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London, Henry S. King & Co., 1877; Transcribed and Photographed, Carolyn Carpenter. CD, Florence in Sepia, contains full-scale images, and several other Victorian e-books on Florence, and is available from Julia Bolton Holloway
WALKS IN FLORENCE: CHURCHES, STREETS AND PALACES
SUSAN AND JOANNA HORNER
Chapter XXXIX: The Boboli Gardens Palazzo de' Pitti
The gate opposite the site of the former Convent of Annalena is one of the entrances to the Boboli Gardens, which were laid out by order of the Grand-Duke Cosimo I., when he purchased the Palazzo dei Pitti for his wife, Eleonora of Toledo. Buontalenti and Tribolo were the architects commissioned to make the designs for this magnificent garden, which was given the name of Bogoli, or Boboli, from a family who had once houses in this quarter. Tall trees and hedges of bay, cypress, olive, ilex, and other evergreens, divide the ground into endless walks, shady pathways, and groves adorned with statues of unequal merit, and varied with water containing gold fish. Above all towers the noble stone pine, and beneath are banks of roses and grassy lawns, which refresh the eye, fatigued by the glare of the city. In the midst of a large sheet of water near the Porta Romana, is a group of statuary by Giovan Bologna, placed on what is called the Isoletto, from whence the ground rises abruptly; and an avenue of tall trees and hedges, with statues at intervals, leads to a plateau, commanding, towards the south and west, splendid views of the town and surrounding country. The little meadow on the plateau is called L'Uccellaja, probably from having at one time been a bird-snare, so common around Florence. A little higher is a winding staircase, the entrance to the Garden of the Cavaliere, where there is a casino or villa, with a small garden, from whence is obtained a distant view of hill and valley in the direction of Arezzo and Rome. Returning to the Boboli, a narrow path conducts to the highest point, directly above the palace, facing which is a statue of Dovizia Abundance supposed to have been a portrait of the Grand-Duchess Joanna of Austria, the first wife of Francis I. This statue was commenced by Giovan Bologna, and finished by his scholar, Tacca. To the right is the Fortress of San Giorgio, overlooking the garden; immediately below is the Fountain of Neptune, in the centre of which is a good statue of the sea-god throwing his trident, executed in 1565 by Stoldo Lorenzi, an artist who is little known, but who was probably a scholar of Giovan Bologna. Near the Fortress of San Giorgio is the Tower of the Belvedere; and a rapid descent by various paths, as well as by the broad way which leads directly from the Fountain of Neptune, conducts to the semicircular space behind the palace, called the Amphitheatre; stone benches rise one above the other, on either side, and here various spectacles were formerly exhibited for the diversion of the grand-ducal family. An Egyptian Obelisk and Porphyry Bason occupy the centre. The path to the left leads to the apartments usually occupied by the king in a wing of the palace, opposite the Uccellaja, at the foot of which is a statue of Pegasus by the modern sculptor Costoli. Beyond are the gates of Annalena and of the Porta Romana. The path to the right of the Amphitheatre conducts to the usual entrance to the gardens, beneath the palace.
Opposite this gate is a grotto, built by Buontalenti, to receive four large unfinished statues by Michael Angelo, which the artist had intended to form part of his Monument to Pope Julius II., and which were presented to the Grand-Duke Cosimo I. by Leonardo Buonarotti, the nephew of Michael Angelo. The statues of Apollo and Ceres, at the entrance of the Grotto, were executed by Baccio Bandinelli; Paris and Helen are by Rossi da Fiesole; and in the small inner grotto, painted by Pocetti, is a marble bason supported by four satyrs, and surmounted by a figure of Venus, the work of Giovan Bologna.
The Palazzo dei Pitti was commenced in 1441 by Luca Pitti, one of the wealthiest and most influential citizens of Florence, a rival of the Medici rather than of the Strozzi, but who did not yield the palm to either, in his ambition to play a leading part in the government; he was, at any rate, resolved that his palace should exceed both of theirs in size and magnificence. When Piero de' Medici lost his father Cosimo Vecchio, Luca Pitti conspired with Agnolo Acciajuoli, Nicolς Soderini, and Dioti-Salvi Neroni, to wrest the power from his hands. The marriage of Piero's son, Lorenzo, with Clarice Orsini, belonging to one of the greatest of the Roman families, still farther aroused the vigilance of his enemies, and this marriage added mortification to Luca Pitti's jealousy, since he had intended his own daughter for the young Medici.
Luca's faction obtained the name of Del Poggio,
because the Pitti Palace was built on the hill of San Giorgio,
whilst the Medici Palace, in the plain below, gave the name
Del Piano to their opponents. Fortunately for Piero,
Luca Pitti appears to have been of as weak and irresolute a
character as his own; and after the final discomfiture of the
Pitti and their party, and the banishment of all who had
followed their banner, Luca was allowed to remain in Florence,
where he lived with a suspicion of treachery attached to his
name, despised and shunned by all, and left to wander in
solitude through his vast palace.
The building was begun by Maestro Fanelli, a clever builder, after a design by Filippo Brunelleschi. The faηade is divided into three tiers, and constructed of enormous blocks of stone. On the lowest part are lions' heads fines executed, from one of which flows the purest water in Florence, carried hither by pipes from the mountains near Pratolino. After the death of Brunelleschi, in 1444, the palace was only finished as far as the second row of window, and the loggia, which, according to the original design, was to have crowned the edifice, has never been added. The roof was placed by Fanelli, but the wings were not even begun when Luca Pitti died. His descendants were unable to meet the expenses of so vast a building, and in 1549 Buonaccorso Pitti sold it to Eleonora of Toledo. On a house in the Fondaccio di Santo Spirito, which at that time belonged to the Pitti, may still be seen a sketch of the palace as it was when they abandoned it to their rivals the Medici. Ammanati added the wings, and enclosed the beautiful little court behind, where he built a grotto, with niches containing three groups of statuary: Hercules and Antζus, Hercules leaning on his club, and Pluto with Cerberus. At one end of the surrounding colonnade is a mule in black marble, supposed to commemorate the animal employed to carry the materials for the erection of the palace. Above the grotto is a bason with putti playing musical instruments.
To the right of the palace entrance, beneath the colonnade, is the royal Chapel, adorned with frescos by Luigi Ademollo, an artist of mediocre powers. Above the altar is a Crucifix in ivory, by Giovan Bologna. The altar itself is richly decorated with arabesques and pictures in flat and raised pietra-dura. Before the Pyx is a most graceful composition of the visit of the Kings, delicately executed. In front of the table is the Last Supper, and beautiful statuettes are inserted in niches at the sides, where precious stones are scattered over a ground of lapis lazuli. In the sacristy are copies of several pictures.
Returning to the colonnade, and passing to the left of the entrance, there is a small court in which the statue of Ajax supporting a dying warrior, a repetition of the group under the Loggia de' Lanzi, and, judging by its merits, probably the original work. In the anteroom beyond is a bust of Luca Pitti, the founder of the palace, and three drawings of the original design for the Palazzo dei Pitti, with the loggia on the top, as intended by Brunelleschi. The adjoining chamber contains the splendid collection of old plate.
Within a glass case in front of the entrance are tazze, by one of the school of Benvenuto Cellini, each containing a relief representing a different subject. In a cabinet to the left is old church plate, and beyond, in another cabinet, a cassetta or casket for the holy wafer, when exhibited on Maunday Thursday; it is worked in rich enamel, and set with enormous emeralds. Two beautifully silver-gilt and enamel goblets, with delicately wrought handles, are by Benvenuto Cellini; but one of the greatest treasures in this room is a large niello by Maso Finiguerra, in the centre of which is the Madonna and Child, and around are scenes from the Life of our Lord.
A mosaic table of fine workmanship is placed under glass in the middle of the room. Two silver salvers are by Benvenuto Cellini, on one of which is the Rape of Proserpine; on the other, Orpheus. In the same cabinet are goblets and a flask of fine enamel, also by Benvenuto. Farther on is a little image of the Infant Saviour, in pietra-dura, which belonged to the Grand-Duke Cosimo I.; also a beautiful crozier. Opposite the entrance is a bronze-gilt candelabrum, supported by satyrs, and standing on a pedestal of tortoise-shell, the work of Giovan Bologna. A little dog, in ivory, by Donatello, is in a case between two miniature wax-heads by the celebrated modeller in wax, Zumbo; one of these represents the Sufferings of Purgatory, the other the Tortures of Hell. In the window is a bronze Crucifix by Giovan Bologna, a relief by Tacca of the Crucifixion, and a very fine Limoges enamel with the history of our Lord. The finest Crucifix here is in the second cabinet to the right of the entrance, by Donatello. Christ is represented looking upwards in the agony of prayer; at his feet is the skull.
On the first floor of the palace, a suite of rooms are exhibited, once occupied by Pius IX., but they contain nothing of importance. The state apartments beyond are richly decorated, and the ball-room, though too narrow for its height and length, is very handsome; it has lately been fitted up with much taste and magnificence for the receptions of Victor Emmanuel.
At the Palazzo della Signoria is the monument of early republican government in Florence, so the Palazzo dei Pitti is associated with the period when she was under the rule of sovereign princes. When we remember that this city, which played so prominent a part in European politics, and in the progress of civilisation, was torn by factions within her walls which not unfrequently converted Florence into a battle-field, we may well marvel at the strength of her Republic, and at the sagacity of her civic rulers, which could maintain her independence during seven centuries, and raise their city to the first rank in commerce, literature, and art. On one side were ranged haughty nobles, glorying in their supposed superiority of birth, supported by an armed peasantry whom they summoned to their aid from their castles in the country, abetted by the German emperors, who claimed suzerainty over nearly the whole peninsula, and reinforced by wealthy citizens who preferred titles and power to liberty; on the other side, simple merchants, strong only in union for the preservation of their just rights, and supported by the Church, which in those days represented Italian nationality. It was not until the citizens themselves consented to bow beneath the sway of one of their own order, and Florence had submitted to become the slave of Medicean ambition, that she fell from her high estate, and gradually sank as much below the level of other communities as she once soared above them. Cruelty, rapacity, and superstition were the characteristics of the princely inhabitants of the Pitti, from Cosimo I. to Giovan Gastone.
Some curious observations on the condition of
Florence in the seventeenth century, under Ferdinand II., may
be found in a letter from one of the clerks of the English
Privy Council, written in 1650, of which the following is an
"This letter comes to kisse your hands from fair Florence, a Citie so beautifull that the great Emperour (Charles V.) said that she was sitting to be shewn and seen, onely upon Holidays. She marvailously flourisheth with Buildings, with Wealth, and Artisans; for it is thought that in Serges, which is but one commodity, ther are made two millions evry year. All degrees of people live here not onely well but splendidly well, notwithstanding the manifold exactions of the Duke upon all things: For none can buy here Land or Houses, but they must pay eight in the Hundred to the Duke; none can marry or commence suit in Law but ther's a Fee to the Duke; none can bring as much as an Egg or Sallet to the Market, but the Duke hath share therinna.....Add herunto that the Duke himself in som respect is a Marchant, for he sometimes ingrosseth all the Corn of the Country, and retails it at what rate he pleaseth," &c., &c.
In 1765, with the accession of Pietro Leopoldo, the son of Francis II. of Lorraine and the Empress Maria Theresa, Tuscany became an Austrian province, and all the unappropriated revenue was claimed by Vienna. Pietro Leopoldo was imbued with the admirable theories of government of his brother the Emperor Joseph, and he endeavoured to enforce them on a peole degraded by two centuries of despotic rule, and who had therefore neither previous training nor education to accept the new ideas willing. Many of his good works nevertheless remain, and have borne fruit; but after a reign of twenty-five years he was called to the throne of Austria, and the Council of Regency opposed and abolished his measures, and set at nought the principles he had vainly attempted to inculcate; another proof, if such were wanting, that true liberty cannot be given by an individual, but must spring from the heart of the people. In 1790 Pietro Leopoldo sent his second son, Ferdinand, to Tuscany as Grand-Duke his principal adviser, Fossombroni, was celebrated for the reforms he introduced, but, in 1805, Ferdinand was obliged to abdicate in favour of the Duke of Parma, and Buonaparte shortly afterwards placed his sister Elisa on the throne of Tuscany, with the title of Queen of Etruria; her reign ended in 1814, when Ferdinand resumed the crown. He died in 1824, and was succeeded by his son Leopold II., the last Austrian grand-duke. Though Leopold was a man of mild temper, irreproachable character, cultivated mind, and a patron of literature and science, the general condition of the country did not greatly improve under his rule; and in a time of revolution the fears of the government prevented all communication between city and city, even for commercial purposes, whilst the Bargello was crowded with political prisoners, some of whom were among the best and most able men, as well as belonging to the first families. Finally, an Austrian army was invited by the grand-duke himself into the country to protect him against his own subjects. Since the accession of Victor Emmanuel, Tuscany, with the rest of Italy, has not only enjoyed a parliamentary government,303 but communication between the cities has been promoted, and commerce improved, though the most enlightened principles of free trade have not yet crossed the Alps, whilst agricultural meetings have been instituted, and education is actively assisted both by the legislature and by private individuals. More than all this, these benefits have not been conferred or dictated by the sovereign or his ministers, but have emanated from the representatives of the people and from the people themselves.
Tuscany cannot yet bear a comparison with countries
which have long enjoyed a democratic constitution, but a
steady and rapid progress may be traced during twelve years of
freedom. If there is still a young nobility who waste
their substance whilst their country demands the energies of
all her sons, and if the religious sentiment has been weakened
in the mass of the people by the misconduct or mistakes of
those who should have been their guides, there are some still
left whose active exertions for good may in time leaven the
whole lump; though the Marchese Carlo Torrigiani, and the
Marchese Gino Capponi, with their contemporaries, have passed
or are passing away, it is to be hoped that the spirit of
religion, morality, and patriotism which inspired them, will
not be extinguished in future generations of their beloved
Under the government of Victor Emmanuel the Tuscan people have little reason to regret that the Palazzo dei Pitti is no longer inhabited by an Austrian prince, the last of whom has been thus described by the Tuscan poet, Giuseppe Giusti: -
Il Toscano Morfeo vien lemme-lemme,
Di papaveri cinto e di lattuga,
Che per la smania d' eternarsi asciuga
Tasche e Maremme.
Co' tribunali e co' catasti annaspa,
E benchθ snervi i popoli col sonno,
Quando si sogna d' imitare il nonno
Ammanati, Bartolommeo 1511 1592
Brunelleschi, Filippo 1379 1446
Cellini, Benvenuto 1500 1571
Cosimo I., Grand-Duke, began to reign 1537
Donatello 1386 1466
Eleanora of Toledo married to Cosimo I. 1539
Ferdinand III. 1790 1824
Francis II. 1737 1765
Giovan Bologna 1524 1608
Joanna of Austria 1565
Julius II., Pope 1505
Medici, Piero de' 1416 1463
Michael Angelo 1475 1564
Pietro Leopoldo, Grand-Duke 1765
Pitti, Luca 1395 1472
Tribolo 1485 - 1550
303 "and high
taxation," notes Ellen Orton, the book's original owner in
304 The Tuscan Morpheus gently moves along,
With poppies and with lettuce garlands crowned,
Eager for immmortality he drains
Our pockets and the Marshes.
In courts of law and taxes feels his way,
And whilst in sleep he drowns his people's sense,
Whene'er he dreams to imitate his grandsire
He rasps the crust.