WALKS IN FLORENCE: CHURCHES, STREETS AND PALACES
SUSAN AND JOANNA HORNER
Chapter XXV: The Protestant Cemetery Sta. Maddalena de' Pazzi The Panciatichi Gallery The Capponi Gallery Game of Palla e Maglio
From Sant' Ambrogio a wide street leads to the modern Piazza of Massimo d' Azeglio, which contains a large public garden, with seats for the accommodation of the public. On one side is a new theatre, or circus, called after Prince Umberto.
Near this piazza lies the old Protestant Cemetery of Florence, once beyond the Porta Pinti, and under the shelter of the ivy-covered walls, both of which have been included in the recent demolitions. The greater number of the tall old cypresses which crowned the summit of the mound have been cut down, and the picturesque beauty, as well as seclusion of the spot, which were so congenial to the feelings of mourning friends, no longer exist. It is now protected by a neat iron railing, within which have been planted cypresses and various shrubs, which it is to be hoped will, in time, restore some of its former beauty. The mountains of Vallombrosa and Fiesole are not quite shut out by the row of houses rising on all sides, and the order and care bestowed by the municipality, into whose hands it has fallen by purchase, leave no room for complaints. The white marble monuments, to each of which is attached a little garden of roses or other flowers, give a peculiar loveliness to this cemetery, far removed from gloom, and in the spring-time, the remains of the departed seem to repose under a shower of sweet blossoms. Among the monuments raised to those whose names are known to the world, may be mentioned Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Arnold Savage Landor, Mrs. Trollope and her accomplished daughter-in-law, the poet Arthur Hugh Clough, and the American divine Theodore Parker.
Returning to the Piazza Massimo d' Azeglio, and passing the Teatro del Principe Umberto, we arrive at the Via della Colonna, which leads to the Borgo Pinti. To the left is the Convent of Santa Maddalena de' Pazzi; to the right the Palace of the Marchese Panciatichi. Strangers have only lately been permitted to enter the sacred precincts of this convent, where a fresco in the chapter-house, representing the Crucifixion, is the finest work of Perugino. As the chapter-house is now separated from the convent, the privacy of the nuns is still held sacred.
The saint from whom the convent derived its name, was a lady of the Pazzi family, who took the veil, and lived and died in a convent on the other side of the Arno, opposite the Church of San Frediano. She was canonized for her singular piety, by Pope Alexander VIII in 1670.212 The sisters were then transferred to their present habitation, which previously, since 1220, had been occupied by Cistercian monks who employed Perugino, when on a visit to Florence, to paint the fresco. It was at this period that he likewise painted the Madonna and Child with the Baptist and St. Sebastian, for the monks of San Domenico in Fiesole, now in the tribune of the Uffizi Gallery. Perugino's chief patrons were the Gesuati, or monks of St. Justus, whose monastery was just beyond the Porta Pinti, and whose skill in painting on glass, displayed in the windows of the Florentine cathedral, was probably derived from Flanders.213
In the fresco of the chapter-house of Sta. Maddalena
de' Pazzi, the influence of the Florentine on the Umbrian
School may be clearly perceived the union of dramatic power
with grace and tenderness. The subject is divided in
three compartments. In the centre the Saviour hangs on
the Cross, and the Magdalene kneels below; in the compartment
to the right are St. John, the beloved disciple of our Lord,
and St. Benedict; in that to the left are the Virgin and St.
Bernard. The composition is perfectly simple, and is in
harmony with the solemnity of the scene represented. A
beautiful landscape background unites the three
compartments. A winding river skirts a range of low
hills, resembling the country in the neighbourhood of Orvieto,
where Perugino was at this time engaged to paint with
Pinturicchio. Tall trees with light foliage crown the
summit of the hill behind St. Bernard. But the attention
of the spectator is riveted by the majestic and touching
beauty of our Saviour's head, over which the shadow of death
truly seems to pass. It is encircled with thorns yet
green, and a lilac cloth is bound round the loins. The
body has none of the meagreness of Perugino's usual work, but
is drawn and coloured with great breadth and softness.
The Magdalene, attired in black, with a red mantle lined with
green over her shoulders, gazes upwards at the Saviour, her
countenance calm in the repose of entire trust that her sins
are forgiven. St. John is truly represented as the
apostle of Love. He is clothed in grey, whilst St.
Benedict wears the original black habit of his Order.
The Virgin is also in black, with a purple mantle. She
stands with her hands meekly clasped, and with lips apart, the
image of resignation, and of deep unspoken grief. A
beautiful sketch for this figure by Perugino is among the
drawings exhibited in the Uffizi. St. Bernard, the
founder of the Cistercian branch of the Benedictines, is in
white, beside the mother of our Lord.
The entrance to the present Convent of Sta. Maddalena de' Pazzi is in the Borgo Pinti. To the right is a chapel, built by a cousin of San Filippo Neri, the founder of the Order of the Oratory; he at first intended to dedicate his pious work to San Filippo, but he changed his mind when the canonization of his cousin was delayed, and the chapel was therefore instead dedicated to Santi Nereo ed Achilleo. The walls are covered with frescos by Bernardo Pocetti, which are among the best works of this artist. The original design for the cupola is among the drawings exhibited in the Uffizi. A picture by Passignano commemorates the Martyrdom of the Saints. Beyond this chapel is the outer cloister of the monastery.
The Ionic columns in front of the church are by Giuliano di San Gallo, and, as Vasari states in his life of San Gallo, were intended to imitate the antique. The church does not contain any picture of extraordinary merit, except the Coronation of the Virgin by Cosimo Rosselli, painted in tempera, and treated with much grandeur. The Virgin is very dignified and lovely; she bends gracefully to receive the crown; an angel below the Saviour bears the lily and the emblems of the Passion. Behind the Virgin other angels carry musical instruments; a garland of cherubs surround the principal group, with prophets and saints; St. Peter and St. John kneel in the centre; John the Baptist is to the right. This picture appears to have been painted contemporaneously with the fresco in Sant' Ambrogio. In the sacristy is an excellent copy of a Madonna by Luca Giordano, the original of which is in the choir. In the left transept is the Sepulchre of Sta. Maddalena de' Pazzi, whose body was embalmed, and is preserved under glass in the convent. There is also an interesting picture of Sant' Ignazio and San Roch by Raffaellino del Garbo, who painted the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes for the refectory of the convent. This artist was a pupil of Filippino Lippi, and contemporary of Lorenzo di Credi, 1466-1524. Of early promise, he appears to have disappointed the hopes of those who expected to see him a great artist, and affectation and mannerism prove him to have been more the mechanic than the man of genius.214 The remaining pictures within the church are a Coronation of the Virgin, by Fabrizio Boschi, who painted the Tabernacle at the corner of the Bargello; an Annunciation, by Botticelli, but too much defaced or too dark to be visible; and pictures by Matteo Rosselli, Santi di Tito, and others of inferior name. The pavement of coloured marbles before the high altar is worthy of notice; and within the choir are the paintings by Luca Giordano, already referred to.
Opposite the Convent of Sta. Maddalena de' Pazzi is the fine palace built by Ammanati, with gardens attached to it, which belonged to the family of Simone di Firenzuole. The Panciatichi, to whom the palace next Sta. Maddalena de' Pazzi belongs, is a very ancient family of Pistoia, who carry their history back to the eleventh century. They owed their greatness to Imperial favour, and first settled in Florence in 1352. The rich collection of paintings belonging to the present representative of the family are, most of them, on sale, as well as a valuable collection of objects of virtω; the prices asked are high, and when any of the treasures, which fill twenty-six rooms of the palace, are sold, they are immediately replaced by articles of equal value. Every picture has a ticket with the name of the artist, and the date of his birth. One of the most interesting pictures here is the Madonna della Stella, by Fra Bartolommeo. The beauty and tenderness expressed in the countenance of the Virgin, who bends reverentially to kiss the head of her infant, is truly exquisite. A Magdalene, evidently the portrait of a young lady, by the same master, is likewise very beautiful. Both these paintings have been long in the Panciatichi family. Near the Madonna is a good specimen of Baldassare Peruzzi, a late acquisition: the subject is a Holy Family, the Virgin reading. It is in a fine old Florentine frame of carved dark wood, picked out with gold. Two pictures are attributed to Joas Cleef, called Il Pazzo the Man mentioned in Walpole's "Lives of the Painters" among artists in England during the reign of Queen Mary. The pictures here by Cleef represent an Entombment, and Christ crowned with Thorns, both very powerful. The Madonna and Child, with St. John the Baptist, painted in chiaroscuro by Andrea del Sarto, is a replica of the picture in the Pitti. A portrait of Baccio Valori is by the same artist. Baccio, born in 1467, was one of the chief adherents of the Medici, and was in great favour with Pope Clement VII. After the accession of Duke Cosimo I., he joined Filippo Strozzi in his attempt to liberate Florence from the new sovereign, and was taken prisoner after the battle of Monte Murlo. He was let through the streets of Florence on a pony, exposed to the insults of the multitude, who had already demolished part of his house in the Via degli Albizzi, and he was executed in the court of the Bargello, 1537. The finest portrait in this gallery is that of Piero Soderini, by Leonardo da Vinci. Soderini, born in 1450, was created perpetual Gonfalonier of the Republic in 1502, which office, however, he only held ten years. Though a strong opponent of the Medici, he was a man of mild and unpretending character, and a patron of Art and Literature. When the Medici returned to power, he was banished, and ended his days in Rome.
A beautiful picture by Mariotto Albertinelli represents the Child seated on a pedestal with the head of Joseph appearing behind; the Virgin, a lovely figure, stands beside him, and lays her hand on the head of the Christ; in the background is a landscape with monks. There is also in another room a very small but beautiful Annunciation, by Albertinelli. A singular rather than beautiful composition, by Fra Filippo Lippi, represents angels offering grapes and corn, typical of the Resurrection, to the Infant Christ, who is seated on the lap of the Virgin; the charm of this composition consists in the thoughtful, earnest expression in the face of the Virgin, and timid doubt in that of the Child, who shrinks from the angel, yet seems to desire the gifts. A picture containing a multitude of figures, also by Fra Filippo, represents the betrayal of a small fortified town or castello in a war between Sienna and Arezzo; there is much animation in the figures, especially in the groups of fighting horsemen in the landscape behind.
Two most exquisite small paintings, by Andrea Mantegna, represent St. John the Baptist and St. Peter; and in the same room is a Deposition, by Crivelli, the precursor of the Bellini and of Titian; it is rich in colour and gilding, as well as highly finished, and forcible, if somewhat exaggerated in expression. A very finely coloured portrait, by Titian, represents Laura, one of the three wives of Alfonso of Ferrara, the brother of the celebrated Leonora of Tasso. A large and valuable picture by Garofalo, belonging to a friend of the Marchese Panciatichi, is on sale here. The subject is a Madonna and Child in glory, with angels; and below, among them a group of three children of the family 1577 and a portrait of a lovely princess of the house of Medici 1597 with another of her mother, who strongly resembles her daughter. There are likewise interesting portraits of Neri di Gino Capponi 1568 and of Franηesco Valori, who was torn to pieces by the mob, because a follower of Savonarola; his monument is in the cloisters of the Badia. The portrait of a boy is by Correggio. A likeness of Metastasio is by Pompeo Battoni, who died in 1787. In the same room are two lovely heads by Guido Reni, representing Diana and Endymion. There are several splendid landscapes by Rosa di Tivoli and Salvator Rosa, and a small cabinet, painted by this last artist in sea-pieces, and landscapes. His finest picture in this collection is a battle-piece, which unites his usual power and animation with a finish, light, and clearness unusual in his works. A portrait of Salvator Rosa by himself, in a black cloak and hood, and a torn glove on one hand, is one of the most powerful pictures here, both in expression and colour.
There are several bronzes of merit in the gallery; two by Giovan Bologna, the Arno and the Tiber; and a shepherd carrying a lamb on his shoulders; but the finest is a small but noble group by Donatello, of David springing on Goliath, with his sword raised to slay him. The giant struggles to rise, his head is thrown slightly back, the stone is in his forehead, his mouth is open as if uttering a cry, and he grasps the earth with both clenched hands; the curve of his body, and the muscular action of his legs as he strives to rise, are grandly composed, and true to nature; in wonderful and graceful contrast is the easy, light, and slender figure of David, who with one hand seizes his enemy by the hair, and with the other grasps his sword raised to strike.
In the upper storey of the palace is displayed a rich collection of objects of virtω. On one table is a large set of the black Wedgewood ware; cups and vases of blue Sθvres, agate, and rock-crystal, are on other tables; a long gallery is lined with glass cases, containing guns, pistols, and swords, the old manufacture of Brescia and Pistoia; and one richly ornamented pistol is the work of Benvenuto Cellini. A gold vase has delicate silver figures, copied from the antique. The largest and most valuable part of this collection are blue enamelled bronze vases from China, with various Chinese and Japanese curiosities; among them a figure in complete armour made of iron and silk; a black iron mask is on the face, and the shoes have so high a polish as to resemble fine jet or glass.
The Panciatichi Palace was built by Giuliano and Antonio di San Gallo for their own abode: when Napoleon Buonaparte was in Florence, in 1796, he lodged in this palace, then the residence of the French minister.
In the Borgo Pinti, near where was once the Porta, is the Palazzo Gherardesca, inhabited by a collateral descendant of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, of Pisa, celebrated by Dante in his "Inferno." This palace contains little of interest beyond the beauty of its gardens; but it formerly received within its walls the historian Bartolommeo della Scala 1430 the son of a poor miller from Colle, on the road to Sienna, who was patronised by the Medici.
The Via della Pergola crosses the Via della Colonna and the Via della Mandorla; the Pergola, or Bower, was probably at one time in the midst of gardens. Here is the fashionable theatre or opera-house of Florence. The first theatre in the Uffizi, built by Buontalenti for the Grand-Duke Francis I., was abandoned in the seventeenth century, and applied to other uses. The passion for theatrical amusements, however, induced some young dilettanti to form themselves into a company, which assumed the name of Accademia degli Infuocati, and adopted as their emblem a bombshell ready to burst; they gave dramatic representations at the house of their patron Don Lorenzo, the son of Ferdinand I., which was on the site of the Palazzo Corsini, Via del Parione. After Don Lorenzo's death they hired a house in the Via del Cocomero, now Ricasoli, where is the present Teatro Niccolini; but the number of performers increasing, part of them separated, and purchased a tiratoio of the Guild of Wool, in the Via della Pergola, on which they constructed a theatre of wood. Such was the beginning of the Florentine opera house. In the Via della Pergola, a tablet marks the house where Benvenuto Cellini cast his Perseus, as described in his Memoir.215 Cristofano Allori had also a house here.
At the end of the Via della Mandorla, joining the Via San Sebastiano, is a large house, a detached portion of which in the Via della Mandorla is decorated with sculpture, the residence of Andrea del Sarto, when he returned from France, and afterwards of Federigo Zucchero.
In the Via San Sebastiano so named after the Pucci Chapel in the opposite Church of SS. Annunziata, is a group of Luca della Robbia work over a door leading to an elegant though small cloister, adorned with frescos by Pocetti, which once belonged to the Confraternity of San Piero Maggiore.
Towards the centre of the street is the Palazzo Capponi, the largest palace with the exception of the Pitti, in Florence. It was formerly inhabited by the last representative of the elder and most celebrated branch of the family, revered and beloved by his countrymen, and hardly less held in honour by every stranger visiting Florence. His death took place in 1876.
The Capponi were in the fourteenth century a powerful popolano family, belonging to the Arte della Seta Guild of Silk and inhabited the quarter of San Frediano beyond the river. They were always found taking part against the turbulent nobles of the city, ready to check, as far as in them lay, the undue aspirations for power of ambitious citizens, and fearlessly maintaining the liberties and greatness of Florence. Gino Capponi, born 1360, first gave importance to his family, by successfully directing a war which gave Pisa to Florence. Of his three sons, the descendants of one settled at Lyons in France, where they were noted for benevolence, but this branch became extinct in 1797. A descendant of another founded the Riccardi library of Florence, and is still represented by the Marchese Capponi, who inhabits a palace in the Via Bardi. From the eldest Neri is descended a long line of patriots, the last of whom was the late Marchese Gino Capponi.
The palace in the Via San Sebastiano (now Via Gino Capponi) was built after a design by Fontana. On a magnificent staircase is a modern statue of Piero Capponi, who made himself famous by his bold defiance of Charles VIII. of France. A narrow staircase, in the left wing, leads to the library, rich in manuscripts, and to the picture gallery, containing a large collection of paintings, and where the ceilings are painted in fresco. Among the most interesting is a portrait of Piero Capponi in the second room, probably taken from authentic sources, by Bronzino. Another good picture, by a recent artist, Sabatelli, represents Piero tearing the treaty in the presence of the King of France. Nearer the window is a fine, though small, picture of St. Jerome, by Carlo Dolce; and facing the light another St. Jerome (No. 114), attributed to the school of Albert Dόrer, though corrected in the catalogue to Pinturicchio, a beautiful and highly finished picture. The Infant Christ and St. John the Baptist conversing, in the rocky background, are most lovely, and the expression of the saint is very fine. In a third room is a picture, by Gardini, of Pandolfo Ricasoli and his companion in guilt listening to their sentence by the Inquisition, pronounced in the Refectory of Sta. Croce before a crowd of witnesses. A Last Communion of St. Jerome is by Andrea del Castagno; a very sweet picture of the Madonna and Child, No. 173, is by Marco d' Oggione, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci; above it is a fine Christ in the arms of Nicodemus, by Andrea del Sarto. No. 160 is a good portrait of a gentleman, with a little girl holding a flower, of the Venetian school. But the gem of the collection is a Communion of St. Jerome, by Filippino Lippi, a most exquisite miniature; the expression of the saint, of the priest who places the wafer in his mouth, and of the attendant monks, is true to nature, forcible and earnest; and every detail of the accessories is finished with the utmost delicacy. In a fourth room is a portrait of the late Marchese Gino Capponi when young; a fifth room contains some excellent portrait-heads. A large bed of state is shown in a room near the entrance, with rich carving, cherubs, &c., in wood guilt.
Nearly opposite the Capponi Palace is the Palace of the Velluti-Zati, Dukes of San Clemente, formerly among the merchant-princes of Florence, and inventors of velvet. They were employed at various times on important political missions abroad, and received the title of Dukes of San Clemente from one of the popes. This palace was inhabited by Charles Edward, the young Pretender, and afterwards by the English minister at the Court of Florence.
Proceeding westward, we arrive at an old Dominican convent, directly behind San Marco, now used by the government, and therefore cleared of anything it might have possessed of artistic value. Nearly opposite is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe,216 which was enclosed by order of the Grand-Duke Cosimo I., to prevent the nuns being disturbed at their devotions by the noisy sounds of the game of "palla e maglio," at that time a favourite pastime of the Florentines. The game was introduced from Naples in the fifteenth century, and the ground chosen for this diversion was between San Marco and the walls, where there were no buildings at that time, except the Convent of the Dominican nuns and the Studio Fiorentino, or Academy for Artists, erected from a dying bequest of Nicolς d' Uzzano. The maglio was a bat by which the ball was sent to a given distance. The amusement appears to have had some analogy with our game of cricket. Pall Mall, perhaps, received its name from this game. For a full description the reader is referred to "L' Academie Universelle des Jeux," printed at Amsterdam in 1756.
Albertinelli, Mariotto b. 1475 d. 1520
Allori, Angiolo b. 1511 d. 1580
Allori, Cristofano b. 1577 - d. 1621
Ammanati b. 1511 d. 1589
Andrea del Sarto b. 1488 d. 1530
Battoni, Pompei b. 1702 d. 1787
Bologna, Giovan b. 1525 d. 1608
Boschi Fabrizio b. 1570 d. 1642
Capponi, Neri, founded the greatness of his family 1360
Capponi, Neri di Gino d. 1568
Capponi, Piero d. 1496
Castagno, Andrea del b. 1409 d. 1477
Cellini, Benvenuto b. 1500 d. 1570
Cistercian monks established in the Via della Colonna 1220
Cleef, Joas b. 1500 d. 1536
Correggio b. 1494 d. 1529
Crivelli flourished 1450-1476
Dolce, Carlo b. 1616 d. 1686
Donatello b. 1383 d. 1466
Fontana b. 1634 d. 1714
Fra Bartolommeo b. 1469 d. 1517
Garofalo b. 1481 d. 1559
Giordano, Luca b. 1632 d. 1705
Lippi, Fra Filippo b. 1400 d. 1469
Lippi, Filippino b. 1460 d. 1505
Neri, San Filippo b. 1515 d. 1595
Panciatichi settled at Florence 1352
Passignano b. 1558 d. 1638
Pazzi, Sta. Maddalena dei, canonized, and nuns transferred to the Via della Colonna 1670
Perugino, Pietro b. 1446 d. 1524
Peruzzi, Baldassare b. 1481 d. 1536
Pinturicchio b. 1454 d. 1513
Raffaellino del Garbo b. 1466 d. 1524
Rosa di Tivoli b. 1613 d. 1649
Rosa, Salvator b. 1513 d. 1673
Rosselli, Cosimo b. 1439 d. 1506
San Gallo, Giuliano di b. 1443 d. 1517
San Gallo, Antonio di b. 1482 d. 1546
Scala, Bartolommeo della b. 1430 d. 1495
Soderini, Piero b. 1450 d. 1514(?)
Sustermans b. 1597 d. 1681
Valori, Baccio b. 1354 d. 1427
Valori, Franηesco b. 1439 d. 1498
Vinci, Leonardo da b. 1445 d. 1519
212 See Mrs.
Jameson, "Legends of the Monastic Orders," p. 475.
213 This art seems to have been successfully practised by the Cictercian Order. The fine glass in the choir of Lichfield Cathedral was brought from a Cistercian nunnery near Liθge.
214 See "Crowe and Cavalcaselle," vol. iii. p. 416, and Vasari, "Vite dei Pittori," vol. vii. P. 191.
215 The Perseus is under the Loggia de' Lanzi.
216 The oldest botanical garden is at Padua, and next to that is the garden at Pisa.
Chapter XXVI: Convent and Church of the SS. Annunziata
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