WALKS IN FLORENCE: CHURCHES, STREETS AND PALACES
SUSAN AND JOANNA HORNER
Chapter IV: The Cathedral (Continuation) - Interior
The doors of the Cathedral open soon after ten in the morning, and again at three in the afternoon; but in winter the rain and wind, as well as the noise from the Piazza, are excluded by ponderous quilted curtains, suspended in the doorways. The first impression on entering is cold, from the absence of ornament and the grey tone of the pietra Serena of which it is built. But if the visitor should happen to be in Florence on a brilliant afternoon in spring or summer, when all the doors of the Cathedral are thrown wide open to admit light and warmth, and leaving the life, movement, and dazzling colour without, should he step within this vast space, where silence and shade add to the majesty of the height, breadth, and depth of all above and around, he will confess how well adapted this temple is for religious contemplation and worship.
The entire length of the Cathedral is 500 feet; the width of the nave and aisles together, 128 feet; the height from the pavement to the cross is 387 feet; and the width of the united transepts is 306 feet. The four pointed arches on either side of the nave, whose enormous span is characteristic of Arnolfo's buildings, have their keystones alternately decorated with the civic and papal, and the Guelphic and Ghibelline insignia.
The two windows on either side at the western extremity of the nave are filled in with coloured tinsel, and the external false windows are not represented in the interior, but correspond with the piers. The rose window over the western door, representing the Virgin in glory, is from a design by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Four heads of prophets, at the angles of the clock beneath, are by Paolo Uccelli, an eccentric artist of the fifteenth century, who was called Uccelli, from his love of birds. Paolo began life as garzone di botegga (shopboy) of Ghiberti in 1403, when his master was engaged on the first gates of the Baptistery. He was taught to apply geometry to painting by a learned mathematician, Gianozzo Manetti. Uccelli's most celebrated work in the Cathedral is to the right of the principal entrance, and represents Sir John Hawkwood, or, as he was better known in Italy, Giovanni Aguto, a captain of free companies, who was a tailor from the county of Essex, in England; he served as an archer in the English wars against the French. When peace was restored, he wandered into Italy at the head of a lawless band of several hundred English lancers and adventurers, and from his remarkable prowess and skill in strategy, he became celebrated as a leader of mercenary soldiers, who fought the battles of any State which paid them well, and whose unrestrained license and savage cruelty even exceeded the horrors of modern warfare. Hawkwood received his sobriquet of Falcone del Bosco (hawk of the wood) from the rapidity of his movements. After ravaging Tuscany, when commander of the papal troops, he served the Florentines with equal fidelity; and when in 1394 he died in a villa outside the city, the grateful citizens spared no expense in his obsequies, causing his body to be wrapped in cloth of gold, and to be laid in state in the Piazza della Signoria, whence it was conveyed to the Cathedral, and buried beneath the choir. The Signory decreed that a splendid monument of marble should be erected to his memory, and assigned dowries to his daughters. The marble monument, however, was never executed, but his portrait, painted by Paolo Uccelli, in terra-verde, was placed on the façade of the Cathedral.43 The action of the horse, which stands on a sarcophagus, has been much criticized, because the fore and hind leg move on one side, instead of diagonally. A curious account of this captain of free companies may be read in Fuller's "Worthies of England:" -
"Sir John Hawkewood, Knight, son to Gilbert Hawkewood, tanner, was born in Sibleheningham (Siblehedingham in Essex). This John was first bound apprentice to a taylor in the City of London, but soon turned his needle into a sword, and thimble into a shield, being pressed in the service of King Edward the Third for his French wars, who rewarded his valour with knighthood. …. The heat of the French wars being much remitted, he went into Italy, and served the City of Florence, which as yet was a free state. …. Great was the gratitude of the State of Florence to this their General Hawkewood, who, in testimony of his surpassing valour and singular faithful service to the State, adorned him with the statue of a man of armes, and sumptuous monument, wherein his ashes remain honoured at this present day. Well is it that a monument doth remain, seeing his cœnotaph or honorary tombe, which sometimes stood in the parish church of Sibleheningham (arched over, and in allusion to his name berebussed with hawkes flying into a wood), is now quite flown away and abolished. … That Sir John Hawkewood married Domnia, daughter of Barneby, the warlike brother of Galaesius, Lord of Milloin (father of John the First, Duke of Milloin), by whom he had a son named John, born in Italy, made knight and naturalized in the seventh year of King Henry the Fourth, as appeareth by the record - 'Johannes, filius Johannis Hawkewood, Miles natus in partibus Italiæ factus indigine Ann. 8, Hen. 4, Mater ejus nata in partibus transmarinis.'" - See Fuller's Worthies of England. 1662The fine mosaic over the central door was executed by Gaddo Gaddi, about the year 1307. The subject is the coronation of the Virgin, and Vasari informs us that foreign as well as native critics considered it the most perfect work of the kind in all Italy. The frescos below are of a much later period, by Santi di Tito, an artist from Città San Sepolcro, the fellow-student of Bronzino, and the disciple of Michael Angelo. Living at a time when the ideal was exaggerated, and desirous of avoiding this fault, Santi di Tito attempted a close imitation of nature without selection. The colour is here too pale to distinguish the forms of the women and children who sing and play musical instruments, emblematical of choral harmony.
The equestrian figure, painted over the third door of the western front, represents another condottiere, or captain of free companies, Nicolò Tolentino, and was executed by Andrea del Castagno in 1434. Nicolò, a supporter of the Medici faction, was invited to enter the Florentine service in 1424, the year that Ghiberti's first gates were placed in the Baptistery, and only nine days before the fall of the porphyry columns, an event which was supposed to have augured ill for the war the Florentines had just undertaken against Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan. The army of the League, composed of Florentines and Venetians, was defeated by Picinnino, the captain of the duke of Milan, in a battle fought near Imola, and the Florentine general, Nicolò Tolentino, taken prisoner. He perished soon afterwards by a fall over a rock, and the Florentines obtained his remains, which were buried with great pomp in the Cathedral. His portrait was painted by Andrea del Castagno, one of the best artists of the day. Cavalcaselle observes that "it is a fine work for the period in which it was produced, being actively in motion and true to nature, but it reveals in Andrea more vehemence than grandeur or dignity, and the forms of the horse lack the purity which characterises that of Uccelli. The draperies are sculptured, and the laws of place duly observed; it is bold and broad, but the forms are heavy and somewhat coarse."44
The first monument in the right or southern aisle is that to Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect who constructed the cupola of this Cathedral, and who was interred here at the expense of the city. His bust, by his pupil Buggiani, is apparently a faithful portrait of the rugged and irascible artist. The epitaph is by Carlo Marsupini, of Arezzo, the celebrated philologist and secretary to the Republic.
The niches, on either side of the aisles, are continued all round the Cathedral. They were designed by Bartolommeo Ammanati, a sculptor of the seventeenth century, who executed the statues of the Apostles in the Baptistery. Ammanati had studied the works of Michael Angelo, and, like other artists of that period, combined architecture with sculpture. The statue in the first niche is attributed to Donatello, and represents one of the Apostles, though really the portrait of Gianozzo Manetti, the mathematician, who taught perspective to Uccelli; he was a theologian as well as philosopher, who lived during the first half of the fifteenth century, and wrote a history of Pistoia, and biographies of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Pope Nicholas V., whose secretary he became when forced to leave Florence on account of his opposition to Medicean usurpations. Manetti died in Rome in 1459.
On the column opposite is a picture of the good
Bishop Antonino, by Francesco Morandini of Poppi, in the
Casentino, a pupil of Vasari. Bishop Antonino lived
early in the first half of the fifteenth century. He was
a Dominican friar at St. Mark's, and, conspicuous for his
piety and Christian virtues, he was deservedly beloved by
Savonarola, to whom he was personally attached. Clothed
in his episcopal robes, Antonino is represented seated on a
throne, blessing the people. The predella is by a modern
painter, Marini, and represents a deputation of Florentine
citizens conferring with the Bishop concerning the foundation
of the Society of Buonuomini, an institution which owes its
origin to this excellent man. The marble bason for holy
water, beside the column, is supposed to have been the work of
Arnolfo di Cambio, the architect of the Cathedral, but the
bason has been repaired, and the angel entirely renewed.
The monument of Giotto is next to that of Brunelleschi; it was placed here long after his death, in 1490, by Lorenzo de' Medici. The face of the great painter does not exhibit his proverbial ugliness, and, as well as the ornamental frame, is finely executed by Benedetto da Majano, who was no less celebrated as a sculptor than as a carver in wood. The inscription is by Lorenzo's friend, the scholar Politian.
The monument over the first door in this aisle is to Pier Farnese, another captain of free companies, the third thus honoured in the Cathedral. He died of the plague in 1363. His equestrian statue, in wood covered with canvas, was originally placed over the sarcophagus, and represented Farnese seated on a mule, as he appeared in a battle fought against the Pisans, when, his horse having been shot under him, he seized on a sumpter mule, and, thus mounted, won the victory. The statue, which is variously attributed to Jacopo Orcagna, Giuliano d'Arrigo and Angelo Gaddi, was removed in 1842, when the Cathedral was undergoing some repairs, and fell to pieces.
The first statue beyond this door represents the prophet Ezekiel, and is by Donatello; it was formerly on the façade of the Cathedral. The half-length figure beyond is the portrait of Marsilio Ficino, a Greek, who was first President of the Platonic Academy, founded by Cosimo de' Medici, Pater patriæ. This literary institution was not called after the ancient philosopher, but after a learned Greek, Platone, who with many of his countrymen visited Florence in 1439, to assist at the great council summoned to meet in this city, for the impossible object of attempting to unite the Greek and Latin Churches. The Platonic philosophy, which was favoured by the Medici in opposition to that of Aristotle, made the name of the new academy the more appropriate. The institution survived until 1527, two years before the fall of the Florentine Republic. Ficino died in Florence in 1499. His bust by Andrea Ferucci of Fiesole is one of the best works of that artist; the hands, which hold Plato's works, are modelled with great care.
The fine monument over the second lateral door
is that of Bishop Antonio d' Orso, and is the work of Tino di
Camaino, a Siennese, and pupil of Giovanni Pisano. Orso
is celebrated for having manned the walls of Florence with the
canons of the cathedral, when the city was besieged by the
Emperor Henry VII.45 Bishop Orso is represented in his robes and
mitre, seated on his sarcophagus, with his hands crossed upon
his breast; the subject of the relief is a youth kneeling
before the Saviour, who is surrounded by angels and draped
figures. The Gothic arches on which the relief rests are
adorned by bas-reliefs of Christ between the Virgin and St.
John. It is, however, difficult to distinguish the
details of this monument, as it is placed at a considerable
height above the spectator. It has been engraved by
The rich colour of the windows in the southern transept, casting a warm glow around, is in contrast with the sombre hue of the rest of the building. These windows were the work of Domenico Livi da Gambassi, near Volterra, an eminent painter on glass, who learnt his profession in Lubeck. Their date is about 1434. Ghiberti and Donatello are said to have supplied most of the designs. The chapels round this transept contain frescos of saints, all of which have a certain grace and refinement, and belong to the latter period of the Giottesque school; they are by Bicci di Lorenzo, one of three generations of painters in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, none of whom held a high place in the history of Florentine art; it is therefore less to be regretted that these frescos have been destroyed, or much repainted.
The lunette above the door of the old sacristy - Sagrestia Vecchia - was the second attempt of a Florentine artist, Luca della Robbia, as the corresponding lunette over the door of the new sacristy - Sagrestia Nuova - was his first, in this peculiar kind of terra-cotta or porcelain, which is covered with a glaze impervious to the weather, and which has stood the test of centuries. The process was kept secret by Luca and his nephews, and its history has died with them. Luca della Robbia was born in 1400; he was a pupil of Ghiberti, in marble and bronze; and was past forty years of age when he invented this hard enamel. The Resurrection, over the door of the Sagrestia Nuova, has figures of pure white, with plants below in green. In Luca's later works, and those of his nephews, the colours are multiplied, and the effect of the composition is less agreeable, as the beauty of expression and form is lost in flat gaudy blue, green, and yellow. In the works of Luca himself there is always a deep religious feeling, with a wonderfully close imitation of nature in his graceful women, and children, and angels, all of whom, in spite of the artist's realistic tendencies, have a spiritual beauty, and are simple yet sublime, without insipidity or affectation. The Ascension, over the door of the Sagrestia Vecchia, is even more beautiful than the Resurrection on the opposite side. Within this chamber is a lavatory by Buggiano, the pupil of Brunelleschi, who made the bust of his master, near the entrance to the Cathedral. He shows greater taste in the decorations of this lavatory than in the putti, or boy-angels, seated on it, who are without any claim to beauty. A picture in a corner of the sacristy, placed at a great height, and in an imperfect light, represents the archangel Michael; it is by Lorenzo Credi, one of the best among the Florentine artists of the fifteenth century, and the friend and imitator of Leonardo da Vinci.
This sacristy has an historical interest attached to it; for here Lorenzo de' Medici took refuge on that fatal Sunday, the 26th April, 1478, when the Pazzi attempted his life, and succeeded in killing his brother Giuliano. The two Medici were kneeling in prayer before the altar under the cupola, when the elevation of the Host was the preconcerted signal for attack. Giuliano fell under many blows; Lorenzo was wounded, but escaped into the sacristy. Politian, whose monument we have just noticed, was with him, and he closed the doors against the enemy, whilst another of Lorenzo's friends, Antonio Ridolfi, sucked the wound lest the dagger should have been poisoned; a third, Sismondi della Stufa, climbed into the gallery for the singers, or organ-loft, and looked through the windows into the church, to see that all was safe, before admitting Lorenzo's partisans, who had assembled at this door, ready armed for his defence. Below this singing gallery and the corresponding gallery over the door of the new sacristy, were at one time splendid compositions in marble by Luca della Robbia and Donatello; but at the close of the seventeenth century, in an age of degenerate taste, on the occasion of the marriage of Prince Ferdinand, afterwards the Grand-Duke Ferdinand III., they were removed to make room for some decoration more pleasing to the Florentine public of those days. These valuable works of art lay long neglected in the court of the Opera del Duomo, or office of the Board of Works for the Cathedral, but were finally removed to the Uffizi, where they are now among the principal treasures of the gallery. [A note written in 1880 says these works were at that time in the Bargello.]
The group of statuary behind the high altar of the choir, facing the apse, - unfortunately in too obscure a position to be seen except on a very bright day, - is an unfinished work of Michael Angelo, executed in 1555, when he was eighty-one years of age. The subject is a Pietà, and the marble is supposed to have belonged to a column in the Temple of Peace at Rome, presented by Pope Paul III. To the great artist. Nicodemus and the Magdalene support the body of the Savious, whose drooping limbs wonderfully express the powerlessness of death. The group is pyramidal, and equally fine when viewed from every side. A writer, who had a profound anatomical knowledge as well as deep feeling for art, observes,46 "The group bears every mark of the independent spirit and grand style of this great master.….The lengthened form of the body of Christ seems extended by its own weight, while the suppleness and lankness of recent death is finely marked by the manner in which the limbs hang in gentle bending and seem falling to the ground, with the natural disposition of the arms, as if affected by every motion….the interest of the piece lies in the melancholy but placid countenance of the Saviour, which is lacerated by the crown of thorns," &c.
Formerly a marble canopy, supported by pillars, extended over the whole choir; but this was removed some years ago, and sold in detached portions. The canopy, and the marble enclosure, which alone remains, were constructed by Baccio Bandinelli, assisted by eighty-eight of his pupils. Baccio was a pupil of Rustici, who made the group over the northern gates of the Baptistery, and, like his master, was opposed to Michael Angelo, with whom he had the vanity and presumption to compete. Disappointed at the preference shown to the work of this great artist beyond his own, he vented his jealousy and spite by acts of excessive meanness; and, among other deeds recorded of him, when commissioned by the Grand-Duke Cosimo to renew the canopy in Serravezza marble, he removed the Pietà of Michael Angelo to its present obscure position, from the high altar where it originally stood, and substituted a colossal group of his own, representing the Saviour extended at the feet of the Eternal. Baccio's work has, however, long been taken from the Cathedral, and distributed between the Cloister of Sta. Croce and Sta. Maria Novella. The crucifix over the altar of the choir is by Benedetto da Majano. A medal struck at the time of the Pazzi Conspiracy, in commemoration of Lorenzo's escape, represents the choir with its canopy as it then appeared. The windows of painted glass beneath the cupola are from designs by Lorenzo Ghiberti, with one exception - that over the chapel of San Zenobius, which was designed by Donatello. The beautiful proportions of the choir and apse can only be appreciated on a bright day of spring. Beneath the altar, at the end of the apse, is the silver shrine of San Zenobius, the work of Ghiberti, and in a style resembling that of his most celebrated bronze gates, on which he was occupied at the very time he designed these reliefs - 1440. The subject in the central compartment of the shrine is one of the most famous miracles of St. Zenobius, the restoration of a dead child to life. A French noble lady was on a pilgrimage to Rome, and brought her child with her as far as Florence, where she left him under the charge of the bishop. Her little son fell ill in her absence, and died the day of her expected return. She met the procession bearing his body in the Borgo degli Albizzi, and, falling on her knees before St. Zenobius, she entreated him to pray that her child might be restored to her. He knelt down on the spot, his prayer was granted, and the mother's heart gladdened by having her child again. The legend is given here with simple pathos: the body of the boy lies extended on the ground, whilst the new-born spirit, soon to return to earth, hovers above; the mother and the saint kneel at his head and feet, and the circle of spectators are full of sympathy. The reliefs at either end of the shrine represent other miracles of the saint, and on the back are six angels sustaining a garland, with an inscription in honour of St. Zenobius, who is here said to have abjured paganism in early youth, to have bestowed all his goods to feed the poor, and to have been appointed one of the seven deacons of the Church by Pope Damasius. Above this shrine is a Cenacolo or Last Supper, by Giovanni Balducci, a painter who does not bear a very high reputation, and on either side are distemper pictures, by Pocetti, representing the Apostles sent on their mission and Jesus with the disciples at Emmaus. Pocetti lived in the seventeenth century, and though he executed some very able works, he was in general more remarkable for the number than the excellence of his paintings. Over the shrine is the Shield of the Guild of Wool, the Lamb bearing the banner on a blue ground. The chapels on either side, within the apse, contain good statues. Beginning with the corner next the Sagrestia Vecchia, is St. Luke, by Nanni di Banco, a well-known Florentine artist of the fifteenth century; and St. John the Evangelist, by Donatello; on the opposite side, next the altar, St. Matthew, ascribed by some to Donatello, by others to Pietro Ciuffagni; and lastly St. Mark, by Nicolò Aretino.
The bronze doors of the Sagrestia Nuova are by Luca della Robbia, who, though he learnt the art of casting metal from Ghiberti, differs from him in style and treatment. Within the ten panels of which these doors are composed, are the Madonna and Child, St. John the Baptist, the four Evangelists, and the four Doctors of the Church; each figure is attended by two angels. There is no attempt at landscape or perspective in the background; the figures are natural and easy, but have neither the grace nor elegance of Luca's other works. The flattened arch above the door is a characteristic feature of Brunelleschi's architecture; the chamber itself was also constructed after his design, and is known as La Sagrestia della Messa, because the holy wafer or host is kept here. The inlaid wood-work, intarsiatura, by which the cabinets containing the priests' garments are adorned, is the work of Benedetto da Majano, the artist who made the monument of Giotto in the nave of the Cathedral. The genii holding garlands are attributed to Donatello. There are also two lavatories - one, with a very lovely angel's head and elegant decorations, by Donatello; the other, executed in 1440, and of inferior workmanship, by Buggiano. In the centre of the pavement of the northern transept is a disc on a marble slab, on which the sun's rays fall through an opening in the lantern of the cupola on the 29th of June, the period of the summer solstice. It is at present concealed by a wooden floor for the convenience of the priests, as service is almost daily performed in this transept. This gnomon, the invention of Paolo Toscanelli, a Florentine astronomer, in 1468, is so celebrated that Lalande considered it one of the most important scientific instruments of its kind, owing to the strong light falling on it, from the direction of the ray which passes through the opening above. Toscanelli corresponded with Christopher Columbus, and by his observations indirectly aided him in his discoveries.
The statue within this transept, next the Sagrestia Nuova, is St. Andrew, by Francesco Ferucci, a pupil of Andrea Verocchio: he died about 1529, the year of the famous siege of Florence. The fresco near is by Santi di Tito, the scholar of Bronzino, and represents Pietro Corsini, bishop of Florence, who died in 1405. He belonged to the family of prince Corsini, and received a cardinal's hat in 1369; but he joined in the schism of the Church, which arose after the election of Pope Urban VI., whose severity alienated the whole body of cardinals from him, and caused the election of an anti-pope. Pietro before his death repented his sins against the papacy. Opposite the bishop is another fresco to Luigi Marsili, an accomplished scholar and learned theologian, who died in 1394, and was buried at the expense of the city. The painting is by Bicci di Lorenzo, who painted in the chapels of the southern transept, and it was originally in another part of the Cathedral, from whence it was transferred to this place.
The inscriptions on marble slabs inserted into the walls which surround the choir, and on either side of the two sacristies, record the foundation of the Cathedral, and the translation of the ashes of Zenobius from San Lorenzo to Sta. Reparata. They were afterwards deposited in the shrine at the end of this apse. Another inscription commemorates the council held in the Cathedral by Pope Eugenius IV., in 1429, for the reconciliation of the Greek and Latin Churches. The inscriptions on the opposite side, near the nave, refer to the gnomon in the northern transept and to the visit of pope Pius VIII. In 1815.
The fresco in the cupola represents the Last Judgment, and was the joint work of Giorgio Vasari and Federigo Zucchero. The upper portion, nearest the lantern, is by the former artist, who executed it when quite an old man in 1572, by order of his patron the Grand-Duke Cosimo I. He solemnly attended mass before mounting the scaffolding to commence his perilous undertaking, which he did not live to finish, and the work was immediately cosigned to Federigo Zucchero, the younger of two brothers. Both of these brothers were artists; Federigo is well known in England by his portraits of Queen Elizabeth, of her gigantic porter, and of other worthies of that time. This fresco in Sta. Maria del Fiore was his greatest work, remarkable for the multitude of figures, and their magnitude; and though defective in composition, the sober tone is in keeping with the grey colour of the whole building. It was not finished until 1579, and when exhibited to the public, caused much disappointment. Though Zucchero had deviated considerably from Vasari's design, all its defects were imputed to the deceased artist, and the poet Antonio Francesco Grazzini, better known as Lasca, made the fresco of this cupola the subject of one of his burlesques, in which he declares the Florentines would never rest until it should be effaced by whitewash: -
Giorgin, Giorgin, debb; essere incolpato -The monument over the first door n the northern aisle was supposed to have been raised to a son of the emperor Henry III., who died in Florence; but it was more probably placed to the memory of Aldobrandini Ottobuoni, a virtuous citizen, who, when Anziano or elder of the Republic in 1256, resisted the bribes of an envoy from Pisa, who wished him to demolish a fortress which had been seized by the Florentine Guelphs from the Pisans. The Florentines showed their gratitude by decreeing him a public funeral in Sta. Reparata, and though it was supposed that in 1260 the Ghibellines scattered his ahses to the winds, authentic records are preserved of the transference of his sepulchral urn from Sta. Reparata to Sta. Maria del Fiore.
Giorgin fece il peccato,
Presuntuosamente il primo è stato
La cupola a dipingere;
E il popolo Fiorentino
Non sarà mai di lamentarsi stanco
Se forse un di non se le dà di bianco.47
Almost adjoining this monument is a fresco of the fifteenth century by Domenico di Michelino, who is mentioned in Vasari as a pupil of Fra Angelico. It represents Dante expounding his poem, and was placed here in 1465, when the Signory selected Sta. Maria del Fiore, as well as other churches, for lectures to be delivered on the "Divina Commedia." The design for the likeness of Dante was made for Michelino by Alessio Baldovinetti, who probably had taken his idea from the portraits by Giotto. The poet is dressed in a red cap and tunic, and is crowned with laurel. He holds the "Divina Commedia," which emits rays of light, illuminating the city of Florence. On his left are the condemned, and, in the background, Adam and Eve. Florence is represented with her second circuit of walls, and one of the old gates has the ante-port. The inscription is by Politian, and was added in 1470.
The second lateral door, facing the Via Ricasoli, is generally closed. The wooden urn above was placed there to the memory of Don Pedro di Toledo, viceroy of Naples, and father of the unhappy Eleonora, wife of the Grand-Duke Cosimo I. Don Pedro was supposed to have died from eating too plentifully of snipes, but in reality he was poisoned by order of his son-in-law, for having remonstrated with him on the ill-usage of his daughter. Cosimo honoured his father-in-law with a magnificent funeral and a monument in the Cathedral.
Beyond this is the monument to Arnolfo di Cambio, the work of the modern sculptor Costoli; for it was only in 1848 that the Florentine municipality thus honoured the first architect of their Cathedral. A statue, by Donatello, of the celebrated scholar Poggio Bracciolino, which was executed for the façade of the Cathedral, was transferred by the Grand-Duke Francis I., son of Cosimo I., to its present position in 1569, and has ever since been supposed to represent one of the twelve apostles. Poggio was born towards the end of the fourteenth century at Terra Nuova, near Arezzo, but within the Florentine territory. He was the intimate friend of Leonardo Aretino, and acted as secretary to Pope John XXIII. (Baldassare Cossa) at the Council of Constance in 1414, where he witnessed the martyrdom of John Huss. Poggio afterwards became chancellor of the Florentine Republic and one of the Priors of the arts. His latest literary production was a history of Florence.
The last monument in this aisle is to Antonio Squarcialupo, a celebrated organist and composer, born in 1440. He enjoyed a European reputation, and was employed by Lorenzo de' Medici to build organs for the Baptistery and Cathedral. He also built two organs for old St. Paul's in London, both of which perished in the Great Fire.48 His bust on the monument is by Benedetto da Majano.
Suspended against the opposite column is a picture of St. Zenobius by Andrea Orcagna. The saint is seated with St. Crescenzius and St. Eugenius kneeling at either side. His feet rest on pride and cruelty. Cavalcaselle speaks of this picture in the following terms: - "In spite of partial restoring, the colour is fine, clear, and luminous. The life-size figure of the Florentine saint is imposing and majestic in deportment, of well chosen type, and lined out with severely simple contours. Animation is in his glance. Orcagna's manner is here revealed," &c., &c.
The pavement of the Cathedral is remarkable for the rich effect of the various coloured marbles: it was begun in 1526. The designs are attributed partly to Baccio d' Agnolo and his son Giuliano, and partly to Francesco de San Gallo and Michael Angelo.
A valuable collection of choral books are kept in
the northern transept. The miniatures on the margins are
all later than 1508; several were executed by a painter named
Vanti degli Attavanti; he was followed by a still more
celebrated artist, Monte di Giovanni, who, between the years
1515 and 1527, painted one hundred and eleven miniatures in
the choral books of this Cathedral. A Dominican, Fra
Eustachio, added thirty-one between 1520 and 1525, and Antonio
di Girolamo d' Antonio d' Ugolino, a Florentine, painted eight
more between 1526 and 1530; finally, Giovanni Francesco di
Marietto painted four in 1526.
The finest miniatures are those of Monte di Giovanni, especially one in the book lettered S, where there is a most beautiful and original treatment of the Annunciation, uniting the feeling, grace, and spiritual loveliness of Fra Angelico with the superior drawing of a later century. A long procession of angelic beings move in procession along a beautiful cloister. Some pause to embrace, others follow the archangel Gabriel, who approaches the Virgin, at whose feet are roses and lilies. The cloisters, the white garments of the angels, the brilliant hues of their wings, are all painted with a purity, delicacy, and precision which cannot be surpassed.
This volume also contains two miniatures by Attavanti: one of our Saviour calling Peter and Andrew; the other of a Crucifixion, in both of which there is great variety of expression; the Evangelists and the Angel of the Annunciation, at the corners of the page, are also full of life. The birth of St. John the Baptist, and St. Thomas, receiving the girdle from the Virgin, by Monte di Giovanni, are likewise rendered with the utmost delicacy, and very gracefully composed, whilst lovely little medallions of landscapes and flowers adorn the margins.
In Book C, Monte di Giovanni has painted Judas kissing the Saviour; St. Peter cutting off the ear of Malchus, and Christ bearing his cross. Vasari remarks of the works of Monte di Giovanni, that they were distinguished by a large manner of composition, an artistic arrangement of the drapery, and of the grouping and movement of his figures; and that in place of the usual simple mode of painting used by other illuminators, he laid on his colours with a full brush, and with bold and free touches, in the manner common to artists accustomed to larger compositions; finally, by a picturesque distribution of his chiaroscuro he produced wonderfully harmonious effects in these minute pictures. He was, besides, a correct draughtsman; his draperies had admirable folds, and his heads were full of nature.49
The miniatures of Fra Eustachio, in which he gives the history of Moses, are feeble, though with a certain prettiness. In Book V are the paintings of Giovan Francesco Mariotto; they have great variety of expression: one contains a splendid head, supposed to represent the Eternal, supported by seraphim; the crucified Saviour is in the centre; there is a lovely representation of the Virgin with a vase of lilies at her feet, and in the first letter of the page a fine head in profile.50
Small doors in either aisle, near the transepts, lead by narrow staircases to the cupola. From the interior gallery, below the drum, the huge proportions of Vasari and Zucchero's fresco may be appreciated, as well as the vast height of the building, looking below and above. On this level is the magazine of the Cathedral, a rudely constructed chamber, containing plaster models of figures above life-size, which were intended for the façade in the reign of Ferdinand II., but which were never adopted. Here also is an original piece of sculpture by Giotto, a marble bason resting on a pillar, with the statuette of an angel springing from the centre, a simple but beautiful work. Two casts of bas-reliefs are all that is left of a pulpit which formerly stood in the centre of the Cathedral, and from which the good Bishop Antonino, and Savonarola, addressed the people.
The ascent to the lantern from this part of the
cupola is the most severe, but is well worth the
fatigue. The way leads between Brunelleschi's double
dome, where the enormous chain which encircles the inner shell
of the cupola was once to be seen, though now boxed up.
On reaching the external gallery below the ball, the visitor
finds himself standing in a niche, which communicates beneath
arches with seven other niches, thus completing the octagon of
the lantern, whilst a single bar is between him and the dip of
the cupola. From every side the eye wanders over a
lovely stretch of hill and valley, from Signa to Vallombrosa,
and from Monte Senario on the Bolognese Road, to the various
ranges of mountains towards Rome, whilst below are the
overhanging roofs of rough tiles, and the crowded streets and
piazzas of the city.
Ammanati, Bartolommeo 1511-1592
Antonino, the good bishop 1389-1459
Aretino, Nicolò 1417
Arnolfo di Cambio 1310
Attavanti, Attavante degli 1487
Baccio Bandinelli 1493-1560
Baccio d' Agnolo 1462-1543
Benedetto da Majano 1442-1497
Bicci, Lorenzo de' 1400 (?) - 1460
Castagno Andrea 1396-1457
Columbus, Christopher 1441-1506
Cosimo I., Grand-Duke, reigned 1519-1574
Corsini, Piero, Bishop 1309
Cupola of Cathedral painted 1579
Dante Alighieri 1265-1302
Eugenius IV., Pope, came to Florence 1439
Farnese, Piero, died 1363
Ferdinand II., Grand-Duke, reigned 1621-1670
Ferdinand III., Grand-Duke, reigned 1791-1824
Ferucci, Andrea 1465-1526
Ferucci, Francesco 1580
Ficino Marsili 1439-1499
Gaddi, Agnolo 1333-1396
Gaddi Gaddo 1259-1332
Ghiberti, Lorenzo 1378-1455
Hawkwood, Sir John 1394
Henry III., Emperor, reigned 1039-1056
Henry VII., Emperor, reigned 1308-1314
Lalande, astronomer 1732-1807
Manetti, Gianozzo 1396-1459
Marsili Luigi 1394
Michelino, Domenico, died 1470
Nanni di Banco died 1421
Nicolò Tolentino died 1434 (?)
Orcagna, Paolo, living 1376
Paul III., Pope, died 1540
Pazzi Conspiracy 1473
Pedro, Don, di Toledo, died 1553
Picinnino died 1440
Pius VII., Pope, came to Florence 1815
Poggio Bracciolino 1380-1434
Politian died 1494
Robbia, Luca della, died 1482
San Gallo, Francesco di 1404-1576
Squarcialupo, Antonio, died 1430
Toscanelli, Paolo, died 1479
Uccello, Paolo 1397-1475
Vasari, Giorgio 1511-1576
Verocchio, Andrea 1435-1488
Visconti, Filippo Maria, Duke of Milan, reigned 1423-1441
Zucchero Federigo 1543-1609
43 This portrait
was originally executed in fresco, but has since been
transferred to canvas, in which operation it sustained much
damage. See Crowe and Cavalcaselle, vol. ii. p. 291.
44 See Crowe and Cavalcaselle.
45 Henry died near Sienna, and his body was carried to Pisa, where this same Tino di Camaino was commissioned to make his monument.
46 See the observations of Mr. John Bell, a brother of the celebrated anatomist, Sir Charles Bell. Mr. Bell was, during his short life, hardly less remarkable for genius than his brother. "Observations on Italy," by the late John Bell. 1825.
Georgin, Georgin, you ought to be accused -48 See "Marietta de' Ricci," note by Luigi Passerini, vol. iii. p. 964; and "Tuscan Sculptors," by C. Perkins, vol. iii. p 211.
Giorgin committed the sin,
Presumptuously he was the first
To paint the cupola;
And the Florentine people
Will never cease to mourn
Until perhaps some day it may be covered with whitewash.
Chapter V: Institutions of the Misericordia and the Bigallo
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