The Florentine church and convent of Carmelite Sta. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi

 

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I’ve walked by the closed doors of this church a hundred times and it is always closed.  I nearly fainted recently when I walked by and found the doors open.  Of course, I had to go inside! My first surprise upon entering was this lovely, green, cloister.

As always, I had happened upon a site with a very storied past.

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Before exploring that past, let’s admire the masterpiece within the church:

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The Cappella Maggiore, above, is, in fact, one of the cornerstones of the Baroque in Florence. It was built between 1677-85 to house the saint’s relics. Rich polychrome marbles, bronzes, gilding, statues, frescoes and painted canvases are all combined into one ensemble; it is typical of the decorative sensibility at the time of the Grand Duchy of Cosimo III de ‘Medici, and it is no coincidence that he promoted it.

The chapel was curated by the Roman Ciro Ferri, a pupil of Pietro da Cortona, and was completed by Pier Francesco Silvani. The dome features a fresco of an illusionistic sky showing the Ascent of Santa Maria Maddalena de ‘Pazzi with all the Florentine saints, by Pier Dandini of 1701.

The central altarpiece is by Ciro Ferri himself (Virgin and Saint Mary Magdalene of the Pazzi, 1684) and the two lateral altarpieces by Luca Giordano (Jesus and Saint Mary Magdalene of the Mad and the Virgin presents the Child to Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi, 1685).

The four allegorical Carrara marble sculptures in the niches near the corners are to the left of Antonio Montauti (Innocenza, 1723, and Religion, 1738, finished by Gaetano Masoni) and to the right of Innocenzo Spinazzi (Faith and Penance, 1781). The marble putti of the lower band are by Carlo Marcellini and the bronze oval bas-reliefs with stories of the saint by Massimiliano Soldani Benzi.

 

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The church and former convent of Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi is located in Borgo Pinti in central Florence.

The Pazzi name was added after the Carmelite order nun Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, canonized in 1669, whose family patronized the church.

The original convent had been dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen delle Convertite, the patron of once-fallen, now converted women.

The Cistercian order from Badia a Settimo took control of the site in 1332 and moved to it in 1442, while the convent was transferred to San Donato in Polverosa. However, the church and chapter house were rebuilt between 1481 and 1500, with initial designs in 1492 by Giuliano da Sangallo.

The highlighted sentences in the next paragraph tell a sad tale:

The 13th-century interiors were redecorated in the 17th and early 18th centuries, which removed the altarpieces by masters such as Botticelli, Perugino, Lorenzo di Credi, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Raffaellino del Garbo. They were replaced by new ones from minor masters such as Carlo Portelli, Alfonso Boschi, Domenico Puligo, Santi di Tito, and Francesco Curradi. In the chapter house is a fresco divided into three lunettes of the Crucifixion and Saints (1493–96) by Pietro Perugino, commissioned by Dionisio and Giovanna Pucci.

Ah, the vicissitudes of changing taste. Out went the masterpieces.  In come the trendy.

The first chapel to the right of the entrance is the Cappella del Giglio (Chapel of St. Mary of the Lily) frescoed with depictions of Saints Filippo Neri, Bernard, Nereo, and Achilleo by the studio of Bernardino Poccetti, with an altarpiece by Domenico Passignano.

The fourth chapel on the right has a stained glass window by Isabella, the daughter of Georges Henri Rouault.

The choir chapel originally contained a fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio but was rebuilt from 1685 to 1701 by Ciro Ferri and Pier Francesco Silvani. Ferri painted the altarpiece and Luca Giordano the flanking pieces. The statues of Penitence and Faith on the right were sculpted by Innocenzo Spinazzi, while Innocence and Religion on the left by Giovanni Monatauti. The bronze reliefs on the altar were made by Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi.

The interior also contains works by Giovanni and Cosimo Bizzelli, Jacopo Chiavistelli, Ottavio Vannini, Cosimo Rosselli, Cosimo Gamberucci, Leonardo del Tasso, Giuseppe Servolini, and Giuseppe Piattoli.

I read the Italian Wikipedia article on this church and discovered that some of the art works originally found here were confiscated by Napoleon and taken to France.  Some works remain there.

 

The simple cortile has some interesting funerary monuments:

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Neoclassical sculptures of this type are rarely signed by the artist.  I found this interesting signature carved onto the left of the funerary bier.

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Uffizi, part 3

A stroll through the almost empty galleries in late June 2020 afforded me a slow and enjoyable experience with some fabulous artworks in Florence.  Here’s what else (along with Michelangelo and Leonardo) caught my eye.

 

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Looking left:

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Looking right:

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Looking center.  I want this space to be my permanent home:

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I’m a fan of Ghirlandaio:

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Another Ghirlandaio:

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I cut my teeth as an art historian in the study of classical art, as seen through Neo-Classical eyes, like Canova and Thorvaldsen.  I’m always a sucker for these appealing classical sculptures:

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Hey, is that a Bronzino I see way up there? I think it’s a copy of the real thing, which is hanging in a gallery.

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Oh, Giotto.  I’ve missed you so.

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And Rosso Fiorentino, how lovely you are still:

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Pontormo had his own distinct ideas about how (everything) the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden must have appeared:

 

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Still more to come.

Uffizi, the Leonardo da Vinci gallery

My recent first trip back to the Uffizi allowed me to enjoy the famed museum without the usual crowds.  This is my idea of heaven.  Just look:

 

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Come with me into the new Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrochio gallery. Look at the blissful moment capture below, during which I had the gallery almost to myself.

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Andrea del Verrochio’s painting of the Baptism of Christ.  Verrochio’s student, Leonardo da Vinci, assisted in painting. Most notably, the far left angel.

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Leonardo’s Annunciation in a virtually empty gallery. My idea of heaven.

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More to come from my June 25, 2020 visit.

Back to the Uffizi! Part 1, June 2020

What a joy to return to this wonderful museum.  Despite the fact that Americans still can’t travel to Italy because of the Covid 19, I was surprised by the line outside the Uffizi.  Once inside, however, the crowds thinned out after the first few galleries.

I had the new Michelangelo and Raphael gallery virtually to myself.  Speaking of joy.  It was so meaningful to me to be able to get up close and personal again with these amazing works of art.

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Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo:

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The Uffizi says of this painting:
This painting dates to when Michelangelo returned to Florence after his first stay in Rome, the same period when the great artist sculpted the famous David.

The work (c. 1506-1508) is the only painting by Michelangelo in Florence and is one of the masterpieces of the 16th century Italian art.

During the Renaissance, the “tondo” was a typical work for private clients. This tondo was commissioned by the wealthy banker Agnolo Doni, probably at the time of his marriage to Maddalena, member of the very important Strozzi family.

The figures of Mary, Joseph and the Child, are grouped in a single volume in which the rotation of the Madonna gives the composition a spiral movement that will later be used by many artists. In the background a group of young nudes brings to mind a classic theme, symbolizing the pagan humanity still ignorant of Christian doctrine. It is also interesting to notice the beautiful carved wooden frame, designed by Michelangelo himself.

From the artistic point of view, the Tondo Doni laid the foundations of the so-called Mannerism, the style of painting that preferred bizarre, unnatural poses and iridescent colors to the composed painting of the XV century.

The Tondo Doni is therefore a very important work of art because it is one of the few examples of Michelangelo’s painting, together with the magnificent frescoes in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

 

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Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch:

 

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Raphael’s portrait of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, 1503-06:

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Raphael: Portrait of Elisabetta Gonzaga, 1503-06.

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Raphael: Portraits of Agnolo Doni and Maddalena Strozzi, 1504-06/

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The Uffizi has hung the Doni portraits in a manner allowing us to see the very interesting backs of the paintings:

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Today (June 25, 2020) was a great day in Florence!

 

 

On the Michelangelo trail in Rome

I’m in Rome!  Woo hoo!  All roads lead here and I couldn’t wait to follow one of them and to enjoy the city without the usual summer hordes of tourists.

I spent the lockdown refreshing my study of Michelangelo and I’m on his trail here in Rome.  I started my visit today by admiring the beautiful Porta Pia.

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The elaborate Porta Pia is a gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome, designed by Michelangelo for Pope Pius IV.  Construction began in 1561 and ended in 1565, after the artist’s death. A 1561 bronze commemorative medal by Gianfederico Bonzagna shows an early plan by Michelangelo, very different from his final design. 

 

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A new gate was needed because by the mid 16th century,  the newly developing urban area outside the walls couldn’t gain access through the nearby ancient Porta Nomentana from the Via Nomentana. It was decided to add a new gate to the walls, and, according to Vasari, Michelangelo presented three different designs to the Pope, which were beautiful but too extravagant, and the Pope chose the least expensive of the three. Unfortunately, the drawings are not extant and it is not known if  the work was actually carried out to Michelangelo’s original plan.

The gate was, however, Michelangelo’s last architectural work.  He died shortly before the structure was completed. The work was carried out by Giacomo Del Duca, who also built Porta San Giovanni, seen below.

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The Porta Pia is one of the 18 gates inserted in the defensive Aurelian Walls.

 

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Interestingly, the opposite side of the Porta Pia is also quite interesting. It was constructed in 1869 in the Neo-Classic design by Virginio Vespignani.

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The Aurelian wall was breached during the Risorgimento.  This fabulous vintage photograph, dating to after 1870, shows the breach to the right of the gate.

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It was through an artillery-opened breach – known as the “Porta Pia breach” – that on September 20, 1870 Bersaglieri soldiers entered Rome to complete the unification of Italy. A marble and bronze monument is to be found at the exact point of the breach.

This painting by Carlo Ademollo, 1880, shows the Kingdom of Italy troops breaching the Aurelian Walls at Porta Pia during the Capture of Rome.

Here also, on September 11, 1926, the antifascist activist Gino Lucetti threw a bomb against the car transporting Benito Mussolini.  It was without effect.