Art, and is admirably cared for. Visitors pay a franc at the entrance, and then are allowed to wander and admire at their own will. Sundays free.
The Cloister is first entered. It is surrounded by frescoes of a later date, but amid them are six exquisite works of Fra Angelico: -
1 The Crucifixion, with S. Dominic kneeling at the
foot of the cross.
2 S. Peter Martyr, with the knife of his martyrdom buried in his shoulder, and his finger on his lips, expressing the enforced silence of the cloister. 'It is difficult to say whether Angelico did not express the obligation of silence more by the glance than by the gesture.'
3 The Discipline of the cloister (much injured), expressed by S. Dominic with a book and a cat-of-nine-tails.
4 The Resurrection, expressive of the reward of monastic life.
5 Two Dominicans welcoming our Saviour in a pilgrim's dress.
No scene more true, more noble, or more exquisitely rendered than this can be imagined. - Crowe and Cavalcaselle.6 A portrait of S. Thomas Aquinas, as the glory of the Dominicans.
The rest of the frescoes here are by different artists; the best by Poccetti (1542-1612). Many interesting points in old Florence are introduced in them. They tell the story of its holy Bishop Antonino; he prays before the crucifix in Or San Michele; he walks in a procession to the Cathedral, which has its old façade; he defends a bride entering the Duomo from the curiosity of the crowd; he gives his blessing to Dante da Castiglione and his wife - in the background is seen the villa of Castiglione at Cercina, just as it still appears. The Funeral of S. Antonino is by Matteo Rosseli (1578-1650). It is in this cloister that Girolamo Savonarola is described as sitting in his early convent life, discoursing under a damask-rose tree - 'sotto un rosajo di rose damaschine'.
Opening from the cloister (right) is the Great Refectory, which contains a good fresco by Giovanni Antonio Sogliani (1492-1544) of the angels bringing foor to S. Dominic and his fasting and penniless brethren at S. Sabina at Rome.
The Chapter-House has a good Crucifixion by Fra Angelico. Many saints, including the Medicean patrons SS. Cosmo and Damian and the Fathers of the Church, are introduced in this picture, and gaze up at the Saviour with wonder, sorrow, and ecstasy. Around it is a lovely framework of prophets and sibyls, and beneath is S. Dominic, from whom springs the tree of the Order, branching into many saints.
The figure of the Saviour is that in which Fra Giovanni most perfectly gave expression to the resignation and suffering of Christ. - Crowe and Cavalcasello.A passage leads to the Smaller Refectory, which contains a Cenacolo by Ghirlandajo, a noble picture with beautifully rendered details of birds and flowers seen through the open arcades behind the figures.
In point of religious expression, this is one of the most beautiful works of art existing.- Kugler.
The great Crucifixion in the Capitolo is in excellent preservation and a very singular composition. The tree of life, with its fruit of salvation, the Crucified Messiah, stands in the midst; to the left, the Virgin faints in the arms of S. John, attended by the Maries, &c.; to the right, a whole host of the Christian Fathers and doctors are grouped in adoration, a most noble company, full of variety and individuality in countenance and attitude, yet collectively one in the concentration of their interest on Christ. The heads are full of character, that of S. Jerome kneeling is peculiarly grand; the breadth and dignity of the drapery is surprising. The background was originally of rich ultramarine, now picked off. The whole is surrounded by a fresco framework of Prophets, Sibyls, and Saints, among whom the pleican, the ancient symbol of our Saviour, looks down upon the cross. A row of Saints and Beati of the Dominican Order, branching from the patriarch in the centre, runs like a frieze below. - Lord Lindsay's Christian Art.
To understand how profoundly every part of this grand composition has been meditated and worked out, we must bear in mind that it was painted in a convent dedicated to S. Mark, in the days of the first and greatest of the Medici, Cosimo and Lorenzo, and that it was the work of a Dominican friary, for the glory of the Dominican Order. In the centre of the picture is the Redeemer crucified between the two thieves. At the foot of the cross is the usual group of the Virgin fainting in the arms of S. John the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene, and another Mary. To the right of this group, and the left of the spectator, is seen S. Mark as patron of the convent, kneeling and holding his Gospel; behind him stands S. John the Baptist, as protector of the city of Florence. Beyond are three martyrs, S. Laurence, S. Cosmo, and S. Damian, patrons of the Medici family. The two former, as patrons of Cosimo and Lorenzo de' Medici, look up to the Saviour with devotion; S. Damian turns away and hides his face. On the left of the Cross we have the group of the founders of the various Orders - first, S. Dominic, kneeling with hands outspread, gazes up at the Crucified; behind him S. Augustine and S. Albert the Carmelite, mitred and robed as bishops: in front kneels S. Jerome as a Jeronymite hermit, the Cardinal's hat at his feet; behind him kneels S. Francis; behind S. Francis stand two venerable figures, S. Benedict and S. Romualdo; and in front of them kneels S. Bernard, with his book; and, still more in front, S. John Gualberto, in the attitude in which he looked up at the crucifix when he spared his brother's murderer. Beyond this group of monks Angelico has introduced two of the famous friars of his own community: S. Peter Martyr kneels in front, and behind him stands S. Thomas Aquinas; the two thus placed together, represent the sanctity and the learning of the Dominican Order, and close this sublime and wonderful composition. thus considered, we may read it like a sacred poem, and every separate figure is a study of character. I hardly know anything in painting finer than the pathetic beauty of the head of S. Bernard.
It will be remembered that, in this group of patriarchs, 'Capi e Fondatori de' Religiosi', S. Bruno, the famous founder of the Carthusians, is omitted. At the time the fresco was painted, about 1440, S. Bruno was not canonised. - Jameson's Monastic Orders.
The Last Supper is an excellent example of the natural reverence of the artist. The main idea with him has been the variety, the brilliancy, the material charm of the scene, which finds expression, with irrepressible generosity, in the accessories of the background. Instinctively he imagines an opulent garden - imagines it with a good faith which quite tides him over the reflection that Christ and his disciples were poor men and unused to sit at meals in palaces. Great full-fruited orange-trees peep over the wall before which the table is spread, strange birds fly through the air, and a peacock perches on the edge of the partition and looks down on the sacred repast. It is striking that, without any religious purpose at all intense, the figures in their varied naturalness, have a dignity and sweetness of attitude which admits of numberless reverential considerations. - Henry James.Here is the entrance to the stairs leading to the cells. At their head is a lovely Annunciation by Fra Angelico.
The Virgin sits in an open loggia resembling that of the Florentine church of L'Annunziata. Before her is a meadow of rich herbage covered with daisies. Behind her is seen, through a door at the end of the loggia, a chamber with a single grated window, through which a star-like beam of light falls into the silence. - Ruskin, Modern Painters, ii.165.Facing this is S. Dominic, embracing the Cross. The most perfect works of Fra Angelico may be studied here, where they were painted with affectionate care on the walls of his convent-home and in the cells of his friends and companions.
Fra Giovanni was in his manner of life simply and most holy; and the following may be taken as an indication of his scrupulous subjection to duty. One day, Nicholas V, having invited him to dinner, he refused to eat meat, because he had not previously obtained the required permission of his superior, forgetting, in his unquestioning obedience, the authority of the Pope to release him from it. He avoided all worldly business, and living in purity and holiness, he so loved the poor, as, I believe, his soul now loves heaven; he worked continually in his art; nor would he ever paint other things than those which concerned the saints. He might have been rich, but he cared not for riches; nay, he was wont to say, that true riches consist entirely in being content with little. He might have had command over many, and would not, saying that to obey others was less troublesome and less liable to error. It was in his choice to have honour and dignities in his convent and beyond it; but they were valueless to him, who affirmed that the only dignity he sought was to avoid Hell and to reach Paradise; and what dignity is to be compared to that which all ecclesiastics, and indeed all men, ought to seek, and which is found only in God and in a virtuous life? He was most kind, and living soberly and chastely, he freed himself from the snares of the world, frequently repeating that the Painter had need of quiet and of a life undisturbed by cares, and that he who does the things of Christ should always be with Christ. That which appears to a very wondrous and almost incredible thing is, that among his brethren he was never seen in anger; and it was his wont, when he admonished his friends, to do it with a sweet and smiling gentleness. To those who asked for his works, he invariably answered, with incredible benignity, that they had only to obtain the consent of the Prior, and then he would not fail to do their pleasure. In fine, this monk, whom it is impossible to praise overmuch, was in his words and works humble and modest, and in his pictures of ready skill and devout; and the saints which he painted have a more saint-like air and semblance than those of any other painter whatever. It was his rule not to retouch or alter any of his works, but to leave them just as they had shaped themselves at first; for he believed, and he used to say, that such was the will of God. It is supposed that Fra Giovanni never took up a brush without a previous prayer. He never painted a crucifix without bathing his own cheeks with tears, and therefore it is that the expressions and attitudes of his figures clearly demonstrate the devotion of his great soul to the Christian religion. He died in 1455 in the sixty-eighth year of his age. - Vasari.The Dormitory of the convent is divided into cells, with a passage down the middle. Each cell has its own exquisite fresco. Turning to the left, those in the cells on the left are all by Fra Angelico, those on the right by his brother, Fra Benedetto. In the corridor, on the right, is a large fresco, once a tabernacle, of the Virgin and Child enthroned, with, on the right, SS. Mark, Thomas Aquinas, Laurence, and Peter; on the left, SS. John the Evangelist, Cosmo and Damian and Dominic.
Amongst the most beautiful parts of the fresoes in
the cells are: -
No. 5 The figures of S. Catherine, who kneels in the background at the Nativity.
No. 6 The Transfiguration - the figure of the Saviour is sublime.
No. 7 The Saviour buffetted - only the insulting hands appear, and have a very odd effect. The Virgin appears below, and S. Dominic, who is introduced in most of the pictures.
No. 8 The figure of the dazzled Mary looking into the empty tomb at the Resurrection.
No. 9 The humble rapt figure of the Madonna, in the Coronation of the Virgin.
The cells on the other side of this corridor (No.
15-23) intended for the 'Giovanati' monks who had just passed
their novitiate, contain the Crucifixion repeated in each by Fra
Benedetto, only the figure of S.
Dominic at the foot of the cross is always varied.
At the end of the corridor is (No. 12) the Prior's Cell, which contains two frescoes of the Madonna and Child by Fra Bartolommeo, painted when the sermons of Savonarola had so impressed him with a religious vocation that he had bidden an eternal farewell to the world, and assumed the monastic habit in Prato, whence he was induced to resume his pencil, though only for religious subjects. Here are busts of Savonarola and his friend Girolamo Benivieni, imitations of old terracottas, by Girolamo Bastiniani (ob. 1868). Within are two small cells, which are of deep interest as having been occupied by Girolamo Savonarola when Prior. His hair-shirt, rosary, chair, and a fragment from the pile on which he was burnt are preserved here. In a desk, which is an imitation of his own, is a copy of his sermons, and - most interesting - his treatise against the 'Trial by Fire', and upon the desk is his wooden crucifix. The portrait upon the wall is attributed to Fra Bartolommeo. In the inner cell is a most interesting old picture which belonged to the Buondelmonti family, representing the execution of Savonarola (May 28, 1498). The Ringhiera is represented, with the long platform leading from it by which the scaffold in the piazza was approached. The three suffering monks are seen three times, so as to give the whole scene - (1) being unfrocked; (2) being dragged along the platform; (3) haging round a pole over the flames.
Savonarola embraced a monastic life in his twenty-second year, choosing the Dominican Order on account of his predilection for S. Thomas Aquinas. in 1490 he was elected Prior of S. Marco, and obtained leave to preach in the cathedral, finding his conventional church too small for the crowds who came to attend his sermons, for 'even in winter the square in front of S. Marco was thronged for hours before its doors were opened by disciples wishing for places',15 and tradesmen forbore to open their shops till the Prior's morning preching was over'.16
In order to participate in the benefits of the spiritual food which he dispensed, the inhabitants of the town and neighbouring villages deserted their abodes, and the rude mountaineers descended from the Apennines and directed their steps towards Florence, where crowds of pilgrims flocked every morning at break of day, when the gates were opened, and became the objects of a charity truly fraternal, the citizens vying with each other in the exercise of the duties of Christian hospitality, embracing them in the streets as brothers, even before they were acquainted with their names, while some of the more pious received them by forty at a time into their houses.One of the longings of Savonarola was to make his convent a school and sanctuary of sculpture and painting entirely consecrated to the service and glory of religion. Hence, perhaps, partly, his power over the minds of the artists of his time.
When we consider that this enthusiasm continued for seven consecutive years, during which time it was necessary for him to preach separately to men, women, and children, from the impossibility of admitting them all at one time into the cathedral; and all this unheard-of success was obtained amist the cries of rage of the moderate faction, who denounced him daily at the court of Rome, and threatened him publicly with punishment, we are at a loss which to admire more in Savonarola, his inexaustible fluency as an evangelical orator, his facility in rishing superior to popular fury, or his almost superhuman reliance on that Divine succour which he believed could never fail him.
The eloquence of the pulpit had before this degenerated into disputations purely scholastic, and the preachers most in fervour, making a monstrous medley of the Gospel and logic, came, their heads stuffed with all the subtleties of the schools, to perplex the minds of their hearers with barren disputations, while the things of God and of Faith were neglected and forgotten.
Blessed, indeed, were then the poor in spirit; for, when Savonarola burst forth with the abundance and happy choice of his Biblical quotations, it was in these simple souls they re-echoed, like repeated peals of thunder, and the same burning coal appeared to have refined their hearts and purified their lips. . . .The sympathies of the preacher were never more deeply affected than when he spoke to children. He called upon them to reap the fruits of his labours in their day, and to watch over the future destinies of their country; but in the meantime he prepared for this glorious future by adapting to their capacities the great truths of the faith and by suggesting salutary reforms in domestic education. It was solely on the generations placed, so to speak, between infancy and manhood that Savonarola rested his hopes of the future - hopes which he cherished during eight consecutive years with an unparalleled zeal, and which sustained him under the severe trials caused by the implacable hatred of his enemies.
To prepare and secure the triumph of art, poetry, and Christian faith for a new era, which was to open gloriously with the sixteenth century, and at Florence rather than elsewhere, on account of her superior holiness, such was the aim that Savonarola proposed to himself in impregnating the heart and imgination of youth with the exquisite perfume of a tender child-like pietry, the fragrance of which is generally prologned through advancing years. His success so far surpassed his expectations, that he could only himself attribute it to the miraculous intervention of Divine mercy, and he was never more pathetic than when he poured forth his gratitude to the Author of this blessing. The joy he experienced was so great that it seemed an anticipation of his heavenly reward. - Rio.
'In heaven', said Pius VII, 'I shall know the explanation of three great mysteries - the Immaculate Conception, the suppression of the Society of Jesus, the death of Savonarola. War waged round Savonarola in his lifetime; it has never ceased since his death. Saint, schismatic, or heretic, ignorant vandal or Christian artist, prophet or charlatan, champion of the Roman Church or apostle of emancipated Italy - which was Savonarola?' - Church Quarterly Review.
Sandro Botticelli gave up painting for love of Savonarola, and would have starved without the assistance of Lorenzo de' Medici and other friends. Two of the Robbias were made priests by his hand, and testified their veneration for him by coining a medal bearing his portrait on one side, and on the other a city with many towers, above which appeared a hand holding a dagger pointing downards, with the motto, 'Gladius Domini sup. terram cito et velociter'. Lorenzo di Credi spent the better years of his life in the convent of S. Maria Novella; Fra Bartolommeo became a monk in the convent of S. Mark, and was so afflicted by Savonarola's death that he gave up painting for four years. Cronaca ceased story telling, for which he had become famous, and would talk only of Fra Girolamo. Giovanni della Corniole perpetuated his likeness in one of the finest of modern gems. Michelangelo, one the friar's constant auditors in his youth, pored over his sermons when an old man, and ever retained a vivid impression of his powerful voice and impassioned gestures, proving that he had profited by his eloquent appeals when he defended the Republic on the slopes of San Miniato. - Perkins' Tuscan Sculptors.Returning to the head of the stairs, the cell facing the staircase (No. 31) was that occupied by S. Antonino before he was raised to the archbishopric. His vestments, his portrait by Fra Bartolommeo, and a mask of his face are preserved here.
To a mind like that of Savonarola, deeply imbued with the religious sentiment, Florentine art acted like sacred music, and bore witness to the omnipotence of genius inspired by faith. The paintings of Angelico appeared to have brought down angels from heaven to dwell in the cloisters of S. Mark, and he felt as if his soul had been transported to the world of the blessed. - Pasquale Villari.
Le grandeur de Savonarola est d'avoir senti que, pour sauver la nationalité italienne, il fallaid porter la révolution dans la religion même. - Edgar Quinet, Révolution d'Italie.
It would be difficult to find in history an example of self-denial more constant, of charity more active, of love to our neighbour more truly evangelical, than S. Antonino. There is scarcely a chartibale institution in Florence that he did not either found or revive. To him belonged the praise of changing into an institution of charity that society of the Bigallo which S. Peter Martyr had founded for the extermination of heresy, and which had so often polluted the streets and walls of Florence with blood. From that time forward the officers of the Bigallo, instead of burning and slaying human beings, sought out and succoured neglected orphans. S. Antonino was the founder of the society called 'Buoni Uomini di San Martini', who, to this day, fulfil the Christian duty of collecting offerings and of distributing them to the poor of better condition who are ashamed to beg. It would be impossible to recount all he did for the benefit of the people. He was frequently seen traversing the city and surrounding country leading a mule loaded with bread for some and with clothes for others, and bringing relief to the dwellings of the poor which plague or famine had made desolate. His death, which occurred in Florence in 1459, was mourned as a public calamity, and no one ever mentioned his name without reverence. - Pasquale Villari.In the cell of S. Antonino is a geneaological tree of the monks of the convent: the name of Savonarola is nearly obliterated by kisses. Here also is a fresco by Fra Angelico representing the Descent of Christ into Hades.
Early Italian artists of earnest purpose indicated by perfect similarity of action and gesture on the one hand, and by the infinite and truthful variation of expression on the other, the most sublime strength, because the most absorbing unity, of multitudinous passion that ever human heart conceived. Hence, in the cloister of S. Mark's, the intense, fixed, statue-like silence of ineffable adoration upon the spirits in prison at the feet of Christ, side by side, the hands lifted, and the knees bowed, and the lips trembling together. - Ruskin, Modern Painters.In cell N. 33 is an exquisite little Fra Angelico of the Madonna and Child surrounded by angels, brought from S. Maria Novella, and in the cell within this another small picture of the Coronation of the Virgin.
The sweetness and purity of the Virgin are beyond the sphere of criticism - they sink into the heart and dwell there in the dim by holy light of memory, in association with looks and thoughts too sacred for sunshine and 'too deep for tears'. - Lord Lindsay.Cell No. 34 has a similar picture of the Adoration of the Magi, with a lovely predella.
The last cell on the right (No. 38), adjoining the church, has an inner chamber approached by steps. An inscription records that it belonged to Cosimo de' Medici, who built it that he might more intimately converse with S. Antonino and the two brothers Fra Angelico and Fra Benedetto. A portait of Cosimo by Pontormo hangs in the cell. Here Pope Eugenius IV lodged in 1432, when he came for the consecration of the church. The frescoes are the Adoration of the Magi and a Pietà.
The Library is a fine room supported by ranges of pillars. It contains a curious collection of choral-books, brought hither from various suppressed convents. Fourteen of those originally belonging to S. Marco were illuminated by Fra Benedetto. It was this room which witnessed the last striking scene of Savonarol's convent life.
In the middle of this hall, under the simple vaults of Michelozzi, Savonarola placed the Sacrament, collecting his brethren around him, and addressed them in his last and memorable words: 'My sons, in the presence of God, standing before the sacred Host, and with my enemies already in the convent, I now confirm my doctrine. What I have said came to me from God, and He is my witness in heaven that what I say is true. I little thought that the whole city would so soon have turned against me; but God's will be done. My last admonition to you is this - Let your arms be faith, patience, and prayer. I leave you with anguish and pain, to pass into the hands of my enemies. I know not whether they will take my life; but of this I am certain, that dead, I shall be able to do far more for you in heaven, than living I have ever had power to do on earth. Be comforted, embrace the cross, and by that you will find the haven of salvation.Descending the stairs and turning to the right, we enter the Second Cloister. Here, on the left, is the Dormitory of the Novices - 'I nostri Angioli' - as Savonarola was wont to call them. It is now used for the meetings of the Accademia della Crusca. Five of its eight lunettes are by Fra Bartolommeo.
The enemy had now got full possession of the convent, and Giovacchino della Vecchia, who commanded the Palazzo guard, threatened to destroy everything with his artillery if the commands of the Signory were not immediately obeyed. These were, that, on the faith that their persons would be safe, Fra Girolamo, Fra domenico, and Fra Salvestro should be delivered up. But Malatesta Sacramore, the same who had offered to pass through the fire, began to play the part of Judas; he had a conference with the Compagnacci, and advised them to bring a written order. While they were sent to obtain it from the Signory, Savonarola confessed to Fra Domenico, received the communion from him, and prepared to give himself up with Fra Domenico. Fra Salvestro had concealed himself, and in the disturbance it was not easy to find him.
A singular incident occurred about this time. Girolamo Gini, a follower of the friar, who had long desired to assume the Dominican dress, was that everning at vespers; and scarcely had the tumult begun when he armed himself to defend the convent. When Savonarola ordered him to lay aside his arms the good citizen obeyed; but he ran through the cloisters, facing ghe enemy, wishing, as he said, to meet death for the love of Jesus Christ; and, having been wounded, he entered the Greek library, his head streaming with blood, threw himself on his knees before Savonarola, and humbly asked that the convent dress might be given to him - a request which was immediately granted. - Villari.15
The Convent Garden is especially connected with an incident in the life of Savonarola.
After attending the mass of S. Marco, as Lorenzo de' Medici now and then did, he would walk in the convent garden; and it was known among the fraternity that he would have been well pleased had the Prior sometimes joined him in his walk, and thus have given him opportunities of evincing his regard. Burlamacchi mentions an occasion on which a monk in the interest of Lorenzo went to apprise the Prior that the Magnifico was walking in the garden. 'Has he asked for me?' was his reply. 'No, father,' said the monk. 'Let him then pursue his devotions undisturbed', rejoined he, and remained tranquil in his cell. 'This man is a true monk,' said Lorenzo, 'and the only one I have known who acts up to his profession'. Harford's Life of Michelangelo.The Church of S. Marco is little important. On the façade is a statue of S. Dominic with his dog. Over the entrance inside is the wooden crucifix of Giotto, which is believed to have established his supremacy over Cimabue, and caused Dante to write: -
In the Chapel of S, Antonino, in the left transept, the good bishop is buried. The frescoes of his funeral, &c, are by Passignano, the bronze reliefs of his history by Partigiani.O vanagloria dell'umane psse,
Com' poco verde in su la cima dura
Se non è giunta dall'etadi grosse!
Credette Cimabue nella pintura
Tener lo campo, ed ora ha Giotto il grido,
Sì che la fama di colui s'oscura. - Purg. xi.91
On the left of the nave are the graves of three learned men, Girolamo Benivieni, ob. 1542;19 Poliziano, ob. 1494; and Pico della Mirandola, ob. 1494. The inscription to Pico is on the wall: -
Johannes jacet hic Mirandula caetera norunt
Et Tagus et Ganges forsan et Antipodes
ob. an. Sal, MCCCCLXXXXIIII. vix ad. XXXII.
Hieronimus Benivienus ne disiunctus post
mortem locus ossa separet quorum animas
in vita conjunxit amor hoc humo
supposita poni curavit.
Another tablet, placed below that of Pico, is that of Politian: -
in hoc tumulo jacet
qui caput et linguas
res nova tres habuit
obiit an. MCCCCLXXXXIV.
Sept. XXIV. aetatis
Politian died Sept. 24, 1494, 'with as much infamy and abuse as a man could well be loaded with'. He was accused of numberless vices and of enormous profligacy; but the true cause of all this hatred was rather to be traced to Piero de' Medici having become so universally detested, and to Politian's death having occurred near the time when Piero and his adherents were expelled. Now were these angry feelings at all mitigated by the knowledge that the last words that fell from the lips of the illustrious poet and accomplished scholar were words of contrition. He had requested that his body might be buried in a Dominican dress in the Church of S. Mark, where, in fact, his ashes repose by the side of those of Pico della Mirandola, who died the very day that Charles VIII entered Florence. Pico had also for some time expressed a desire to assume the dress of the friars of S. Mark, but having hesitated too long, his wish could not be fulfilled, as death carried him off at the early age of thirty-two. While on his death-bed, he asked Savonarola not to allow him to go down to the tomb without first having been clothed in that habit.The mosaic of the Madonna on the right was brought from the Oratory of the Porta Santa in 1609, and presented by Michelangelo. A stone beneath the pulpit marks the vault of the Lapi family, of whom was Niccolò, rendered famous by the romance of Azeglio.
The end of these two illustrious Italians recalled to mind the last hour and confession of the Magnificent; for to many it appeared that the Medicean society, on leaving the world, had indeed to acknowledge their crimes, and ask absolution from the people they had so grievously oppressed, and from the friar who might be considered the living and speaking representative of that people. Singular it was, that they all looked to that Convent of S. Mark, from whence had issued the first cry of liberty, the first resistance, and the first accusations against the tyranny of the Medici. - Villari.
On the east of the Piazza S. Marco is the Istituto di Studi Superiori containing the Museo Indiano (free admission on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 to 3). Here also are the Minerological and Geological Collections belonging to the University.
At the corner of the Via Ricasoli and the Piazza S. Marco is the ancient Ospedale di S. Matteo, now the Accademia delle Belle Arti.
In the little hall which was the original entrance are four admirable reliefs by Luca della Robbia. In the courtyard beyond are some lovely works of the Robbias, and the bozzetto of a Statue of S. Matthew by Michelangelo.
The statue of S. Matthew looks like the antediluvian fossil of a human being of an epoch when humanity was mightier and more majestic than now, long ago imprisoned in stone and half uncovered again. - Hawthorne's Notebooks.Strangers now enter (1 fr) by the second door, which leads at once to the Tribune. The corridor is lined by works of very early masters, of which a few are intersting, and others useful as an introduction to the study of the Uffizi and Pitti.
The Tribune was opened April 1882. Hither the famous Statue of David by Michelangelo - 'Il Gigante' has been removed by the present Government from its original and far better situation at the gate of the Palazzo Vecchio, a position which was of the greatest interest, as having been chosen by Michelanagelo himself at a council composed of all the great contemporary painters and sculptors.
La sculpture de Michel-Ange n'est pas faite généralement pour avoir un toit au-dessus d'elle. L'exagération des muscles, qui est son défaut, dévient un mérite dans ces positions où la lumière absorbe et dévore tout. - Michelet.A number of casts from other famous works of Michelangelo have been placed in the same gallery.
Having selected David as his subject, Michelangelo made a sketch, in which the shepherd hero stood with his foot upon the head of Goliath, but the shape of the marble not admitting of such action, he designed the wax model now in the Casa Buonarotti, according to which he sculptured the statue as we now see it. The marble was set up on end, and enclosed so that the sculptor need not be interfered with in his work, which was far advanced in the month of February 1503, and ready to be given up to the Signory, who had purchased it from the marchants of the Woollen Guild, within a year after that date. Though trammelled in a way especially irksome to an artist so free in expression of thought, Michelangelo showed in this statue no other sign of the conditions under which he worked, save in the meagreness of its forms, which we soon forget in our admiration for the grandeur and bold expression of the face. Giant himself, David is a match for any Goliath: too much so, perhaps, as a repreentation of the youth who, strong only in the grace of God, went out with a sling in his hand, to do battle against the champion of the Philistines.
As soon as the statue was set upon its pedestal the Gonfaloniere Pier Soderini came to see it, and after expressing his great admiration for the work, suggested that the nose seemed to him too large, hearing this, Michelangelo gravely mounted on a ladder, and after pretending to work for a few moments, during which he constantly let fall some of the marble dust that he had taken up in his pockets, turned with a questioning and doubtless slightly sarcastic expression in his face, to the critic, who responded, 'Bravo, bravo! you have given it life' . Perkins.
On the whole, it has suffered very little. Weather has slightly worn away the extremities of the left foot; and in 1527, during a popular tumult, the left arm was broken by a huge stone cast by the assailants of the palace. Giorgio Vasari tells us how, together with his friend Cecchino Salviati, he collected the scattered pieces, and brought them to the house of Michelangelo Salviati, the father of Cecchino. They were subsequently put together by the care of the Grand Duke Cosimo, and restored to the statue in the year 1543. - J.A. Symonds.
At the end of the corridor on the left of the Tribune we enter the rooms devoted to the earlier masters. We may notice (beginning from the right) -
164 Luca Signorelli. The Trinity, with the
Virgin, S. Michael, S. Gabriel, S. Anastasius, and S.
Luca Signorelli. The Predella of the same. The Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden, and the Flagellation.
129 Spinello Aretino. An altar-piece. The figure of the Virgin is by Lorenzo di Niccolò Gerini, 1401. From S. Michele.
4-13 Giotto. The Story of S. Francis - a series of panels from the presses of S. Croce.
103 Giotto. The Madonna throned, with angels - painted for the Umiliati of Ogni Santi.
102 Cimabue. The Madonna, almost a replica of the Rucellai picture. From S. Trinità.
On an easel.
165 Gentile da Fabriano, 1423. The Adoration of the Magi. In the Predella, the Nativity and the Fligth into Egypt - a curious and important picture. From the Sacristy of S. Trinità.
Ce chef-d'oeuvre, à défaute de tout autre de Gentile, suffirait à lui seul peur expliquer l'empressement avec lequel furent recherchés, d'un bout à l'autre, les produits de son pinceau. Depuis l'ouverture du XVe siècle, on peut dire avec vérité, qu'on n'avait rien vu de comparable à ce tableau. - Rio.On an easel.
174 Fra Paolino. The Madonna giving the Cintola to S. Thomas.
170 Fra Paolino, composition by Fra Bartolommeo. The Virgin throned, with Saints. The Child standing on the step of her throne receives the heart of S. Catherine. From S. Caterina.
171,173 Fra Bartolommeo. Two sketches of the Madonna and Child. From S. Marco.
172 Fra Bartolommeo. Portrait of Savonarola as S. Peter Martyr. From S. Marco.
169 Mariotto Albertinelli. The Anunciation, painted for the Confraternità of S. Zenobio in 1510.
167 Mariotto Albertinelli. Madonna and Child with Saints.
168 Fra Bartolommeo. Sketches of Saints.
On an easel -
195 Domenico Ghirlandajo. The Adoration of the Shepherds and the approach of the Magi. The landscape and distant town are very highly finished. From the Sacristy of S. Trinità. [See Sepia.]
207 Cristofano Allori. Adoration of the Magi.
206 Cigoli (Luigi Cardi). Martyrdom of S. Stephen - one of the best specimens of the master.
202 Carlo Dolce. Portrait of Fra Angelico.
200 Ignoto. Portrait of Niccolò Acciajuoli.
198 Alessandro Allori. The Annunciation.
4th Hall. Sala del
72 Francesco Pesellino. The Nativity. The Marytrdom of SS. Cosmo and Damian, and S. Anthony of Padua discovering the heard of a dead miser in his money-box - the drawing of the figures very beautiful. From the Convent of S. Croce.
71 Andrea Verocchio. The Baptism of Christ - a noble work . though the faces - so full of expression - are those of two peasants. This is one of the very rare pictures from the hand of this great master in sculpture, in whose studio Leonardo da Vinci is said to have painted as a youth. From the Convent of S. Salvi.
A picture of calm and composure, of reverent and tender worship, which carries with it a special charm. The resigned consciousness of the Saviour receiving the water which S. John pours on his head - the questioning tender air of the two beautiful angels who wait on the banks of the brook to minister to the Redeemer's wants - the brook itself running in a bed of pebbles round a projection of rock crowned with trees from a distance of lake and hills, the palm-tree with the bird flying into it, - the mixture of the mysteries of solitude and worship - are all calculated to affect the senses of the beholder. Crowe and Cavalcaselle.73 Sandro Botticelli. The Coronation of the Virgin - lovely angels dance around hand in hand. From the Convent of S. Marco. [See Sepia, and background to this webpage].
The lower half of the picture is of moderate interest; but the dance of hand-clasped angels round the heavenly couple above has a beauty newly exhaled from the deepest sources of inspiration. Their perfect little hands are locked with ineffable elegance; their blowing robes are tossed into folds of which each line is a study; their charming feet have the relief of the most delicate sculpture. - Henry James.76 Andrea del Sarto, 1528. Four saints, for an altarpiece for Vallombrosa - splendid in colour.
The scene is a landscape of wood, orchard, and flowery meadow. A man with a winged helmet like a Mercury, scantily draped about the hips with a sword at his side, and striking down fruit from a tree, offers to the spectator a youthful form in fair movement and proportion. Three females near him (the Graces?) dance on the green sward in the light folds of transparent veils; a fourth (Venus?) stands in rich attire in the centre of the ground, whilst, above them, the blind Cupid flies down with his lighted torch. On the right a flying genius, whose dress flutters in the wind, wafts a stream of air towards a female, in whose hand is a bow and from whose mouth sprigs of roses fall into a garment of a nymph at her side. - Crowe and Cavalcaselle.81 Jacopo Pacchiarotto. The Salutation.
5th Hall. Sala di Perugino:
*66 Domenico Ghirlandajo. The Madonna and
Child, and S. Clement and S. Dominic, S. Thomas Aquinas, and
S. Denis the Areopagite. In the predella (15) is a story from
the lives of each of these saints.
65 Luca Signorelli. A Crucifixion, with a kneeling Magdalen - used as a church banner. From the Convent of Annalena.
*53 Pietro Perugino.The Agony in the Garden. From La Calza.
52 Cosimo Rosselli. S. Barbara, with SS. J. Baptist and Paul.
56 Perugino. A Deposition, the upper part by Filippino Lippo, who died while it was unfinished, in 1514. His work was completed by Perugino.20
*57 Perugino, 1500. The Assumption. Below are Cardinal S. Bernardo degli Uberti, S. Giovanni Gualberto, S. Benedict, and S. Michael. The figure of Giovanni Gualberto is exquisitely beautiful. From Vallombrosa.
61 Andrea del Sarto. Cherubs.
60 Antonio Pollajolo. S. Monica.
*62 Fra Lippo Lippi. The Coronation of the Virgin (by God the Father) - a most beautiful picture. On the right is the painter with his hands clasped and wearing a red scarf. An old monk in white, on the left of the picture, is exceedingly striking. Vasari mentions that this work was much admired by Cosimo de' Medici.
63 Mariotto Albertinelli. The Trinity - much restored. From S. Giuliano.
6th Hall. 2nd Sala del Botticelli:
84 Sandro Botticelli? The three Archangels
and Tobias; a very curious work.
*85 Sandro Botticelli? Virgin and Child throned, with Saints. From S. Barnaba.
88 Botticelli. Madonna and Child with Saints.
90 Raffaellino del Garbo. The Resurrection. From Monte Oliveto di Firenze.
*92 Lorenzo di Credi. The Adoration of the Shepherds. From S. Chiara. [See Sepia]
95 Lorenzo di Credi. The Holy Family and Angels praying over the Infant Saviour. From the Convent of the Muratte.
97 Fra Bartolommeo. The Vision of S. Bernard - the figure of the saint is most beautiful, though the rest is unpleasing. From La Badia.
From the left of the entrance corridor (in returning) we enter -
6th Hall. Sala del Angelico.
Here are an immense number of small works of the Beato Angelico illustrative of the lives of Christ and the Saints, ordered from the master by Piero di Cosimo de' Medici, and executed at S. Domenico di Fiesole: also -
243 Miniature pictures of the lives of SS. Cosmo and
*266 Fra Angelico. The Last Judgment - a glorious picture. From Il Monastero degli Angeli.
The upper part is arranged in the usual traditional manner and highly finished, the Inferno, in the right-hand corner below, much more hastily, as if the artist longed to escape from the ungenial task; but the very spirit of Paradise illumines the opposite angle, where the elect are assembled in their beatitude - some basking (as it were) in the benignant glance of Christ, others ascending heralded by angels, who weave a dance of mystic harmony around them, towards the gates of the Celestial City, whence a flood of light streams down upon them, in which the two foremost, floating buoyantly upwards from earth, are already half transfigured. One almost fancies one hears the 'bells ringing and the trumpets sounding melodiously within the golden gates' 'as if heaven were coming down to meet them', in the Jubilee of welcome'.17 Lord Lindsay's Christian Art.241, 242, Pietro Perugino. Portraits of Don Blasio, General of the Vallombrosans, and Don Balthasar, Abbot of Vallombrosa, who orderd from the painter the picture of the Assumption (No. 57 in the fifth room). From Vallombrosa.
From a vestibule a staircase ascends to the Collection of Modern Pictures, which are miserably poor for the most part, but include a fine representation of the 'Banishment of the Duke of Athens from Florence' by Stefano Ussi, and the Death of Raffaelle by Ridolfo Morgari.
The Scalzo (No. 69 Via Cavour, admission 10 to 4, 25 C.) belonged to the gardens of Ottaviano de' Medici, where the Scalzi or barefooted friars, had a court, for the decorations of which they employed Andrea del Sarto and his friend Franciabigio, who lived with him. The subject chosen was the life of John the Baptist. The execution of the frescoes occupied from 1517 to 1526. They are, beginning from the right: -
2 The Announcement to Zacharias.
3 The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth.
4 The Birth of John.
5 The Benediction of Zacharias.
6 The Meeting of John and Jesus.
7 The Baptism of Christ.
8 Love - with most lovely children.
10 The Preaching of the Baptist.
11 The Baptizing of John's Disciples.
12 John before Herod.
13 The Dance of Herodias' Daughter.
14 The Beheading of the Baptist.
15 The Bringing of the Head to Herod.
All these are by Andrea del Sarto, except 5 and 6, which are by Franciabigio. and 7, which (as well as the frieze) is the united work of the two friends. They are all executed in chiaroscuro.
In these mural designs there is such exultation and exuberance of young power, of fresh passion and imagination, that only by the innate grace can one recognise the hand of the master whom we know but by the works of his later life, when the gift of grace had survived the gift of invention. Here, what life and fulness of growing and strengthening genius, what joyous sense of its growth and the fair field before it, what dramatic delight in character and action! where S. John preaches in the wilderness and the few first listeners are gathered together at his feet, old people and poor, soul-stricken, silent - women with worn, still faces, and a spirit in their tired aged eyes that feeds heartily and hungrily on his words - all the haggard funereal group filled from the fountain of his faith with gradual fire and white heat of soul; or where Salome dances before Herod, an incarnate figure of music, grave and graceful, light and glad, the song of a bird made flesh, with perfect poise of her sweet light body from the maiden face to the melodious feet; no tyrannous or treacherous goddess of deadly beauty, but a simple virgin, with the cold charm of girlhood and the simple charm of childhood; as indiffierent and innocent when she stands before Herodias and when she receives the severed head of John with her slender and steady hands; a pure bright animal, knowing nothing of man, and of life nothing but instinct and motion. In her mother's mature and conscious beauty there is visible the voluptuous will of a harlot and a queen; but, for herself, she has neither malice nor pity; her beauty is a maiden force of nature, capable of bloodshed without blood-guiltiness; the king hangs upon the music of her movement, the rhythm of leaping life in her fair fleet limbs, as one who listens to a tune, subdued by the rapture of the sound, absorbed by the purity of passions. I know not where the subject has been touched with such fine and keen imagination as here'. - Swinburne, Essays and Studies.From the Accademia, a few steps bring us to the Piazza della SS. Annunziata, surrounded by arcades and decorated with busts of the Medicean Grand-Dukes. It is adorned by an equestrian statue of Ferdinand I (younger son of Cosimo I, first Cardinal, then Grand-Duke) by Giovanni da Bologna (made from cannon taken from the Turks by Knights of S. Stephen) and two bronze fountains by Pietro Tacca. The central door on the left leads to the Foundling Hospital - Spedale degli Innocenti - founded in 1421. It contains several good pictures, especially: -
'There is a little man in Florence', said Michelangelo to Raffaelle of Andrea del Sarto, 'who, if he were employed on such great works as you are, would bring sweat to your brow'. Bocchi.
Piero di Cosimo. Elizabeth of Hungary
offering roses to the Infant Jesus.
Filippo Lippo. The Infant Jesus brought to the Madonna by an angel.
In the Chapel of the Hospital is
Domenico Ghirlandajo. The Adoration of the Magi
Le type del la Vierge est toujours le même portrait de famille, portrait prosaïque que l'artiste n'a pas meme songé à embellir. A cela près, il a tant de poésie versée, comme à pleins mains, sur toutes es parties accessoires, que la sévérité la plus systématique reste désarmée. Sur le second plan, l'artiste a introduit une scène déchirante du massacre des Innocents: ce sont des mères qui, voulait soustraire par la fuite leurs enfants à la mort, se trouvent placées avec eux entre les eux d'un fleuve et le fer des bourreaux. Par un contraste qui repose l'âme délicieusement, ce fleuve, qui se prolonge à perte de vue de belles cretes de montagnes et par un ciel admirable de transparence e de purété. Ce tableau porte la date de 1488, c'est à dire du temps où l'auteur ayant acquis la conscience de ses forces, disait à son frère David que, maintenant qu'il commençait à être initié aux secrets de son art, il regrettait qu'on ne lui eût pas donné la circonférence entière des murs de la ville à couvrir de peintures historiques. - Rio.Over the door of the chapel is an Annunciation by Andrea della Robbia.
The Church of the SS. Annunziata was built by the Order of Servites, - 'Servi di S. Maria' - which was founded at Florence by seven noble Florentines, who used to meet daily to sing Ave Maria in the chapel of S. Zenobio, where the tower of Giotto now stands. It was built in 1250, but has been modernised. It is approached by a portico containing a lunette in mosaic of the Annunciation by Domenico Ghirlandajo. This leads into a courtyard surrounded by precious frescoes now enclosed with glass. Beginning from the right, they are: -
1 Il Rosso Fiorentino, 1515. The Assumption.
2 Jacopo Pontormo, 1516. The Salutation.
3 Francesco di Cristofano (Franciabigio), 1513. The Marriage of the Virgin.
4 Andrea del Sarto. The Birth of the Virgin -
'on the highest level ever reached in fresco'. Crowe and Cavalcaselle.5 Andrea del Sarto. The Adoration of the Magi. The painter has represented himself, with Sansovino and Ajolle the musician, amongst the royal followers.
Baldinucci relates that when Jacopo da Empoli was copying this picture in 1570, an old lady stopped on her way to mass and talked to him. She showed him one of the figures in the fresco as the likeness of Andrea's wife, and then disclosed that she herself was Lucretia del Fede, the widow of the hatter, Carlo Recanati, in the Via S. Gallo, whom Andrea had married, to the great discomfort of his pupils, and who had so often served as his model.
The Interior of the Annunziata used to be filled (like the still unaltered church of S. Maria delle Grazie near Mantua) with waxen images of eminent living as well as dead persons, here suspended from the ceiling. On one side were the citizens (among them Lorenzo de' Medici); on the other, popes and foreign potentates. Beginning on the right -
In the 1st Chapel is:
Jacopo da Empoli. The Virgin with saints.
In the 2nd Chapel:
Tomb of Marchese Luigi Tempi-Marzi-Medici, by U. Cambi, 1849.
In the 5th Chapel:
The simple and beautiful Tomb of Orlando de' Medici by Simone di Betto, brother of Donatello.
In the 6th Chapel.
The grave of Stradone the painter, 1556-1605.
In the Right Transept:
The Tomb of Baccio Bandinelli, being a Pietà from his own hand.
Outside the Tribune:
The Tomb of the Senator Donato dell'Antella, who became a Servite late in life, ob. 1666, by Giovanni Battista Foggini; and that of Angiolo Marzi Medici, Bishop of Arezzo, ob. 1546, by F. di San Gallo.
The Tribune has a circular dome, beneath which is the isolated choir where the stalls and a ciborio are by Baccio d'Agnolo. In the Capella del Soccorso, behind the high altar, is the tomb of Giovanni da Bologna. The next tribune chapel has a picture of the Resurrection by Angelo Bronzino.
2nd Chapel (descending the nave):
Perugino. The Assumption.
Last Chapel (of the Annunciation, built by
Pietro de' Medici), with a gorgeous little temple in front of
it, with silver altar and hanging lamps.
Pietro Cavallini. The Annunciation, supposed to have been finished by angelic hands.
The crucifix here is by Giuliano di S. Gallo, the figure of the infant Jesus by Baccio Bandinelli.
The large Cloister, built by Simone Pollajuolo, is surrounded with frescoes by Poccetti. Over the door leading into the church is the charming fresco of
Andrea del Sarto, called La Madonna del Sacco.
For drawing, grace, and beauty of colour, for liveliness and relief, no artist has ever done the like. - Vasari.Opening into the cloister is the Cappella dei Pittori, where the Company of Painters, or Guild of S. Luke, used to hold their meetings. Over the altar are some small pictures by Fra Angelico. Jacopo Pontormo, Franciabigio, Benvenuto Cellini, and Lorenzo Bartolini are buried here.
Behind the Annunziata runs the Via S. Sevastiano, which contains a beautiful piece of Luca della Robbia over a door leading to a cloister that belonged to S. Piero Maggiore. Here, at the corner of the Via della Mandorla, in the house of Andrea del Sarto, afterwards inhabitied by Federigo Zucchero.
About the centre of the street is the Palazzo Capponi, built by Fontana. It conatins a few good pictures. The nearly opposite Palazzo Velluti Zuli was inhabited by Prince Charles Edward.
On a line with the front of the Annunziata is the Via della Colonna, containing, in the Palazzo della Crocetta, the Museo Archeologico (open daily from 10 to 4, 1 fr.). The Museo Etrusco (occupying the ground floor and great part of the first floor) is of the greatest interest, especially to those who have viewed the remarkable sites where its treasures were found. Those little interested in antiquities will be struck by the great variety and beauty of the pottery, especially of the black vases of South Etruria; the furniture considered necessary for the tombs - candlesticks, bottles for ointments, small dinner services, all very curious. The small bronzes from Telamone are of wonderful beauty. Many interesting things are from the excavations in the Mercato Vecchio. Four objects deserve especial attention: -
A beautiful bronze statue of Minerva of c. 400 B.C.,
found at Arezzo in 1534.
A noble male statue found at Sanguineto, near the Lake of Thraymene, in 1566. An inscription on the left side of the pallium shows that it was dedicated to Aulus Metellus, son of Vesia. The pipe remains at the back of the head, both in this statue and the Minerva, by which they could be caused to seem to speak.
A Chimera (half lion, goat, and serpent) of 300 to 400 B.C., found at Arezzo in 1534. The inscription on the left leg shows its dedication to the god Tin.
An exquisitely wrought bronze Secchia or bucket, found at Bolsena in 1871.
Part of the first floor is ocupied by the Egyptian Museum, a very magnificent collection brought hither from S. Onofrio.
A staircase at the end of the rooms on the right leads to the upper floor of the palace, which is entirely occupied by the precious collection of church vestments and embroideries brought from confiscated convents and churches, and by the vast collection of Arazzi21 or tapestries, removed from the galleries between the Uffizi and Pitti, or brought together from the old Tuscan palaces. This collection is the finest in existence, extending from the XVI to XVIII c. There are many great specimens from French and Flemish looms, but the native tapestries are of greater interest here.
A tapestry factory was established at Florence by Nicolaus Karcher and Jan van Roost of Brussels, under Cosimo I, but flourished and failed with the House of Medici. Many of the pieces exhibited here are wrought with arms of the Medici rulers and their different alliances; others, from pictures by well-known masters, such as Cigoli and Salviati, are noble works of Branconi, Roost, Karcher, Termini, Fevère and Papiri. Several beautiful tapestries represent the marriage festivites of Henri II of France and Catherine de' Medici.
From the left corner of the Piazza della Annunziata, the Via dei Fibbiai leads into the Via degli Alfani. The swaddled babies over the doors on the left of this street mark the property of the Ospedale degli Innocenti.
On the right (turning left) are the remains of the Monastery of S. Maria degli Angeli. In the cloisters are frescoes by Andrea Castagno and Domenico Ghirlandajo. The monastery was founded c. 1293 by Fra Guittone d'Arezzo, a poet whom Dante introduces as mentioned by another poet, Buonagiunta of Lucca: -
Opposite this monastery is the Palazzo Guigni, built from designs of Ammanati.Ma di, s'io veggio qui colui, che fuore
Trasse le nuove rime, cominciando:
'Donne ch'avete intelletto d'amore'
Ed io a lui, 'In mi son un, che, quando
Amore spira, noto; ed a quel modo
Che detta dentro, vo significando'.
'O Frate, issa vegg'io, 'diss'egli, 'il nodo
Che'l notaio, e Guittone, e me ritenne
Di quà dal dolce stil nuovo ch' odo,
Io veggio ben, come le vostre penne
Diretro al dittator sen vanno strette
Che delle nostre certo non avvenne;
E qual più a gradire oltre si mette,
Non vede più dall'uno all'altro stilo'
E quasi contentato si tacette. Purg. XXIV.49.
Crossing the Via della Pergola, which contains the well-known Teatro della Pergola, and where an inscription marks the house in which Benvenuto cast his Perseus, we reach the Via dei Pinti. Turning down it to the left, we pass, on the right, the Convent of S. Maddalena de' Pazzi, so called from a Florentine nun canonized in 1670. She is buried in the left transept of the church.
In the 2nd Chapel on the left is:
*Cosimo Rosselli. The Coronation of the Virgin.
In the 4th Chapel on the left:
Raffaellino del Garbo. S. Ignatius, S. Roch, and S. Sebastian: the latter carved in wood.
Turning round the outer wall of the Convent, a door in the Via della Colonna gives admission to the Chapter-House (admission 10 to 4, 25 c, Sundays free), which contains a very beautiful fresco by Perugino of the Crucifixion. S. John and S. Benedict stand on the right, the Virgin and S. Bernard on the left.
The landscape of Perugino for grace and purity is unrivalled; and the more interesting because in him certainly whatever limits are set to the rendering of nature proceed not from incapacity. In the landscape of S. Maria Maddalena there is more variety than is usual with him.The Borgo de' Pinti continues to the Porta Pinti, just outside which is the Protestant Cemetery. It was formerly a lovely spot, backed by the old walls of the city, but these have now been removed, and the place is encircled by dusty high-roads. Here, near Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Arthur Clough, &c., rest the remains of one of the greatest masters of the English language, Walter Savage Landor, who died at No. 2671, Via Nunziatina, on Sept. 27, 1864.
A gentle river winds round the bases of rocky hills, a river like our own Wye or Tees in their loveliest reaches; level meadows stretch away on its opposite side; mounds set with slender-stemmed foliage occupy the nearer ground, a small village with its simple spire peeps from the forest at the end of the valley. - Ruskin, Modern Painters.
Come back in sleep, for in the lifeFollowing the Via della Colonna, for a short distance, we reach the new Piazza d'Azeglio, planted with trees and flowers. Hence the Via S. Ambrogio leads to the Church of S. Ambrogio. In the Capella della Misericordia, to the left of the high-altar, is the masterpiece of Cosimo Rosselli, 1486, a fresco in honour of a transubstantiation-miracle which occurred in Florence.
Where thou art not
We find none like thee. Time and strife
And the world's lot
Move thee no more; but love at least
And reverent heart
May move thee, royal and released
Soul, as thou art.
And thou, his Florence, to thy trust
Receive and keep,
Keep safe his dedicated dust,
His sacred sleep.
So shall thy lovers, come from far,
Mix with they name,
As morning-star with evening-star,
His faultless fame. - Swinburne.
Cette fresque vraiment merveilleuse repésente la translation d'un calice miraculeux au palais épiscopal, et renferme des groupes qui ne seraient pas indignes du pinceau de Raphaël, tant il règne de goût dans l'ordonnance générale et dans la manière de traiter toutes les parties accessoires. Le seul reproche qu'on puisse faire à se chef-d'ouevre, c'est qu'il a trop de beautés entrassés dans un pertit espace. Parmi tous les portraits qui y sont accumulés, il y en a un que Vasari signale plus particulièrement à l'attention du spectateur: c'est celui du célèbre Pic de la Mirancole, qui est, dit l'historien, d'une vérité saisissante . . . . Tout dans cette oeuvre respire tellement la dévotion, l'espérance et la foi, qu'on peut la placer à côté des plus exquises productions de la peinture mystique. - Rio.The altar in this chapel is a beautiful work of Mino da Fiesole of c. 1462, and encloses an ampulla containing the blood of which the story is told in its relief.
On the festa of San Firenze, A.D. 1230, an old priest named Uguccione, who belonged to the convent of Sant'Ambrogio, after saying mass and consecrating the body of Christ, neglected to clean the sacred vessel, and found on the next day that the miracle of transubstantiantion had taken place, and that the chalice conatined living blood compressed and incarnate. This, being manifest to all the nuns of the said monastery, as well as to many neighbours, the Bishop of Florence, and the clergy, was noised abroad, and attracted crowds of devout citizens to see it; after which the blood was removed from the chalice to an 'ampulla' of crystal, which has ever since been shown to the multitude with great veneration. - Villari, lib.vi. ch.8.Against a house near this church is a beautiful terra-cotta shrine of S. Zenobio, and beneath it an inscription in honour of 'the Immortal Pius VII' having given his benediction on that spot. In the neighbouring Via de' Pilastri a terrible tragedy occurred in 1639.
In the reign of Ferdinand II, there lived here an elderly Florentine gentleman, Giustino Canacci, who had been twice married, and his second wife, Caterina, was celebrated for her beauty and her virtue. Jacopo Salviati, Duke of San Giuliano, was among her admirers, which excited the jealousy of his duchess, Veronica Cibo, a princess of Massa. She determined to get rid of one she thought a rival, and Caterina having unfortunately incurred the hatred of her stepson, Bartolommeo Canacci, he consented to guide three assassins, hired by the Duchess, to the house, where Caterina was one evening entertaining some of her friends. Here they murdered her, with her maid, who remained beside her mistress when the rest of the party had taken flight. Caterina's head was then cut off and taken to the Duchess, who concealed it in a basin of clean linen, which it was customary to place in her husband's apartment the first day of the year. The Duke uncovered the basin, and nearly fainted away on seeing its contents. Though the crime was of so heinous a nature, Bartolommeo Canacci alone suffered punishment; he wa seized and beheaded, while the rest of the culprits escaped; the Duchess left Florence, in greater dread of the fury of the populace than the justice of the tribunals. A well in the Via de' Pentolini still exists into which the body of Bartolommeo Cannacci is said to have been thrown. - Horner.Following (from S. Ambrogio) the Via Pietra Piana, we reach (right) the Via S. Egidio, where the chronicler Dino Compagni lived, and where Lorenzo Ghiberti cast the bronze gates of the Baptistery.
Just opposite the house of Ghiberti is the Hospital of S. Maria Nuova (admission daily, except Sundays and festivals, 10-3, 50 c.) founded by Folco Portinari, father of Dante's Beatrice. The work was suggested to him by his servant Monna Tessa, who began it by receiving sick persons and nursing them in a room in her master's house. The Hospital greatly increased and altered in after years.
Over the door of the church is the Coronation of the Virgin by Dello. On the right of the entrance is a fresco by Lorenzo de' Bicci, representing Michele di Panzano, Governor of the Hospital, kneeling at the feet of Martin V to receive the confirmation of its privileges. Pope Eugenius IV, then a cathedral canon, is seen in the blue robes of the Canons of S. Giorgio in Alga. On the left is another fresco of Panzano receiving a brief from the Pope, in front of the church of S. Maria Nuova. The ornament over the present door is seen in the fresco. The rest of the frescoes in this portico are by Pomerancio, except the Annunciation at the end, which is by Taddeo Zucchero.
In the interior, on the right, is the monument of the founder's family who are represented in a noble picture by Hugo Van Der Goes, painted when Folco's descendant, Tommaso Portinari, was ambassador from the Medici at Bruges, and presented by him to the hospital of his ancestor's foundation. [Now in the Uffizi Gallery.] S. Egidio discovered in his cave is by Giunto Gemignano. A Magdalen is by Andrea Castagno, whose jealousy was so aroused when his rival Domenico Veneziano was employed here that he assassinated him.
In the Cloister are a relief believed to represent the good Monna Tessa, and a tabernacle by Giovanni di S. Giovanni. In the Garden are injured remains of a fresco of the Last Judgment, begun by Fra Bartolommeo, and finished by Mariotto Albertinelli.
This wall-painting of S. Maria Nuova is the masterpiece of a man who almost succeeds in combining all the excellence of his predecessors and contemporaries. - Crowe and Cavalcaselle.Hence, turning left down the Via de' Servi, we find ourselves at the Duomo
1 S. George has
recently been basely stolen by the authorities from the church
to which it was presented five hundred years ago, and from the
people who valued its daily companionship. It is now
imprisoned in the Bargello, where his friends must pay a franc
to see him. As it is hoped that public opinion may bring about
the restoration of the stolen statue, his niche is not
described as empty.
3 See the verses of the Tuscan poet Lippi, in allusion to this custom.
4 Formerly there were two of these Devils; one was stolen a few years ago; the other has been recently removed.
5 The name bears witness of the former abundance of the towers, which were a necessity with the ancient Florentine nobles.
6 The Bigallo was terribly injured by 'restorers' in 1881-82.
7 So represented in engravings of 1757.
8 See Ruskin, Fors Clavigera.
9 This story is known in France by the poem of Scribe, 'Guido et Ginevra'.
10 His widow was the charming Philibert de Savoie, the friend of Marguerite de Valois, and the 'Anima Eletta' of Ariosto, who herself died in 1524, aged twenty-six.
11 It is singular how few either of the statues or pictures of Michaelangelo are finished.
12 It was quite uncertain which of the two Medici each statue was intended for, till February 24, 1875, when the tombs were opened, and two bodies, evidently those of Lorenzo and his son Alessandro il Moro, were found beneath that which bears the statues of Twilight and Dawn.
'Carved by an Angel, in this marble white14 Forsyth. The open meadow beyond was the property of Dante.
Sweetly reposing, lo, the Goddess Night
Calmly she sleeps, and so must living be:
Awake her gently; she will speak to thee.'
'Grateful is sleep, while wrong and shame survive
More grateful still in senseless stone to live;
Gladly both sight and hearing I forego;
Oh, then awake me not! Hush! - whisper low'
Translations by J.C. Wright.
AUGUSTUS J.C. HARE, FLORENCE
CHAPTERS IV: THIRD EXCURSION - THE NORTH-WESTERN QUARTER V: FOURTH EXCURSION - OLTR'ARNO
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