Lorenzo de’ Medici’s sculpture garden

Lorenzo de' Medici and His Artists in the Sculpture Garden


Ottavio Vannini – Michelangelo Showing Lorenzo il Magnifico the Head of a Faun, surrounded by the other sculpture students



Young Michelangelo Carving a Faun's Head


Young Michelangelo Carving a Faun’s head by Emilio Zocchi


The Piazza San Marco on the former Via Larga, which is now Via Camillo Cavour, was where Lorenzo de’ Medici’s Sculpture Garden was situated in Florence. In the map below, you can get a sense of where the garden was in relationship to Piazza San Marco. The sculpture garden would have been where the words “Army Facility” show below.


Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 6.34.27 PM


The Google map showing a satellite view, gives an even better sense of this former garden area.  Think away the Army building to the south end of the space, where Via Cavour and Via degli Arazzieri intersect, and you can see that there is still garden area in the site of the former Medici garden.

Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 6.37.12 PM


Created with the hopes of becoming a great educational institution for studying art, Lorenzo de’ Medici curated a garden full of antique sculptures for artists to come and sketch as part of their artistic practice. Lorenzo also added sleeping and dining quarters so that students could easily live among the work they were studying. Francesco Granacci and Bertoldo di Giovanni are two of the many people to enter through its doors.

The most famous story of Michelangelo’s time in the Garden surrounds Michelangelo’s Faun statue. When Lorenzo saw this statue, he jokingly told Michelangelo that he looked too perfect to be an old faun. Michelangelo than took his drill and knocked out one of the teeth in the mouth of the Faun.

He showed his subtraction to Lorenzo who gained much amusement and pleasure from Michelangelo’s ability to listen and act on his critique.  Although the Faun statue has not been found, the two works of Michelangelo’s attributed to this time period are the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs. 


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.

The end of the Corcoran Gallery of Art

A few years ago it was announced that the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington’s oldest private art museum, and its venerable college of art and design would cease to exist as an independent institution, and its components — artwork, historic building and school program — will be taken over by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University.

Folinsbee_21_7John Fulton Folinsbee’s “Grey Thaw,” one of the works in the Corcoran’s collection. (Corcoran Gallery of Art’s board of trustees )

This week it was announced that the Corcoran’s board of trustees has decided that it will distribute almost 11,000 works remaining in its renowned collection, a historic giveaway that includes paintings by Washington Color School artist Sam Gilliam, photographs by Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange, and prints by 19th-century French master Honoré Daumier.

Almost 9,000 pieces will go to the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, with others headed to 10 Smithsonian Institution museums, several universities and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The distribution marks the final stage of the dismantling of the famed Washington institution. Under a controversial 2014 deal, the National Gallery of Art had first dibs on the entire collection and ended up acquiring about 40 percent of the 19,493 works. George Washington University gained control of the museum’s independent school and its two historic buildings, including the Flagg Building on 17th Street NW.


For more, please see these sources:



The quarries of Settignano, where Michelangelo lived


The Settignano quarries yielded macigno, a fine-grained grey sandstone that was much prized in Florence. It is a gravely beautiful material in a range of dark-greenish and bluish greys, fine enough to carve in crisp detail and with a quality of simultaneously absorbing and reflecting the light, producing a paradoxical impression of dark luminosity.

This is the material that Brunelleschi used for the columns and capitals of his buildings. Michelangelo would employ it in the same way in his projects at San Lorenzo in Florence.

The Florentines, being interested in this stone enough to make fine distinctions, gave names to the differing grades, the finest type being pietra del fossato, and the others including pietra serena and pietra forte.

Michelangelo, who had immense sensitivity to stone, went further than these broad categories. He knew that each quarry, every stratum, would produce material of subtly differing character. The contract for the stairs and two doors of the library Michelangelo was building at San Lorenzo in the 1520s stipulated that the pietra serena supplied should be of the same ‘colour and flavour’ (‘ colore et sapore’) as in the sample. ‘Flavour’ is a wonderful word to use of stone: bringing out its sensuous character as if it were actually edible.

When he designed buildings in Rome, Michelangelo was attentive to the qualities of the local material, travertine, a limestone noted for the pits and troughs in its surface – as different in its flavour and colour from Florentine sandstone as roast beef is from pâté de foie gras. His use of travertine for the walls of St Peter’s and the palaces on the Capitoline Hill made the most of its rugged nature.

For sculpture he used only the finest type of pure white marble, known as statuario, found particularly in certain quarries above Carrara. Even this sculptor’s marble, according to the sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, came in at least five or six grades, the first having a ‘very coarse grain’ and the softest, which he describes almost like flesh, ‘the most cohesive, the most beautiful and the tenderest marble in the world to work from’.

Michelangelo was renowned for his ability to discern the quality of a potential piece while it was still in the rockface. When he was engaged from 1516 onwards on large construction projects at San Lorenzo in Florence which involved the quarrying, transport, dressing and carving of huge amounts of both marble and macigno, a majority of the masons he employed were from Settignano.


Gayford, Martin. Michelangelo: His Epic Life (Kindle Locations 803-811). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

How art history became an academic (& my favorite) field of study

Before Charles Eliot Norton had become Harvard’s first professor of that discipline, art history had, in general, been considered, not a field of study, but a matter of craft and technique to be taught by painters to other painters.

Scholarship about art, and especially about Italian art, entered a new era as the German universities began developing large-scale historical studies like those of Swiss scholar Jacob Burckhardt, whose Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy was published in English in 1878.


In Great Britain, tastes were influenced by the work of Norton’s close friend Ruskin in books like The Stones of Venice (1851–1853) and The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849).


Following Ruskin, Norton loved best in Italy the powerful moral uplift of Dante and of Italy’s medieval Gothic architecture. In Norton’s art history courses, the Renaissance was the unhappy termination of the Middle Ages, which had been the last great era of spiritual unity and well-being.

There was a joke current among Harvard undergraduates that Norton had died and was just being admitted to Heaven, but at his first glimpse staggered backward exclaiming, “Oh! Oh! Oh! So Overdone! So garish! So Renaissance!”

“Norton,” Bernard Berenson commented drily years later, had done what he could at Harvard to restrain “all efforts toward art itself.”

Rachel,Cohen. Bernard Berenson (Jewish Lives) (p. 45). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.


Wartime Florence

In 1565, by connecting the Uffizi and the Pitti and provided the Medici with an escape route in the event of political unrest. Its narrow hallways are decorated with more than a thousand paintings, mostly self-portraits, by many of the artists whose works adorn the walls of the city’s museums and churches. Farther north is the Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall), the Duomo, and the Accademia, home to the world’s most famous piece of marble, Michelangelo’s David.

In the summer of 1944, war placed this legendary city, and centuries of creative achievements, in danger of utter destruction.

ON NOVEMBER 10, 1943, Adolf Hitler remarked to Ambassador Rudolf Rahn, “Florence is too beautiful a city to destroy. Do what you can to protect it: you have my permission and assistance.” Hitler’s affection for the city initially gave Florentine Superintendent Giovanni Poggi and other city officials hope that Florence would be spared the fate of Naples. The fact that Rome and Siena had escaped major damage also encouraged them.

But, as Allied soldiers inched closer each day, a small group of dedicated souls—now seen as guardian angels of Florence—became increasingly concerned that the coming battle would overtake their city. They had few resources and dwindling options. These benefactors’ best hope was to push Germany and the Allies to jointly declare Florence an “open city,” first suggested by the Director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut, Friedrich Kriegbaum.

But for a city to be declared “open,” it had to be undefended; there could be no military targets; and both sides had to have freedom of entry. In Florence, German forces had positioned two artillery batteries in the della Gherardesca and dei Semplici Gardens. They had stationed soldiers at numerous mortar positions in the city.

Additionally, Florence, like Rome before it fell to the Allies, served as a major rail transport hub for the German Army. Even after the Allies’ air attacks on the Santa Maria Novella and Campo di Marte marshaling yards, men and materiel moved through the city.

Undaunted by these facts, German leaders referred to Florence as an “open city,” accusing the Allies of refusing to publicly affirm that designation. For their part, the Allies wouldn’t declare Florence an open city until the Germans removed their guns and soldiers.

The standoff held through the spring and early summer of 1944, while Allied forces were engaged in combat operations hundreds of miles to the south. Things grew much more urgent following the liberation of Rome in June and of Siena in July.

City officials believed that their portable art treasures, tucked away by Poggi in Tuscan villas, were safe. But protecting the city’s architectural treasures still depended upon securing an official, unequivocal declaration of Florence as an open city.

Members of the principal group working toward this designation were the German Consul, Gerhard Wolf; the Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa; the Extraordinary Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary of San Marino to the Holy See, Marchese Filippo Serlupi Crescenzi; and the Swiss Consul in Florence, Carlo Alessandro Steinhäuslin. These four men did more to save Florence than anyone else.

After four years of service in the German Army, Gerhard Wolf attended Heidelberg University, where he met Rudolf Rahn, who would become a lifelong friend. In the years following graduation, both would enter Germany’s Foreign Service. Seeking to distance himself from the Nazi Party, Wolf accepted a position as the German Consul to Florence.

Cardinal Dalla Costa, a seventy-two-year-old prelate, was another of the city’s guardians. Soft-spoken yet forceful, he assumed an increasingly visible role in defense of the city. During Hitler’s 1938 visit, he ordered that the windows of his palace be shut in symbolic protest. He declined to participate in the official celebrations, explaining that he did not worship “any other cross, if not that of Christ.”

As the situation became more desperate, the cardinal agreed to issue notices that stated, “His Eminence Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, Archbishop of Florence, declares that this building and the artworks inside, are under the protection of the Holy See.” While he pleaded with the German commanders to respect Florence as an open city, he did so knowing that, “in order to truly protect Florentine works of art, it would be necessary to place a huge pavilion made of impenetrable steel and unbreakable bronze, to cover the entire city.”

Edsel, Robert M.. Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis, W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.