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.


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.


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.


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.


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


Palma Bucarelli

Palma Bucarelli (1910 –  1998) was an Italian arts administrator, the director of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (GNAM) in Rome from 1942 to 1975.

Early life

Palma Bucarelli was born in Rome. She earned a degree in art history at the Sapienza University of Rome.[1]


As a young art historian she worked at the Galleria Borghese and in Naples. During her thirty-three years as head of the Italian National Gallery of Modern Art, Bucarelli was responsible for protecting the gallery’s collections from damage while it was closed during World War II; she arranged to place paintings and sculptures in historic buildings including the Palazzo Farnese and Castel Sant’Angelo.[2] She was one of the Italian delegates to the First International Congress of Art Critics, held in 1948 in Paris.[3]


After the war, she oversaw such events as exhibitions of works by Pablo Picasso (1953), Piet Mondrian (1956), Jackson Pollock (1958), Mark Rothko (1962), and the Gruppo di Via Brunetti (1968). She defended controversial works such as Piero Manzoni‘s ‘”Merda d’Artista” and Alberto Burri‘s “Sacco Grande” (1954).[1] Her strong support for abstract and avant-garde works made international headlines in 1959, when she was accused of a bias against figurative art in a public debate.[4] In 1961 she was in the United States, where she gave a lecture in Sarasota, Florida[5] and attended the opening of a major exhibit on Futurism at the Detroit Institute of Arts.[6]

Personal life

Palma Bucarelli married her longtime partner, journalist Paolo Monelli, in 1963. She died in Rome in 1998, from pancreatic cancer, aged 88 years. Her personal collection of art was donated to the National Gallery. Her famously elegant wardrobe was donated to the Boncompagni Ludovisi Decorative Art Museum in Rome. A street near the GNAM was renamed in her memory.[2] The Gallery mounted a show about her influence, “Palma Bucarelli: Il museo come avanguardia”, in 2009.[7]



  1. ^ Jump up to: a b Lucia Livia Mannella, “Palma Bucarelli” Vogue Italia Encyclo.
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b “Palma Bucarelli” Dictionary of Art Historians.
  3. Jump up ^ Denys Sutton, “The First International Congress of Art Critics” College Art Journal 8(2)(Winter 1948): 130.
  4. Jump up ^ Paul Hofmann, “Art Impartiality Pledged by Italy” New York Times (March 7, 1959): 43.
  5. Jump up ^ “Italian Art Expert’s Talk is Tonight” Tampa Bay Times (9 November 1961): 13. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  6. Jump up ^ Kathie Norman, “VIPs Impressed” Detroit Free Press (17 October 1961): 17. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  7. Jump up ^ Laura Larcan, “Un Direttore di nome Palma Bucarelli, la Guggenheim di Roma” la Repubblica (26 June 2009).

Florence, an open-air museum and a protected UNESCO site

I think it is always worth reminding ourselves that Florence, the Renaissance city, is one of the most beautiful and visited art cities in the world. It is truly an open-air museum, placed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1982. Let’s make a quick rundown of some of the major sites within the city.

Piazza Duomo is the religious centre of the city, featuring the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the majestic Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and the Baptistery of St. John the Baptist, with its world renowned bronze doors.

The square is surrounded by wonderful palaces, such as the Archbishop’s Palace, the 14th-century Loggia del Bigallo and the recently renovated Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Works of the Cathedral) which recreates the original feeling of the 14th-century façade according to the first project by Arnolfo di Cambio with great technical virtuosity.

The absolute masterpiece housed within the Museo dell’ Opera is the Deposition (or Pietà) sculpted by Michelangelo for his own grave.


In the sculpture, Nicodemo, represented at the top centre, has Michelangelo’s facial features. Some parts of this marble sculpture are unfinished, as Michelangelo often did in order to witness the spirit struggling to break free from block of stone. In 1555, in an outburst of rage, the same artist partially damaged his own sculpture with a hammer.

Piazza della Signoria is the heart of the socio-political life, as well as the seat of civil power with Palazzo Vecchio (previously known as dei Priori and della Signoria). The square hosts important works of art such as the equestrian monument of Cosimo I de’ Medici, by Giambologna. Next to the palace, you can admire the fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati, also called the ‘Biancone’ due to the huge white marble statue of the sea god at the centre of the fountain, riding in a chariot roomed by four horses.

In front of the main entrance of Palazzo Vecchio, you will find copies of two sculptures by Donatello: Marzocco (the lion symbolising the city of Florence) and Judith Beheading Holofernes, in addition to a copy of the David by Michelangelo, whose original statue is preserved inside the Galleria dell’Accademia (Gallery of the Academy of Florence). Next to David, the statue of Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli, symbolises strength and ingenuity prevailing over evil.

On the right, facing Palazzo della Signoria, you will find the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most important museums in the world, which once hosted the offices and the state archives of the Grand-Duke. The museum boasts an incomparable collection of Italian and European art from the 13th century on.

In addition to masterpieces by Cimabue, Giotto, Masaccio, Botticelli, Leonardo, Piero della Francesca, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Dürer, and many others, there is also a remarkable collection of ancient sculptures.

The Vasarian Corridor is a spectacular elevated enclosed passageway, connecting Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti and offering, from above Ponte Vecchio, a breath-taking view on monuments and on the Arno with its bridges. The corridor hosts a collection of self-portraits, in addition to an important 17th and 18th-century collection of paintings.
The Galleria dell’Accademia hosts the highest number of sculptures by Michelangelo, such as the Prisoners, St. Matthew and the famous David, in addition to important paintings from the second half of 13th century to the end of 16th century, as well as the Musical Instruments Museum.

The National Museum of the Bargello, located inside a palace built in mid-13th century for the Capitano del Popolo (Captain of the People), boasts some of the most important statues of the Renaissance by Ghiberti, Donatello, Verrocchio, the Della Robbia family, Michelangelo, Giambologna, and others. Do not miss the prestigious collections of little bronze statues, maiolica, wax models, enamels, medals, ivory, tapestry, furniture, seals and textiles coming from the Medicean collections or donated by private collectors.

Palazzo Pitti, with its wonderful Boboli Gardens, represents one of the most important monumental complexes with its museums – the Palatine Gallery, the Monumental Apartments, the Silver Museum, the Modern Art Gallery, the Costume Gallery, the Porcelain Museum and the Carriages Museum.

Among the most representative testimonies of the Florence Renaissance, the city boasts some masterpieces planned by Filippo Brunelleschi (in addition to his world renowned Dome) – the Ospedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents) and the two churches of San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito – and by Leon Battista Alberti – the façade of the Santa Maria Novella church and Palazzo Rucellai.
Piazza della Repubblica is the “élite square” of the city, with its great historic cafés and 19th-century buildings. The historic centre of Florence is a shopping and entertainment paradise, with the most famous fashion designer boutiques, traditional handicraft workshops, historical markets and typical restaurants, as well as American bars, lounge bars and discos.
Do not miss the churches of San Miniato al Monte, Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, as well as the great masterpieces of Italian 20th -century architects, such as the Central Railway Station of Santa Maria Novella and the Artemio Franchi football stadium, respectively by Giovanni Michelucci and Pier Luigi Nervi.

Botticelli’s plant world

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conservato agli Uffizi, non faccia accenno al fatto che Botticelli vi ha rappresentato centinaia di esemplari tra fiori, arbusti, erbe, alberi e vegetali in generale. Una così cospicua presenza di piante risponde a diverse esigenze: la prima è ovviamente circoscrivere il periodo dell’anno oggetto dell’opera, perché le specie rappresentate da Botticelli, com’è lecito immaginare, fioriscono, crescono e germogliano tutte in primavera. La seconda è suggerire rimandi simbolici: in tal modo si spiega, per esempio, la presenza degli alberi d’arancio che sì presentano le loro zagare, i fiori bianchi tipici degli agrumi, ma sono anche carichi di frutti, quando è noto che l’arancio dà i suoi frutti verso la fine dell’autunno. L’arancio è infatti un emblema mediceo: facile comprendere perché se si conosce la denominazione latina citrus medica, che oggi designa scientificamente il cedro ma che anticamente, almeno secondo il botanico ottocentesco Giorgio Gallesio, era utilizzata per indicare anche l’arancio. Inoltre, l’agrume è anche simbolo di matrimonio, perché secondo la mitologia antica la dea Giunone avrebbe donato al marito Giove piante d’arancio come dote nuziale. Se peraltro si prende per buona la pur discussa datazione che vorrebbe la Primavera dipinta nel 1482, la realizzazione dell’opera cadrebbe nell’anno del matrimonio tra Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici e Semiramide Appiani.

Palazzo dei Pittori, my new neighbor

My new apartment is right across due viale from the very handsome Palazzo dei Pittori.  The palazzo and I are separated by 2 viale or boulevards and one stream (the Mugnone), and I always admire the facade of the palazzo whenever I gaze across this space.  There is nothing blocking my view except some beautiful green trees and a stream, and two grand-scale viali or boulevards.  The Palazzo provides a gorgeous backdrop!

Here is a Youtube video about the palazzo and its current iteration.

And here is some background info garnered from the web on this fine structure:
On Saturday May 16th, 2016, the beautiful Palazzo dei Pittori  reopened to the public – on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Florence Capital – a building that has always fascinated and intrigued Florentines and others. The president of the culture commission of the Municipality participated in the event.

The building, intended for the studies of artists, has always been called “Palazzo dei Pittori” and located on the southern bank of the Mugnone stream, today Viale Giovanni Milton, at numbers 47 and 49.

The building was commissioned by an English painter named Lemon who was living in Florence. It was designed by the architect and engineer Tito Bellini and built in the 2nd half of the 19th century to host artists of various nationalities including English, German, Russian, Swiss and also Italians, all of whom created art during the time that Florence was the capital of Italy (1860-1865).

The Palazzo dei Pittori itself was built during the “Umbertino period,”  with its large spaces and austere decoration.

From its construction to the present day, there have been many well and lesser known artists who have worked in the palace, including the Sicilian sculptor Domenico Trentacoste, the Macchiaiolo painter Egisto Ferroni, Giovanni and Romeo Costetti, the sculptor Giuseppe Graziosi and many others.  It was also home to a prestigious school of painting called the “Florentine School of Painting,” directed by professors Giuseppe Rossi and Alberto Zardo.

Other creative artists also worked in this atelier, including poets and writers such as Gabriele D’Annunzio and Mario Luzi.

This is therefore a place that houses an important but forgotten past, vaguely mysterious, waiting to be discovered.