Palazzo Vecchio (June 2020) Part 2

Here’s the next part of my recent visit to the re-opened Palazzo Vecchio:

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I love the view of the rustic stone through the glass.

 

 

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What a wonderful sink below!  Two spigots that look like fountains:

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The sink is in this elaborate niche:

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Below, you can see the shape of the sink itself:

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Below: the death mask of Dante:

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An amazingly elaborate reliquary:

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Next up, the elaborate Audience Chamber:

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Here’s the ceiling:

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These frescoes “idealize” even war.  I like the colorful tents that housed the troops.  I doubt they were this lovely in real life.

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Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes:

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Palazzo Vecchio, Florence (June 2020) Part 1

One by one, the landmarks of Florence have been re-opening.  With new rules and regulations, one can pay a visit to these famous sites.  I recently enjoyed seeing the Palazzo Vecchio for the first time since the lock down. Very enjoyable to see old friends.

 

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Il Salone dei Cinquecento:

 

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The Salone dei Cinquecento (‘Hall of the Five Hundred’) is the most imposing chamber in the Palazzo Vecchio, with a length of 170 ft and width of 75 ft. It was built in 1494 by Simone del Pollaiolo, on commission of Savonarola who, replacing the Medici after their exile as the spiritual leader of the Republic, wanted it as a seat of the Grand Council (Consiglio Maggiore) consisting of 500 members.

Later the hall was enlarged by Giorgio Vasari so that Grand Duke Cosimo I could hold his court in this chamber. During this transformation, famous (but unfinished) works were lost, including the Battle of Cascina by Michelangelo, and the Battle of Anghiari by Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo was commissioned in 1503 to paint one long wall with a battle scene celebrating a famous Florentine victory. He was always trying new methods and materials and decided to mix wax into his pigments. Da Vinci had finished painting part of the wall, but it was not drying fast enough, so he brought in braziers stoked with hot coals to try to hurry the process. As others watched in horror, the wax in the fresco melted under the intense heat and the colors ran down the walls to puddle on the floor. A legend exists that Giorgio Vasari, wanting to preserve Da Vinci’s work, had a false wall built over the top of The Battle of Anghiari before painting his fresco. Attempts made to find Da Vinci’s original work behind the Vasari fresco have so far been inconclusive.

Michelangelo never proceeded beyond the preparatory drawings for the fresco he was commissioned to paint on the opposite wall. Pope Julius II called him to Rome to paint the Sistine Chapel, and the master’s sketches were destroyed by eager young artists who came to study them and took away scraps. The surviving decorations in this hall were made between 1555 and 1572 by Giorgio Vasari and his helpers, among them Livio Agresti from Forlì. They mark the culmination of mannerism and make this hall the showpiece of the palace.

 

Here are some miscellaneous objets that caught my eye on this day.  All of them are in the Salone dei Cinquecento, unless otherwise noted:

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I see the coat of arts of the Medici family all over Florence, but this one is beyond extravagant:

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A sculpture by Michelangelo takes a place of honor in this large hall:

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OK, we have departed the Salone.  All of the following pictures are from subsequent rooms.

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One of the things I like about many Italian stairways is the use of these heavy cords.  I like the way they look and the way they draw on Italian textile traditions.

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The St. John’s Day Fireworks have been an ongoing Florentine tradition for centuries.  It was fun to see this painting depict it from the 16th century.

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Here’s another fanciful coat of arts for the Medici family, this one in fresco:

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And putti carry the crown that will sit on Medici heads:

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Here is the original Verrocchio statue.  A copy sits in its original place in an open courtyard on the ground floor.

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Eleonora’s private chapel is a gorgeously painted small room:

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Museo Bardini has re-opened in Florence

And I paid a visit.  It was not like the old days, where you could wander at will, which is very sad.  Now they have a “percorso” or path, which you have to follow and they have guards in every room watching you like a hawk.  It didn’t feel like they were watching out for Covid.  It felt like they thought I was going to damage or steal the art.  I didn’t care for it.  Plus, I was one of 3 visitors.  I mean, really?

Despite my complaints, the museum is still a wonderful place with a fascinating collection. It is one of my favorite museums in Florence.  Here are a few of my favorite things:

 

 

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The unusual sculpture above, showing a woman breast feeding 2 children at once, is explained in the label above.

 

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Here’s some info about the collector for whom the museum is named:

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And here are some of his eclectic objets:

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It’s official.  My new favorite art form is medieval sculpture.  I mean, look at the examples above and below.  Did you ever see a sweeter angel above?

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And, above, check out the lion caryatid figure.  Notice that he has a poor ram pinned below his feet, for all eternity.  The poor ram.  I love the primitive charm of these sculptures!

 

 

When I backtracked to take a picture of this gorgeous Renaissance doorway was when I knew my visit yesterday was not going to be the carefree affair of the olden days.  A mean, older woman reprimanded me for taking a few steps back towards where I had come from (although how you would notice the far side of the doorway you are walking through is beyond me), cackling at me that you must follow the path forward (I saw no signs showing me the path ahead either).

But, forget about her…look at the sumptuous doorway.  Wow.  What it must have felt like to use such casings.

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Going upstairs, like a good girl, I arrived in the room for which I had come.  I could spend hours in this gallery, if they would turn on all of the lights and get rid of the guards acting like I was going to damage the artworks.

 

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Donatello’s Madonna and Child with the Apple

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Donatello’s Madonna and Child, known as the Madonna and the Ropemakers:

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And then there are the cassone, or the wooden chests (like a hope chest for an aristocratic Italian woman), that Bardini collected.  If they would turn on the lights in the gallery and let me get close to the works, I would be in heaven.  As it is, I’m halfway to heaven, just looking at the furniture and thinking about the girls/women whose lives they represent.

 

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And then there are the cornice: the incredible frames that Bardini collected. Any American art museum would give eye teeth for one of these marvelous frames.

 

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Moving into another gallery, I pass through another sumptuous doorway casing:

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Beautiful painted crucifixes were also collected by Bardini.  Below them, more cassone.

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I could spend a day in this museum just studying the ceilings:

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Or the Sienese sculpture:

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Below, you might think you are looking at a rug on a floor, but it is a ceiling:

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Upon leaving my favorite galleries, I go down this stairway, lined with rugs hung on walls.  Very effective.

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What a collection.  Despite the guards, I love this museum!

Inside the lower church of the Russian Orthodox Church in Florence

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Following my recent tour of this gorgeous landmark in Florence, I posted on the exterior. Now let’s enter the building, starting with the lower church.

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The lower church, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, was consecrated on October 2, 1902 in the presence of the Russian ambassador from Rome, the new rector and many Russian residents.

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The lower church is decorated with sacred images in exquisite triptychs, Byzantine-style icons and tall figures of saints.

When the Russian diplomatic mission opened in Florence in 1815, it also had a chapel that housed a reliquary, which Tsar Alexander I had carried with him on his long military campaigns against Napoleon.

Before this church was built, Florence’s Russian community would congregate in the private chapels of its more illustrious members, such as that of Michail Boutourline, the son of the millionaire bibliophile Count Dimitri Boutourline, or that of the wealthy, aristocratic Demidoff family.  The Demidoff’s donated many iconostases and other objects from San Donato for the new church in 1880.

 

 

but in the end it was richly adorned with marble, frescoes and numerous other important decorative elements too, including the imposing Royal Gates.

True impetus was given to the church-building project when Archipriest Vladimir Levitsky (1840–1923) arrived in town in 1878. Despite many setbacks regarding, for instance, the designation of the land where the church should be built, Levitsky persevered and, in 1890, travelled to St. Petersburg to present the procurator-general of the synod with drawings prepared by the chosen architect, Preobrazhensky. Whilst a decree authorising the construction of the church was issued in May 1891, it took another seven years before the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally gave its permission.

The Russian Orthodox Church in Florence

I have the good fortune to live 2 blocks from this gorgeous landmark.  It is almost never open for visits, but I got lucky and snagged a ticket for a rare tour recently.

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Known as the Church of the Nativity of Christ and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (Chiesa della Natività di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo e San Nicola Taumaturgo), The  Russian Orthodox church is located on via Leone X. Its style is a late 19th and early 20th century imitation of the earlier Naryshkin Baroque.

By the end of the 19th century, there was a small but elite Russian colony in Florence.  Their much desired permanent place of worship came to fruition between 1899 and 1903. It was the first Russian Orthodox church to be built in Italy and was designed by Russian architect Mikhail Preobrazhensky (1854–1930), who had trained at Moscow’s Academy of Arts, and was erected under the supervision of Italian architects Giuseppe Coccini (1840–1900) and Giovanni Paciarelli (1862–1929). The church is a fine combination of Russian and Italian artistry.

 

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The church is topped with one large central onion-shaped dome and four smaller ones, all covered with bright turquoise, green and white scales of majolica (manufactured by the Cantagalli factory of Florence) and topped with gilt crosses and chains. Laid out in the form of a Greek cross, the church grounds are surrounded by an iron railing fence with three monumental gates decorated with the double-headed imperial eagle and Florentine lily forged by the Michelucci foundry of Pistoia.

The church itself, constructed in red brick and grey stone (pietra Serena) from quarries near Fiesole, is decorated with 52 semi-circular or ogival arches known as kokočniki (named after the traditional Russian female headdress) and featuring six winged cherubs, like those of the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in St. Petersburg.

Above the doorway, a canopy houses a Venetian-made mosaic icon of “Znamenie,” the mother of God, between stems of flowering lilies. On the north and south sides of the church, two other tabernacles house mosaics of the Peter and Paul.

The splendid wooden entrance door, which came from the private chapel at Villa Demidoff at San Donato, was inspired by Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise. Depicting 22 scenes from the Old Testament, it had won its creator Rinaldo Barbetti first prize in a national exhibition in Florence in 1861.

 

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True impetus was given to the church-building project when Archipriest Vladimir Levitsky (1840–1923) arrived in Florence in 1878. Despite many setbacks regarding, for instance, the designation of the land where the church should be built, Levitsky persevered and, in 1890, travelled to St. Petersburg to present the procurator-general of the synod with drawings prepared by the chosen architect, Preobrazhensky. A decree authorizing the construction of the church was issued in May 1891, but it took another seven years before the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally gave its permission.

 

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Typical of Orthodox churches in northern Russia at the time, the Florence church was built on two storeys: the lower church, designed to be warmer in winter, was dedicated to Saint Nicholas, in memory of the Demidoff chapel. The upper church, cooler in summer, was dedicated to the Nativity and features a magnificent marble iconostasis with icons of the patron saints of the imperial family gifted by the assassinated Tsar Nicholas II, a martyr of the Orthodox Church.

 

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Here’s the article from Wikipedia:

 

Nicholas I of Russia’s daughter Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaïevna first had the idea of building a church for Florence’s Russian community in 1873, but it was only six years later that a large gift from prince Paul Pavlovitch Demidoff of San Donato allowed construction to commence. Pietro Berti was initially taken on to design it by archpriest Vladimir Levitsky, then curate of the Orthodox church at the Russian embassy. However, he later switched to the Russian academician Mikhail Preobrazhensky and the Florentine engineer Giuseppe Boccini.

Preobrajensky’s first designs of 1883-85 were too ambitious, so a temporary church was built on a site acquired by the embassy. This became the parish church in 1888. Levitsky eventually raised enough funds to build a permanent structure and in 1897 the Russian ambassador and foreign minister approved plans produced in 1890 by Preobrajensky.

The first stone was laid on 28 October 1899 at a ceremony attended by count Caracciolo di Sarno, prefect of Florence, general Antonio Baldissera, the Russian ambassador Aleksandr Nelidov and consul general Tchelebidaky.

The lower part of the church (dedicated to St Nicholas the Wonderworker) was consecrated on 21 October 1902 and the upper church (dedicated to the Nativity of Christ) was consecrated on 8 November 1903. However, the building as a whole was only fully completed the following year.

After the 1917 Revolution the church in Florence lost Russian state support and in 1921 it became independent from the church back in Russia despite attempts by Soviet diplomats to claim ownership of the building. From 1920 onwards it was under the jurisdiction of Eulogius and in February 1931 it joined the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe.

Constantine I of Greece died in exile in Palermo on 11 January 1923 and later that year he was buried in the church, followed in 1926 by his mother queen Olga Constantinovna of Russia and in 1932 by his widow Sophia of Prussia. All three sets of remains were moved to the Tatoi Palace in Greece in November 1936, a year after the restoration of the Greek monarchy.

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To visit the church, it is necessary to make an appointment. For further information call +39 055 477986.

Santa Croce, Part 5, June 2020

We have finally reached the final stretch of my recent visit to Santa Croce.  For the past few days, I have posted similarly on other parts of the church (you can find the posts here).

First, this tomb commemorating Rossini:

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Next up is one of the masterpieces of Santa Croce.  It is the tomb for Leonardo Bruni, created by Bernardo Rossellino:

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Then, the creme de la creme of sculpture in all of the Renaissance, in my humble opinion.  I adore this monument by Donatello.

 

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Moving further along towards the western end of the side aisle, we arrive at Canova’s tomb to Alfieri. I used to swoon for Canova and Neoclassicism.  I still like this sculptural work.

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And Dante, who was exiled and whose body is preserved in Ravenna.  In the 19th century he was given this cenotaph in the celebrity burial place of Florence, Santa Croce.

 

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I love the way the couple is admiring this monument in these pictures.

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And then, of course, there is the tomb for Michelangelo, created by Vasari.

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And, upon leaving (or entering) the basilica, the font with holy water for the faithful is perhaps the most beautifully wrought example of its kind:

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Niccolini tomb on the western wall, between 2 portals.

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Santa Croce, part 4, June 2020

Following the recent reopening of this Franciscan basilica, I continue with my first visit of the church (for parts 1, 2 and 3 see here).  We begin here at the east end of the basilica, in the chapels to the right of the Peruzzi Chapel:

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Below is a major reliquary.  I find this aspect of the Roman Catholic Church so strange.

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Looking west from the eastern wall, I see this neoclassical tomb.

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Castellani Chapel by Agnolo Gaddi and his workshop:

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Santa Croce, part 3, June 2020

Following the recent reopening of Florence’s major Franciscan basilica, this is part 3 of my first visit of the church (parts 1 and 2 are here and here).  We have reached the altar end of the basilica and here it is in all its glory!

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First, let’s have a detailed look at the altar in front of the apse:

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Also on display near the altar is this incredible Medieval painted altarpiece depicting St. Francis and scenes from his life:

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I will be writing a post on the frescoes in the main chapel behind the altarpiece.  Right now, they have it roped off and I couldn’t get into it to take decent pictures. Looking into the apse area behind the main painted altarpiece:

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OK, so now we move into the big leagues as far as art historian are concerned.  Two of Giotto’s major works are to be found in adjoining chapels in Santa Croce.  They are the Bardi and Peruzzi family chapels. The first one is the Bardi chapel, depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis:

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And now, the Peruzzi Chapel. Sadly, the frescoes are in very bad condition, having been partially painted a secco by Giotto, which means the true fresco technique did not allow the colors to become a part of the wall.  Plus, the frescoes were badly abused over the centuries, sometimes even being covered with white wash.

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Here’s an overall view of the 2 family chapels next to each other on the east end of the church. The Bardi is to the left, under the stained glass window, and the Peruzzi is to the right of it:

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