Walking through Florence’s historical center, I spied…

This sign in marble. The sign of a gone but not forgotten Florentine business.

This evocative old surviving street sign for this long lost business in the heart of Florence, announces “Antica Cascina di Dario Peruzzi.”. Translated it advertises this “old farmhouse,” which served (or sold for takeaway) milk, cream and butter and “a bar room” of coffee and milk.  I wish I could time travel in for a moment or two to see what like was like inside this lost business.  Dario Peruzzi, whoever you were, I remember you.

19th century Florence

Here are wonderful images of how Florence looked as late as 1870s:

 

 

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The façade was then left bare until the 19th century.
In 1864, a competition held to design a new façade was won by Emilio De Fabris (1808–1883) in 1871. Work began in 1876 and was completed in 1887. This neo-gothic façade in white, green and red marble forms a harmonious entity with the cathedral, Giotto’s bell tower and the Baptistery, but some think it is excessively decorated. The whole façade is dedicated to the Mother of Christ.

 

 

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This is an oil painting of La Porta di San Gallo by Odoardo Borrani, c. 1880.  I admire it for its flavour and for showing us how the medieval walls around Florence still looked.   

The city walls surrounding Florence were widened and rebuilt many times over the millennia .

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  1. In the 2nd century A.D. Florence had 10,000 inhabitants and was surrounded by a 1st wall

2. After the fall of the Western Roman empire, the city suffered deeply and in the 6th century it had only 1000 inhabitants: a 2nd city wall was built, protecting a smaller area than the earlier Roman one.

3. Florence flourished again, and, at the beginning of 10th century the city was surrounded by a wider 3rd wall, which for the first time extended itself to the river Arno.

4. The building of the 4th wall was begun in 1078: Florence was a 20,000 inhabitants city and the Duke of Tuscany had moved his capital from Lucca to Florence. The new city walls surrounded also Piazza del Duomo, but the quarters of Oltrarno remained still unprotected.

5. In the years 1173-1175, the city built a 5th city wall: for the first time a defence wall was built also in Oltrarno, due to the increasing importance of the dwellings around the churches of San Felice, San Jacopo in Soprarno and Santa Felicita. Three city gates were built in Oltrarno (near today’s Piazza San Felice, Costa de’ Magnoli and Piazza Frescobaldi), but a real stone wall was not built: the protection consisted of palisades connecting the gates and houses whose outer façades were built without windows in order to offer more protection.

6.  A 6th wall was planned by at least 1284 (possibly under direction of Arnolfo di Cambio). These walls enclosed a very wide area and protected the whole city with all its newer and outer dwellings. The gates were 35 meters tall, and were decorated with religious frescoes (the Madonna and Saints); originally, on the square in front of each gate was also a statue of a famous Florentine writer or poet. The building of the walls was completed in 1333 – and finally the quarters of Oltrarno received a complete protection.
In 16th century, the city prepared to face the army of the German emporer, Charles V, and in 1530 new fortifications were added around San Miniato al Monte. After that, Grand-duke Ferdinando I commissioned Bernardo Buontalenti to build a fortress; it was completed in the years 1590-1595 near the gate of San Giorgio and was named Fortress of Santa Maria, but became rapidly known as Fortezza Belvedere.

Between 1865 and 1871 Florence was provisory Capital of Italy: the city walls were demolished in order to build the new ring road. Only the walls in Oltrarno survived, with all their towers.

In 1998 a part of the wall between the gate of Porta Romana and Piazza Tasso has been restored and opened to visitors.

Facciata del Duomo in costruzione, 1871 circa.

Ognissanti, Firenze

The moon shone brightly last night (which was Thanksgiving night, in the United States) over the Renaissance city.

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Earlier today I posted about a concert I once heard at the Franciscan church called Ognissanti.  As luck would have it, I had the chance to spend some time last night admiring the interior of the church when it was beautifully lit up in the early evening.

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Ognissanti has a harmonious Baroque facade, as seen from the piazza that separates it from the Arno river. The chiesa was originally built in the 1250s by the Umiliati, but it later became a Franciscan church.  It was renovated c. 1627 in the Baroque style, by architect Bartolomeo Pettirossi.

Here’s how it looks in the daytime:

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In 1637 the church was given this façade, based up designs by Matteo Nigetti. Fortunately, the glazed terracotta lunette depicting the Coronation of the Virgin and placed over the central doorway was conserved. While the lunette resembles the work of Luca Della Robbia, it is now attributed to Benedetto Buglioni. Buglioni was almost the only artist working in the glazed terra-cotta style made famous by the Della Robbia workshop after that enterprise ended.

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Ognissanti was among the first examples of Baroque architecture to penetrate this Renaissance city. Its two orders of pilasters enclose niches and windows with elaborate cornices. The campanile, of  late 13th and early 14th-century construction, sits back from the front of the church, on the east side.

The church’s interior is equally grand and richly ornamented.  It received the same Baroque style remodeling as the exterior in the early 17th-century, when the apse was rebuilt with a pietre dure high altar and, later, in 1770, the incredible sotto in su perspective painting was added to the vaulted nave ceiling.

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To start with the perhaps the most important aspect of this venerated church, we turn to Giotto’s celebrated Madonna and Child with Angels (c. 1310), which was painted for the high altar of this church.

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This outstanding painting by Giotto was completed in Florence. Today, if you wish to see the masterpiece, you will find it in the collection of the Uffizi.  Giotto’s capolavoro is not only one of the finest works in the Uffizi, but it shows the exact moment when painting in Italy turned from Gothic to a proto-Renaissance style.

Cimabue_-_Maestà_di_Santa_Trinita_-_Google_Art_Project  In the Uffizi galleries, Cimabue’s celebrated altarpiece (above), which was created for the same type of setting and dealing with the same subject matter as Giotto’s altarpiece, one can witness the changes in artistic approach.

But, although the Ognissanti is missing its famous and beautiful altarpiece, it is fortunate to have another work now attributed by Italian scholars to Giotto: the large crucifixion. Giotto painted this large-scale (15 feet tall) cross c. 1315 for the Umilati friars who then held this church.

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The Crucifixion is displayed under the Medici coat of arms in the left transept of the church.

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Only recently was this Crucifixion recognized as a work by Giotto. For decades it sat, unappreciated, in the storerooms of Ognissanti. There was a rumor that it was by Giotto, but no one was certain.  But then, it was restored!

The restoration of Giotto’s Ognissanti Crucifix was started by Paola Bracco in 2002. The majestic tempera on panel, now believed to have been painted by Giotto and his workshop around 1310-1320, had been sadly neglected for centuries. Kept in the sacristy of the church of Ognissanti, it was rarely seen and the vigorous modelling of the flesh tones of the figures, and the many precious details of the pictorial surface, were hidden by layers of varnish from previous “restorations” and centuries-old grime.

Fortunately, this monumental work is now back in the Florentine church, after a careful 8-year restoration.

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In the Crucifix (painted in egg tempera), Christ is represented as Christus patiens, suffering, about to expire. The tension in the muscles of the arms is treated with delicacy, and the ashen flesh colors are very impressive. The body hangs on a very decorative Cross, an overflowing mosaic of starred crosses, squares and ellipses. The ‘beams’ of the Cross are painted in bright, but deep and intense blue, the precious lapis lazuli inlaid with greater or lesser amounts of lead white, as in the sloping pedestal to which Christ’s feet are pinned (by a single nail). The blue is crossed by thin red lines, cinnabar blood with more purplish glazes. On the forehead are a few drops of “pure red lacquer,” the color of blood, which springs from Christ’s flesh in response to the crown of thorns.

Here are some other fascinating artifacts from Ognissanti:

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Last night I discovered that Sandro Botticelli is buried within the church, near his beloved Simonetta Vespucci.

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Botticelli who is buried in the church near his beloved, Simonetta Vespucci.

Amerigo Vespucci is also interred here:

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Here’s an unusual funerary monument found within the church.  I am not certain whose head this portrays…

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And I end this long post with a photo of a significant Neoclassical funerary monument, found within the center of this important church.

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The 4 Seasons sculptures on Ponte Santa Trinita, Firenze, will get a cleaning

The iconic statues of the 4 seasons on the Ponte Santa Trinita are going to get cleaned up soon.  Florence has announced (http://www.theflorentine.net/news/2018/07/ponte-santa-trinita-statues-cleaning/) that the sculptures need some TLC.

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Interestingly, these 4 statues (only 2 of the 4 are in my pictures above) were sculpted to celebrate the marriage between Cosimo II de’ Medici and Maria Maddalena of Austria in 1608.

Even more interestingly, they were originally intended to be placed in niches or against a wall in the giardino of Villa Corsini al Prato in Florence.  They were not designed to be seen in the round, but in the round they have always been on the bridge.

The following artists were commissioned to create: Primavera by Pietro Francavilla; L’estate e L’autunno by Giovanni Caccini; and L’inverno by Taddeo Landini.

On the night between 3 and 4 of August 1944, the bridge was destroyed by retreating German troops on the advance of the British 8th Army. A Bailey bridge was built for temporary use by the Royal engineers.

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The Renaissance replica bridge was constructed in 1958 with original stones raised from the Arno or taken from the same quarry, under the direction of architect Riccardo Gizdulich and engineer Emilio Brizzi.

Miraculously, the statues were more or less intact and returned to the replacement bridge upon its completion.  Only the head of Primavera was missing. The missing head  was recovered from the bed of the Arno in October 1961 and added to the sculpture we see today.

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The cleaning, which will involve the Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici, will include ridding the statues of the layers of soot that has settled on them over the years and treating the works with a waterproof layer to protect them from further damage by atmospheric agents.

 

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