Lorenzo de’ Medici’s sculpture garden

Lorenzo de' Medici and His Artists in the Sculpture Garden

 

Ottavio Vannini – Michelangelo Showing Lorenzo il Magnifico the Head of a Faun, surrounded by the other sculpture students

 

 

Young Michelangelo Carving a Faun's Head

 

Young Michelangelo Carving a Faun’s head by Emilio Zocchi

 

The Piazza San Marco on the former Via Larga, which is now Via Camillo Cavour, was where Lorenzo de’ Medici’s Sculpture Garden was situated in Florence. In the map below, you can get a sense of where the garden was in relationship to Piazza San Marco. The sculpture garden would have been where the words “Army Facility” show below.

 

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The Google map showing a satellite view, gives an even better sense of this former garden area.  Think away the Army building to the south end of the space, where Via Cavour and Via degli Arazzieri intersect, and you can see that there is still garden area in the site of the former Medici garden.

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Created with the hopes of becoming a great educational institution for studying art, Lorenzo de’ Medici curated a garden full of antique sculptures for artists to come and sketch as part of their artistic practice. Lorenzo also added sleeping and dining quarters so that students could easily live among the work they were studying. Francesco Granacci and Bertoldo di Giovanni are two of the many people to enter through its doors.

The most famous story of Michelangelo’s time in the Garden surrounds Michelangelo’s Faun statue. When Lorenzo saw this statue, he jokingly told Michelangelo that he looked too perfect to be an old faun. Michelangelo than took his drill and knocked out one of the teeth in the mouth of the Faun.

He showed his subtraction to Lorenzo who gained much amusement and pleasure from Michelangelo’s ability to listen and act on his critique.  Although the Faun statue has not been found, the two works of Michelangelo’s attributed to this time period are the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs. 

 

San Marco, Firenze

The monastery of San Marco, which stood just two blocks north of the Palazzo Medici, had been founded in the thirteenth century. However, it had been completely renovated and considerably expanded by Lorenzo the Magnificent’s grandfather, Cosimo de’ Medici in the 1450s.

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Cosimo had used his favourite architect Michelozzo Michelozzi, and incorporated the work of the resident monk Fra Angelico, one of the great early Renaissance artists.

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Michelozzi would be responsible for some of the finest early Renaissance architecture in Florence, including the renovation of the Palazzo della Signoria and the design of the Medici villa at Careggi.

For his part, Fra Angelico’s ethereal paintings would heavily influence Michelangelo, whose depiction of God’s finger passing on life to Adam in the Sistine Chapel was directly inspired by the artist-monk.

The work of Fra Angelico and Michelozzi came together at San Marco in the delightful shaded San Antonio cloister, whose delicate pillars and colourful frescoes enclosed a tranquil green garden in the midst of the monastery.

Cosimo de’ Medici had undertaken the renovation of San Marco late in his life, intending it as absolution for the sin of usury, which had enabled him to accumulate his fortune as a banker. Yet there had also been a less manifest reason for Cosimo’s benevolence, one that explained why in particular he chose to lavish his wealth on San Marco, rather than other similarly prestigious monasteries in the city.

Before the 1433 coup which had removed Cosimo from power in Florence, almost costing him his life, he had managed in the nick of time to transfer secretly to San Marco a large quantity of the funds held in the Medici bank in Florence.

After Cosimo’s banishment into exile, his enemies had raided all Medici premises, as well as those of known supporters, but had been unable to discover the whereabouts of these funds, which had been held on trust, without a word, by the monks at San Marco.

In consequence, Cosimo had spared no expense on the rebuilding of San Marco, which eventually cost 30,000 florins – an unprecedented sum at the time.

The monastery had been furnished with a library, together with many hundreds of religious manuscripts, intended for public use – the first lending library in Europe.

Instead of the usual communal dormitory, each monk was assigned his own cell, many of which contained frescoes painted by Fra Angelico and his assistants. These were mainly portrayals of angels and biblical scenes.

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A special double cell, sumptuously frescoed, had been created for Cosimo’s personal use, to which he would often retire for periods of contemplation.

However, he had taken a more active role in the creation of the gardens across the street from San Marco: as a man who delighted in retiring to the countryside, he had done his best to create a pastoral space here within the walls of the city. These gardens would in turn become a favourite spot of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who began decorating the shady spaces with pieces of ancient classical sculpture.

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Strathern, Paul. Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonarola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City, Pegasus. Kindle Edition.

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Un concerto in Fiesole

On a recent beautiful weekend, I had the chance to visit Villa Salviati, a gorgeous locale in the hills outside of Florence.  Singers from a Florentine operatic school performed in the main building’s cortile.  It was so beautiful and here’s a sample.

 

 

 

Villa Salviati

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Villa Salviati is home to the Historical Archives of the European Union, a unique resource for researchers at the EUI and far beyond.

By housing the European Union archives, the long international tradition of this villa is continued. Over the centuries this villa had Italian, French, Swedish and American owners.

The estate has naturally strong ties to Florence as well, as the original owners, the Salviati family, wealthy wool merchants and bankers, were in the 15th century closely connected to the Medici that held great power and influence in the city.

The Salviati family’s fortune grew and they went on to add grottos to the site which still stand today. The grottos are made up of frescoes and elaborate stonework that hark back to an era of affluence.

https://www.eui.eu/ServicesAndAdmin/LogisticsService/EUICampus/VillaSalviati