Villa Demidoff and Giambologna’s Il Gigante

As I sit in Denver on a very cold February morning, my mind wanders back to Tuscany and warm weather.  I’m almost always behind in my posts and so I take this moment to post about Villa Demidoff.

In 1568, Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, purchased a great estate in the hills outside of Florence and commissioned the famous architect, Buontalenti, to build a splendid villa as a residence for Bianca Cappello.  Bianca was the Grand Duke’s Venetian mistress.  The villa was built between 1569 and 1581, set inside a forest of fir trees.

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While very little of Buontalenti’s villa survives, at least we still have this fabulous and very large statue of Il Gigante, set facing a pond filled with water lilies.

The lilies are absolutely gorgeous in late August. I had never seen anything as magnificent as the first time I saw this lake of waterlilies in bloom!  And, the statue ain’t bad either.

 

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OK, ripping my eyes away from the pink flowers, I walked around towards the back of the statue:

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Giambologna was the creator of this amazing sculpture:

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Il Gigante, also known as “the Colossus of the Apennines,” is an astounding work of art. Giambologna designed the lower part as a hexagon-shaped cave from which one can access, through a ladder, to the compartment in the upper part of the body and into the head. The cavity is filled with light that enters from the eye holes in the head.

The exterior of the statue is covered with sponges and limestone pieces, over which water pours into the pool below.

We know that originally, behind the statue, there was the large labyrinth made from laurel bushes. At the front of the giant was a large lawn, adorned with 26 ancient sculptures at the sides.

Later, many of the antique statues were transferred to the Boboli Gardens, and the park became a hunting reserve. As a part of the Pratolino estate, it was abandoned until 1819, when the Grand Duke Ferdinando III of Lorena changed the splendid Italian garden in the English garden, by the Bohemian engineer Joseph Fritsch. The part was increased from 20 to 78 hectares.

 

The park, which had been owned by Leopoldo II since 1837, was sold upon his death to Paul Demidoff, who redeveloped the property. Demidoff’s last descendant bequeathed the property to Florence’s provincial authorities.

And I feel better already.  I can feel my cold, clenched muscles relax under the spell of the Tuscan sunshine. Soon I will be there again.

Sforzesco Castle, Milan

Wow. Just wow.  I don’t know why I never paid a visit to this astounding place before now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, last, but certainly not least, you don’t see a lot of elephants in Italian art, but here is a big exception to the rule.

 

The Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan

Yikes! Nothing like being met by an army! The outstanding collection of armor below is just one of the many parts of the Poldi Pezzoli Museum that will amaze you in Milan.

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The Poldi Pezzoli Museum is housed in the original 19th-century mansion built by Milanese aristocrat, Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli (1822-1879).  His parents and grandparents had already begun the family’s art collection and he built his palazzo in this tony section of Milan to house the collection it as he continued to enlarge it.  When he died, he left his collection and house to the Brera Academy. The Poldi Pezzoli Museum was opened to the public in 1881 on the occasion of the National Exposition in Milan and has since become an archetype for other famous collectors.

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The Poldi Pezzoli is one of the most important and famous house-museums in the world. Located near the landmark Teatro La Scala and the world-renowned fashion district, this house-museum is beloved by the Milanese and international public.

The Poldi Pezzoli is a member of the Circuit of Historic House Museums of Milan, a city network established in 2008 with the aim of promoting the Milanese cultural and artistic heritage.

During World War II, the museum was severely damaged and many paintings were completely destroyed. The palazzo itself was rebuilt and in 1951 it was reopened to the public.

Not all of the house was restored as it appeared during Poldi Pezzoli’s life, but it was instead fitted out as a museum. The grand entryway, with its fountain filled with koi and its spiral staircase are original, as are at least 2 of the piano nobile galleries.  You’ll recognize them right away in the pictures below.

The outstanding collection includes objects from the medieval period to the 19th century, with the famous armor, Old Master paintings, sculptures, carpets, lace and embroidery, jewels, porcelain, glass, furniture, sundials and clocks: over 5000 extraordinary pieces.

Let’s begin at the entry way.  What a greeting!

 

 

 

Below: the view of the fountain from atop the staircase:

 

 

I was a bit obsessed by the fountain; can you tell?

 

 

Allora, moving on:

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Angels in the architecture:

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Dragons on the pottery:

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I love the way they display the ceramics: why not affix objets to the ceiling?  It is a wasted flat space otherwise.  Genius.

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Moving on to the important objets: Piero del Pollaiuolo magnificent Portrait of a Young Lady.

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Botticelli’s The Dead Christ Mourned:

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Bellini:

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Ah, the glass.  It gets me every time:

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The panel below made me laugh.  I love how the sculptor included the slippers at the side of the bed! In this dastardly scene of homicide, don’t forget the slippers!

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Since 2019 marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, the world is paying homage to the great artist with myriad exhibitions.  The Poldi Pezzoli joins them with a major painting, on loan from the Russian Hermitage Museum, just for the occasion. Leonardo painted this work during his time living in Milan.

 

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Pietro Tacca’s fountains in Piazza della Santa Annunziata, Florence

Here’s an eerie image taken in Florence on a stormy day.

I love this sculpture and its matching partner created by Pietro Tacca (1577-1640) and now installed in this major piazza in the center of Florence.

Tacca was born in Carrara; he joined Giambologna’s Florentine atelier in 1592. Tacca took over the workshop of his master upon the elder sculptor’s death in 1608. He finished a number of Giambologna’s incomplete projects and succeeded him almost immediately as the court sculptor to the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany.

These bronze fountains were originally destined for Livorno. Fortunately for Florence, they were installed here instead.  Created in the Mannerist style, Tacca was inspired by Flemish goldsmith’s work, from which he borrowed the grotesque masks and shellwork textures.

 

 

 

 

 

In the center of this grand piazza stands this equestrian statue:

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It is Giambologna’s equestrian bronze of Ferdinando I de’ Medici (Grand Duke of Tuscany), which was completed by his student and assistant, Tacca.

Tacca also contributed the bas-relief panels on the base for Giambologna’s equestrian statue of Cosimo de’ Medici in the Piazza della Signoria.

Villa Pisani: Cruising the Brenta Canal from Padua to Venice, part 2

I recently posted about this day-long cruise here (here, here and here) and now I pick up where I left off. Our first stop on the cruise after leaving Padua was in Stra at Villa Pisani.  This incredible villa is now a state museum and very much work a visit.  It was built by a very popular Venetian Doge.

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The facade of the Villa is decorated with enormous statues and the interior was painted by some of the greatest artists of the 18th century.

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Villa Pisani at Stra refers is a monumental, late-Baroque rural palace located along the Brenta Canal (Riviera del Brenta) at Via Doge Pisani 7 near the town of Stra, on the mainland of the Veneto, northern Italy. This villa is one of the largest examples of Villa Veneta located in the Riviera del Brenta, the canal linking Venice to Padua. It is to be noted that the patrician Pisani family of Venice commissioned a number of villas, also known as Villa Pisani across the Venetian mainland. The villa and gardens now operate as a national museum, and the site sponsors art exhibitions.

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Construction of this palace began in the early 18th century for Alvise Pisani, the most prominent member of the Pisani family, who was appointed doge in 1735.

The initial models of the palace by Paduan architect Girolamo Frigimelica still exist, but the design of the main building was ultimately completed by Francesco Maria Preti. When it was completed, the building had 114 rooms, in honor of its owner, the 114th Doge of Venice Alvise Pisani.

In 1807 it was bought by Napoleon from the Pisani Family, now in poverty due to great losses in gambling. In 1814 the building became the property of the House of Habsburg who transformed the villa into a place of vacation for the European aristocracy of that period. In 1934 it was partially restored to host the first meeting of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, after the riots in Austria.

 

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From the outside, the facade of the oversized palace appears to command the site, facing the Brenta River some 30 kilometers from Venice. The villa is of many villas along the canal, which the Venetian noble families and merchants started to build as early as the 15th century. The broad façade is topped with statuary, and presents an exuberantly decorated center entrance with monumental columns shouldered by caryatids. It shelters a large complex with two inner courts and acres of gardens, stables, and a garden maze.

The largest room is the ballroom, where the 18th-century painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo frescoed the two-story ceiling with a massive allegorical depiction of the Apotheosis or Glory of the Pisani family (painted 1760–1762).[2] Tiepolo’s son Gian Domenico Tiepolo, Crostato, Jacopo Guarana, Jacopo Amigoni, P.A. Novelli, and Gaspare Diziani also completed frescoes for various rooms in the villa. Another room of importance in the villa is now known as the “Napoleon Room” (after his occupant), furnished with pieces from the Napoleonic and Habsburg periods and others from when the house was lived by the Pisani.

The most riotously splendid Tiepolo ceiling would influence his later depiction of the Glory of Spain for the throne room of the Royal Palace of Madrid; however, the grandeur and bombastic ambitions of the ceiling echo now contrast with the mainly uninhabited shell of a palace. The remainder of its nearly 100 rooms are now empty. The Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni described the palace in its day as a place of great fun, served meals, dance and shows.

 

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Check out this sunken bathtub below:

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Bear with me: in the next few photos I am trying out all of the fancy settings on my new camera:

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To be continued.