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:
Here is an image of what Donatello’s lost sculpture might have looked like:
You just never know who or what you will bump into in this fascinating city of Florence.