Palazzo di Brera, Milano

Milano’s beautiful Palazzo di Brera was created along with the Accademia di Belle Arti in 1776 to serve the students studying at the University.

The Jesuits built the Baroque palace at the end of the 17th century as a convent (the word convent is used for monasteries in Italy). After they were unceremoniously expelled, the  Palazzo Brera was remodeled in the neoclassical style.

Napoleon took control of Italy and declared Milan the capital.  He filled the Brera with works from across the territory. As a result, it is one of the few museums in Italy that wasn’t formed from private collections, but rather by the Italian state.

When the Palazzo di Brera was taken away from the Jesuits by Queen Maria Teresa of Austria, it was meant to become one of the most advanced cultural institutions in Milan. It still lives up to that status today. Besides the Academy and the beautiful Art Gallery, the palazzo holds the Lombard Institute of Science and Literature, the Braidense National Library, the Astronomical Observatory and a Botanical Garden maintained since he 1700s.

 

Inside the cortile, Canova’s heroic statue of Napoleon:

 

 

 

 

 

The entrance to the palazzo:

 

img_2739-1

 

There is a garden at the back of the palazzo.  The fortified walls and turrets of the building complex seen back here are massive and medieval, and very unlike the sophisticated facade of the palazzo. This Orto Botanico comprises a tiny corner of the hectic city has aromatic herbs, wildflowers and a small vegetable garden for research.

 

 

 

 

The Palazzo di Brera started life as a Jesuit college built on green land just outside the old city walls and its name reflects the location. In fact, the district, palace, and gallery all take their names directly from their locale as the Medieval dialect. The word “brayda” means “grassy clearing”. The word slowly evolved into “brera” or “bra;” it is also the root word of Vernona’s Piazza Bra.

Inside the Palazzo di Brera resides the beautiful Biblioteca Braidense:

 

 

 

 

More about Canova’s statue of Napoleon:

 

The plaster model for the bronze statue:

img_2746

 

 

What caught my eye at the Brera?  These works:

 

Andrea Solario, Madonna of the Carnations:

img_2749

 

 

 

 

I loved Carlo Crivelli’s amazing panel paintings, which are actually somewhat 3-d.  I’ve not seen that before in paintings of these kinds:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another luscious work by Carlo Crivelli: Madonna and Child.

img_2755

 

 

 

Some of the altarpieces in the Brera collection are sumptuously beautiful; breathtaking, actually.

img_2759

 

This random lion caught my eye and I don’t even remember from what painting!  I was a bit agog at the Brera. I started feeling the Stendhal syndrome, big time.

 

Raphael:

 

 

 

 

 

Piero della Francesca:

 

 

 

A ubiquitous scene, all over Europe:

 

Florence’s Duomo: better late than never

For my last birthday,  I climbed the 1,000,000 steps to the top of Florence’s cathedral with a friend who shares a January birthday.  Even though we live in a world where the word “awesome” is overused to the point of oblivion, I can only describe the duomo experience as awesome.

Unfortunately, I have been negligent in getting my pix and videos posted!  I’m trying to catch up!  I’m only about a year (11.5 months to be exact) late.  Oh well…I’ll try to do better in the future.

First, let me share this Youtube video with you, because it captures how I felt!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before ending this very long post, I want to add a photo I came across of a 1940s visitor at the top of the  dome

38292712_1365467610252206_8315175002815070208_n

 

 

 

 

Casa Martelli, part 2

A couple of days ago I posted on my recent visit to Casa Martelli in Florence.  As usual, I took too many pictures to post at just one time.  So, here’s the 2nd part, beginning in the gallery with the yellow silk walls and furniture.

I believe this gallery was my favorite.  I love the yellow silk fabric that covers the walls and furniture.  It was so light, if felt a bit French, but this room and this palazzo are of course Italian all the way.

By the way, in Part 1 of this post, you can get the link to a virtual tour for the casa. That tour makes the layout of the palazzo very clear and highlights various works of art throughout.

Above: one of a pair of Ming vases for the Martelli collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did somebody say passamanneria (see Part 1 of this post)?  Even for me, these pillows (?) is a bit much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ballroom:

img_2301

 

img_2302

 

img_2303

 

img_2304

 

img_2305

 

img_2310

 

img_2311

 

 

 

 

In this room, we can imagine living here, thanks to the inclusion of clothing and mementoes:

 

 

img_2283

 

img_2282

Dn6KT1Z7TvmAnHZd5oMUJQ

Some calling cards, above, collected by the family.

 

 

And then, downstairs, the room that is the crème de la crème of the entire palazzo, at least for me. The “winter garden” complete with trompe l’oeil paintings of monkeys and birds:

img_2312

 

img_2314

 

img_2313

 

img_2315

 

img_2317

 

img_2318

 

img_2319

 

 

And, finally, the last room on the tour, another garden room.  If you were a Martelli, you could stay at home and still be transferred to the countryside in this amazing space:

img_2322

 

This room even supplies a grotto:

img_2323

 

img_2328

 

img_2327

 

img_2326

 

img_2325

 

img_2324

 

 

W2GcsPo5SdicPZxcBz3IGQ+jfmlCRDSXqjvePoLVTL0g

When in Florence, one must see the Casa Martelli!

 

 

Casa Martelli, Florence, part 1

Last month, I finally visited the Palazzo Martelli, which I’ve walked by for several years, always hoping to enter. It’s only open a few days of the week and only by guided tour, but it is so worth the visit!  I highly recommend!

For centuries–right up to the 1980s– the the Palazzo Martelli was the residence of one of Florence’s oldest noble families. A visit to this jewel of a museum takes the visitor into a suite of opulent period interiors, including the ground-floor stanze paese (landscape rooms), whose walls and ceilings are painted with trompe-l’œil scenes; an elegant grand staircase leading to the piano nobile; the spaces of the main floor, which include a chapel, a ballroom, fascinating picture galleries, and a great hall and other richly-decorated rooms.

Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 16.38.01

Palazzo Martelli underwent a series of renovations in the early 18th century, under the care of Niccolò Martelli and his son Giuseppe Maria, who was the archbishop of Florence. Although there had been Martelli family homes on this site from at least the 13th century, it was only in 1738 that the family’s residence was transformed into the palazzo we see today.  It was designed by architect Bernardino Ciurini, and decorated by the painters Vincenzo Meucci, Bernardo Minozzi and Niccolò Contestabile, and the stuccatore (stucco artisan) Giovan Martino Portogalli.  The exterior, as shown above, presents a sober, austere image to the outside world, with only the balcony to soften the hard edges. This hard exterior is the way Florentines presented themselves to the outer world. But, oh, what lies inside is quite the opposite!

Today, Casa Martelli houses the last Florentine example, in public hands, of a well-known art collection formed largely during the 17th and 18th centuries. A visit proceeds through the rooms of the ground floor and the piano nobile, updated according to the tastes of the period, where visitors can enjoy the picture gallery—rich with masterpieces such as Piero di Cosimo’s Adorazione del Bambino, two wedding panels (pannelli nuziali) by Beccafumi, and magnificent paintings by Luca Giordano and Salvator Rosa—as well as the antique furniture, tapestries, and various decorations and objects dispersed throughout the home.

Casa Martelli remained in the Martelli family’s possession until the death of Francesca Martelli in 1986. For a brief period, the residence passed into the hands of the Florentine Curia, to whom Francesca had bequeathed the palazzo in her will, before eventually becoming property of the Italian State.

Two of the most outstanding art works that the Martelli family possessed have now been removed from the palazzo and are in the Bargello and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Both are attributed to Donatello. The monumental coat-of-arms that Donatello created for Roberto Martelli is now in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello collection.  Today a copy hangs in the place of honor. You see it below, on the far wall with a red background.

Likewise, a statue of David also attributed to Donatello (see below) once stood in this hall; today the statue is in Washington, D.C.

Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 16.36.17

Currently the museum is only open to visits a couple of days of the week, and then only with a guided tour.  If you get the chance, you should definitely visit the casa, or palazzo.  It is wonderful.

But, if you can’t wait or can’t get to Florence, you can fortunately take a virtual tour of the museum here: http://www.polomuseale.firenze.it/musei/visita/casamartelli/tour.html

Even accounting for the loss and dispersal of items, the collection remains impressive, including works by Piero di Cosimo, Francesco Francia, Francesco Morandini, Salvator Rosa, Giordano, Beccafumi, Sustermans, Michael Sweerts, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Orazio Borgianni, Francesco Curradi, and collections of small bronzes, including some by Soldani Benzi. The works are displayed in the crowded arrangement typical of the period.

When you visit the casa today, you enter through large wooden doors and an iron gate, both dating to 1799.  Inside the building, at the far end of a short interior courtyard, is a mural painting with an illusory effect, done in 1802 by Gaspero Bargioni.

 
Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 16.28.54

 

One enters a door to the grand staircase from this cortile:

 

 

 

 

 

The original ironwood of this staircase is fabulous!

 

 

Where you see the neoclassical sculpture of Psyche, imagine a statue of David by Donatello standing there.  That’s the work of art the Martelli family displayed in this place of honor.  The Donatello statue is today in Washington, D.C.

Screen Shot 2019-11-26 at 09.20.56

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is the copy of the Donatello coat of arts made for the Martelli family.  The original is in the Bargello.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entering the first gallery off the entrance, you begin to enjoy the art collections for which the Martelli family was renowned, including the many outstanding ceiling frescoes they commissioned over the centuries for this opulent family home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the painting below, we catch a glimpse of members of the Martelli family in the 17th century. A servant offers them a tray bearing cups of the hot chocolate which were a la mode at the time. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall!

 

Many of the doors throughout these galleries are embellished with these gilt decorations, every door with a different combination of items:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The artist signed his name on the ceiling mural, as you can see below:

 

 

I was interested in these little pops of passamaneria (trimmings) found covering the nailheads that these paintings are hung on.  I’m a huge fan of all things passamaneria, and I’ve never seen anything like these before.  I love it when I experience something completely new!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now we enter the 2nd gallery, with its own wonderful ceiling mural.  I was enchanted by these 2 little boys in the mural.  They are busily talking pageboys,  holding the lady’s train.  What were they discussing, I need to know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The door knobs in some of these galleries were fabulous! Butterflies!

 

 

 

The inlaid commesso fiorentino furniture was outstanding as well:

 

 

 

Next we enter the 3rd gallery, with a ceiling fresco treating the subject of Donatello as sculptor to the Martelli family.  The connection was real and it is very entertaining to see its history play out on the ceiling!

 

 

That’s Donatello in the yellow smock:

 

Oops, another shot of my latest obsession.

 

 

 

 

Below: my other obsession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also notable in this room are the very old and very elegant draperies, also with very elegant trim or passamaneria.

 

 

 

And, of course, this family would own some fine Manifattura Richard Ginori ceramics:

 

The next gallery, with another fine frescoed ceiling:

 

In this room, I love the way the 2 drapery rods meet in the middle in a laurel wreath.  The message is clear, the Martelli family was crowned with laurel:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That, of course, is Dante in the red, accompanied by Petrarch and Boccacio. Naturally they are crowned with laurel wreaths and the putto is sailing in with an extra, just in case:

 

 

 

In the next room, a private chapel was built for the last Martelli owner of the home.  It is really quite something in terms of casework.

 

 

 

 

I don’t remember ever seeing a painting of a swaddled Christchild before.  Another something new.

 

 

 

I’ve still got more to show you, but this post is already too long.  I’ll finish it tomorrow…stay tuned!

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:

Screen Shot 2019-11-17 at 20.06.37

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.