Addio Wanda Ferragamo, widow of Salvatore Ferragamo


The family of Wanda Miletti Ferragamo, widow of Salvatore Ferragamo (1898–1960), has announced that she passed away on October 19, 2018 in at her home in Florence at age 96.

The Ferragamo family matriarch — at work in her office in Palazzo Feroni Spini up until several weeks ago — was born in 1921 and would have reached the even more venerable age of 97 on December 18.

“I look at everything, check everything and it only takes me five minutes to understand when something is not working,” she said recently.

Daughter of the town doctor in Bonito, province of Avellino, she met Ferragamo when he was visiting her home town, and they quickly became engaged. Her husband, the shoemaker of the stars of Hollywood, decided to set up his business in Florence when he returned from America, as he admired the talent of the local craftsmen.

Widowed at age 39 with six children, Wanda Miletti Ferragamo became the executive director of her late husband’s company despite the fact that she had not been involved in the business before his death.

Thanks to her foresight, Ferragamo became an international brand with 4,000 employees and 630 sales outlets across the globe. One by one, her children became active in the firm: Fiamma (who died in 1998), Giovanna, Ferruccio, Fulvia (who also passed in 2018), Leonardo and Massimo. Over the years Ferragamo SPA expanded to become a fashion house in addition to designing and producing its iconic shoes.

She was also a patron of the British Institute of Florence.

She told a journalist recently that she had written a letter to her grandchildren with following advice: “Don’t conform to whatever is bad in this world but rather try to transform it by bettering your way of thinking and behavior in order to be in harmony with the goodness of God.”

Addio Signora Ferragamo.

The statue of Dovizia, Firenze

I love to let my mind wander into the distant past, trying to picture the way things might have been.

Last week I was invited to visit a show in the beautiful exhibition space of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze on via Bufalini.  There I bumped into a heroically-sized statue of a somewhat recognisable woman.  “Hey, I know you!” I thought to myself.


She certainly looked familiar.  I wondered if she was related to one of the four allegorical statues of the seasons occupying the corners of the Ponte Santa Trinita. (Those four statues were done by Pietro Francavilla [Spring], Taddeo Landini [Winter] and Giovanni Caccini [Summer and Autumn] and placed on the bridge in 1608.)

Fortunately, a label attached to the statue revealed the figure and the sculptor: La Dovizia (Abundance) by Giovan Battista Foggini:


Ah ha! I now knew exactly what I was looking at!  My mind zinged back into two places almost simultaneously, first to the camp and later the Forum of Roman Florence. and then to the Renaissance placement of a statue of Abundance by Donatello.

Both of these past moments happened in the space now occupied by the Piazza della Repubblica in Florence. The giant woman I encountered last week on the Via Bufalini was the statue of Abundance that replaced Donatello’s (now lost) figure on the same column, a replacement which occurred in 1721 (according to the label).


The column, still topped by a statue, sits at the exact point where the two Roman roads intersected in ancient Florence, the cardo (now via Roma and via Calimala) and decumanus (now via degli Strozzi, via degli Speziali, and via del Corso).





Now I needed to find out more about Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Foggini, to satisfy my curiosity.  He was an artist in Florence (1652 – 1725) who became, in 1676, the court sculptor for Cosimo III. He went on to become the Medici’s Architetto Primario e Primo scultore della Casa Serenissima as well as Soprintendente dei Lavori (1687–1725).

Foggini is best known today as the creator of many small bronze statuary figures and groups. In 1687, Foggini acquired the foundry in Borgo Pinti that had once belonged to the sculptor Giambologna. This allowed him to specialise in small bronzes, produced mainly and profitably for export. His adaptation of Pietro Tacca’s Moors was, for example, the basis of the bronze and ceramic reproductions for the connoisseur market well into the 18th century.





One of my grad school professors published an article on the Donatello Abundance (“Donatello’s Lost Dovizia for the Mercato Vecchio: Wealth and Charity as Florentine Civic Virtues by David G. Wilkins).  Here are couple of excerpts from that scholarly publication:

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Here is an image of what Donatello’s lost sculpture might have looked like:   Screenshot 2018-10-15 at 11.08.14

You just never know who or what you will bump into in this fascinating city of Florence.