The Italian Art: Florence page contains over 80 images of Florentine Art selected from the
Florence Portfolio. The House of Medici gained power through the founding of the Medici Bank
 in the early 15th century, which grew to become the most powerful bank in medieval Europe.
The Medici family of Florence were all great patrons of the arts, and their patronage in the
14th to 17th centuries was responsible for the artistic rebirth known as the Renaissance.

This page is quite extensive, but Florence has a tremendous amount of art and architecture that is
not represented here. For more secular, mythological and religious art, sculpture and architecture
visit the multi-page section on Florence, Birthplace of the Renaissance in the Scenic Gallery.

Click an image to open a larger version.
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The Banner below leads to the Italy Collection where images can be selected.


Images are in a number of Galleries in the Italy Collection.

Direct Links to the Florence and Rome Collections:

Florence          Rome


The Baptistry of St. John
(Battistero di San Giovanni)

Built on the ruins of a 1st century Roman structure (in the 4th-5th c.), the octagonal Baptistry is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It has been the center of the religious life in Florence since the earliest days of the Christian cult in the city. The original baptistry was altered in the reign of Teodolinda, Queen of the Lombards (570-628), and it was modified several other times over the centuries. In the early days, the Baptistry was the city’s second Basilica.

The Baptistry was reconstructed over a 70 year period beginning in 1059, and was rededicated upon completion in 1128. The octagonal lantern on the roof was added in the middle of the 12th c., in 1202 a rectangular apse was added, and the marble floor was laid in 1209. The mosaics of the apse followed this construction, beginning in 1225, and the mosaics in the dome were executed between 1270 and 1300. Andrea Pisano’s South Doors were created in 1336, and in 1401 a competition was held (won by the young Lorenzo Ghiberti) to create another set of bronze doors. The creation of Ghiberti’s first set of doors is often used as the starting point of the Renaissance, and upon completion in 1424, Ghiberti was given a new commission to construct what would become what many experts consider the crowning achievement of the Renaissance:

The Gates of Paradise, by Lorenzo Ghiberti.


Gates of Paradise 4226

Shot on a dark and drizzly afternoon, this image shows the Baptistry’s east side, with the Gates of Paradise flanked by the two (broken) columns of porphyry donated by the people of Pisa in gratitude for military assistance in the battle against Lucca while the Pisan fleet was in the Balearic Isles in 1114. The columns were plundered by the Pisans in Majorca, and were delivered broken, annoying the Florentines, who held a grudge against Pisa for centuries. Above the Gates is Andrea Sansovino’s “The Baptism of Christ” (1502), which consists of the two statues of Christ and John the Baptist that Sansovino left uncompleted when he went to Rome on a commission for Pope Julius II. Sansovino’s sculptures were completed in 1569 by Vincenzo Danti, and the Angel was added in 1792 by Innocenzo Spinazzi.


The Gates of Paradise
by Lorenzo Ghiberti

1177 x 1765 (885 KB)
The image will open in a second window or tab.

The shot above is an image which I repaired.
(this image is displayed for personal use only).

The entire East Door of the Baptistry, known as the Gates of Paradise. Created over a 27-year period by Lorenzo Ghiberti, they use multi-level relief and perspective and are considered to be a defining masterpiece of the Renaissance.

—  No version of this image is available for sale. —


Florentine Gates of Paradise
1500 x 1206 (671 KB)

A preview version of the SXXL composite (7101 x 5708), showing detail shots of some of the panels.

The upper three images were taken late one dark and wet afternoon, the day before the rest of the shots.
The differences in color and saturation are due to the light on the two days (the rest were taken the
next morning). Individual images and detail on the doors and Lorenzo Ghiberti follow below.


Story of Joseph 4258
1500 x 1065 (671 KB)

The story of Joseph, betrayed by his brothers, who later becomes their savior and
rescues the entire community is also an allegory to the story of the expulsion of
Cosimo de’ Medici, who was exiled from Florence temporarily, then returned
to the city to reawaken a new era pf prosperity. Cosimo was very pleased.

The scenes presented in the Story of Joseph are:
Joseph is Cast by his Brothers into the Well; Joseph is Sold to the Merchants;
The Merchants Delivering Joseph to the Pharoah; Joseph Interprets the Pharaoh’s Dream;
The Pharaoh Paying Joseph Honor; Jacob Sends his Sons to Egypt;
Joseph Recognizes his Brothers and Returns Home.


Moses Ten Commandments 4200
1482 x 1290 (857 KB)

Moses Receiving the Ten Commandments. Note the use of perspective and progressively reduced
relief in the representation of the tents on the left, and the different expressions on the people’s faces.


Fall of Jericho 4194
(The Story of Joshua)
1500 x 1200 (863 KB)

Joshua is on a chariot, preceded by the Ark of the Covenant; right: the carrying of the Stones.
Center: another set of vanishing tents; background (top): the City of Jericho and the Priests with Trumpets.


David Beheading Goliath 4206
1500 x 1202 (757 KB)

David is in the process of severing the head of Goliath in the foreground, using Goliath’s own sword.
Saul is standing in a chariot at left, but what I find interesting are the two fellows at the far left commenting on
David’s technique, and the image in the far background (top) with David presenting the head (seemingly to a lady).

More images and information on the Gates of Paradise can be found on the Florence Baptistry page.


The Banner below leads to the Italy Collection where images can be selected.


Images are in a number of Galleries in the Italy Collection.

Direct Links to the Florence and Rome Collections:

Florence          Rome


Tomb Antipope John XXIII Donatello 5024

The tomb of the Antipope John XXIII, executed in marble and bronze by Donatello (Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi) and Michelozzo (Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi).

The last tomb of a Pope outside of Rome, at 24 feet it was the tallest sculpture in Florence at the time it was built (1420s), and one of the earliest Renaissance sculptural masterpieces.

A groundbreaking work of art in many respects, this was the first collaboration for Donatello and Michelozzo. While it is somewhat typical of the highest level of medieval Italian wall tombs, with several elements stacked atop each other and a life-size effigy, it is the first to use a baldachin (canopy). Other than the effigy, all other figures on the tomb are executed in high relief. The base is decorated with winged angel heads, garlands and ribbons. Above the base are the Three Virtues (Faith, Charity and Hope) in shell niches, separated by fluted Corinthian pilasters (shallow decorative pillars). Their style is antique even for the time, and was likely influenced by Donatello’s period of study of ancient sculptures in Rome. On our left, Faith is holding a Chalice, Charity (center) is holding a Cornucopia and a brazier, and Hope has her hands clasped in prayer. Note the clothing chosen for Charity, a notably more ancient style.Above the Virtues is a classically-inspired four-column console supporting the sarcophagus, with Cossa’s family arms with papal tiara, the papal coat of arms (the crossed keys), and Cossa’s arms with the cardinal’s hat.

The putti (with crossed legs) holding the parchment below the sarcophagus are executed in a shallow bas-relief style which was pioneered by Donatello, called rilievo schiacciato. The sarcophagus itself is supported by lions which symbolize Florentine support for his papacy. The bier supporting the effigy is tilted towards the viewer, making the effigy easier to see. The effigy, dressed as a cardinal, is gilded bronze (the bier is ungilded). The tomb was opened in the 16th c., and it was confirmed that Cossa was buried in the same clothes shown on the effigy. Above the effigy is a shell-shaped half-lunette in a classically-inspired Doric entablature with the Madonna and Child below and between the folds of the canopy curtains. The canopy itself was likely intended as a papal baldacchino, but this was (and still is) a controversial subject for several reasons. Cossa did not die as Pope, and many of the elements of this tomb annoyed his successor fiercely, plus scholars disagree on the subject of the canopy, with some saying it represents a baldachin and others a more common secular bed-canopy. Considering the symbolism throughout this tomb and both Donatello’s and the Medici’s interest and support for he Antipope’s claim to the papacy, I think it is more likely that it was intended as a baldacchino.


Baptistry Ceiling detail 5008
1500 x 1065 (975 KB)

The Dome Mosaics

Detail of the Choirs of Angels section:
Virtues; Thrones; Dominations; Powers and Attributes.
The top three are Archangels, Angels and Dominions.

The ceiling mosaics were created by a number of artists from Venice, including the most
renowned artist of his time, Cimabue (Benvenuto di Giuseppe, 1240-1302), the first of the
Italian artists to break with the old Byzantine traditional style. The master who trained Giotto,
who was the first of the Renaissance painters, Cimabue also was responsible for creating
a new method of applying the tesserae (colored glass or stone, in this case with gold leaf
embedded in some of the materials). This new method was applied near the end of the
cycle of mosaics on the ceiling. The large central figure of Jesus was done in the old
method, but as an example, the figures of the Damned in Hell were done with the
newer method developed by the Workshop of Cimabue, as were some of the
other figures which were applied to the ceiling later. Detail to follow below.


Baptistry Ceiling detail 5014
1500 x 1065 (903 KB)

From top (below the lantern embellishment):
Choirs of Angels; Stories from the Book of Genesis;
Stories of Joseph; Stories of Mary and Christ.


Baptistry Ceiling detail 5018
1500 x 1065 (874 KB)

The Last Judgement section, with cartoons by Coppo di Marcovaldo (1225-1276).
Note the shape of the feet of Christ the Judge. This is one of the sections where the
new method of applying the tesserae was first seen. Christ and many of the figures
in the upper levels were done in the old method. In the new method, Cimabue and
his assistants applied the tesserae to a cartooned panel, then soaked a heavy
canvas with glue and laid it out on the tesserae. This canvas was then rolled
up and carried aloft and laid out on a wet coat of plaster. When the plaster
was dry, the canvas would be soaked to soften the glue, then removed.
The tesserae would be left behind, embedded in the plaster. This
method results in a much more fluid look, with more options
for expression and more of the character of a painting.


Baptistry Ceiling detail 5015
1200 x 1065 (822 KB)

Detail of Christ the Judge, with people exiting their tombs into heaven on his right,
and the Damned exiting their tombs into hell on his left (our right). Note the shape of his feet.
The golden striations on the clothing of Christ are an innovation introduced by Coppo di Marcovaldo.


Baptistry Ceiling detail 5051
1359 x 993 (835 KB)

Closer detail, allowing you to see the golden tesserae in the background.

 Note the unusually-shaped hands and neck and the fine detail which
was used by the artist to create the shading and facial expression.

More images and information can be found on the Florence Baptistry page.


The Banner below leads to the Italy Collection where images can be selected.


Images are in a number of Galleries in the Italy Collection.

Direct Links to the Florence and Rome Collections:

Florence          Rome


Basilica di San Lorenzo

One of the largest churches in Florence, the Basilica of San Lorenzo was the parish church
of the Medici family, and many of the major family members are buried in the Basilica. The founder
of the Medici dynasty, Giovanni di Bicci de’Medici financed the construction of a new church in 1419,
commissioning Filippo Brunelleschi (the father of Renaissance architecture) to design and build it.

The resulting structure is considered to be a milestone in Renaissance architecture, and
houses sculpture and architectural works by Donatello and other Renaissance artists.


Annunziata Crucifix Lippo Lippi 5241

Filippo Lippi’s Annunciation was painted for the Martelli family chapel between 1440 and 1445. It is one of the earliest altar paintings done in a rectangular format rather than the peaked polyptych style, and it is still in its original frame. This is one of a great many Annunciations that Fra Filippo Lippi created.

Fra Filippo Lippi (Lippo Lippi) was quite a character for his time, and was also a great influence on many Renaissance painters who followed him. Some of his more famous pupils included Sandro  Botticelli and his son Filippino Lippi, who became as famous a painter as his father (Filippino was the result of a juicy scandal with Lucrezia Buti, who was either a young novice nun or a girl that was placed in the nun’s care).

His patrons were several members of the Medici family, from Cosimo I through Lorenzo the Magnificent, who erected the monument to Fra Filippo Lippi in Spoleto, where he died in 1469 while he was painting the frescoes in the apse of the Spoleto Cathedral.

Lippo Lippi occasionally did quite well, making considerable profit from the many commissions he received for fresco work and other art, but he lived constantly in a state of chronic poverty. Apparently, he was quite a ladies man. Vasari said that if he saw a woman who pleased him, he would give all his possessions to have her, and if he couldn’t succeed, he quieted the flame of his love by painting her portrait. Once, he was working for Cosimo de’ Medici, and Cosimo locked him up in the house so he wouldn’t waste time. This worked for two days, until he could stand it no more, and cut up his sheets to climb out the window. When Cosimo found him missing, he sent people out to look for him (he came back later). After this, Cosimo supplied him with mistresses to keep him working.

One story about his death at Spoleto is that the Pope had granted him a dispensation to allow him to marry Lucrezia, but that he was either poisoned by the relatives of Lucrezia or by some other woman whom he was dallying with. Nobody knows for sure... but they are pretty sure he was poisoned.


Donatello Doors Old Sacristy San Lorenzo 5263

Donatello’s bronze Door of the Apostles, with Saints Cosmas and Damian atop the pediment. Donatello designed the door frames in an older architectural style that does not exactly match the rest of the Old Sacristy, which is a very simple design based on circles and squares.


Cosmas Damian Old Sacristy San Lorenzo 5263c 2

A large detail crop showing the reliefs of Saints Cosmas and Damian by Donatello. The twins, Saints Cosmas and Damian, were patron saints of doctors (medici), and thus of the family de’Medici as well. The chapel next door is dedicated to them.

Cosimo de’Medici (the chief patron of the church) was born on the saint’s feast day, so they are often seen in paintings and buildings that are associated with Cosimo.


Dome Constellations San Lorenzo 5254 M

This is the small dome directly above the altar in the Old Sacristy.
The dome’s frescoes show the constellations visible in the night sky, showing
the route of the sun between the constellations on July 4th 1442. July 4th, 1442 was
 an important date in Florentine history: the day that Rene d’Anjou entered Florence.
 Rene d’Anjou, the King of Naples, was the one who convinced Cosimo de’ Medici
 to open the first public library in all of Europe, and to have the University teach
Greek. This opened the minds of the public to Greek concepts of life.

The background of the dome is azurite, and the sun (and the sun’s route) are done in gold.
The nearly monochrome painting technique is called grisaille. Created by Giuliano d’Arrigo.


Corner Detail Old Sacristy San Lorenzo 5272

Corner detail in the Old Sacristy, with sculpted tondi by Donatello.
Donatello also created the frieze of cherubs and seraphim in tondi in
the entablature running around the room (in the bottom of the frame).

The tondi in this scene show St. Luke in the left lunette, St. John the Evangelist
on Patmos in the pendentive tondo, and St. John the Evangelist in the right lunette.


Corner Detail Old Sacristy San Lorenzo 5276

The tondi in this scene show St. Mark in the left lunette, The Resurrection
of Drusilla in the pendentive tondo, and St. Luke in the right lunette.

Brunelleschi was not at all happy with the lunette tondi. They have no
architectural significance, and were not part of the original design. Cosimo
took over the patronage after his father died, and wanted the scenes to fill the
spaces in the lunettes, plus the fact that St. John the Evangelist was his father’s
patron saint (and Cosimo’s son’s) meant that an association was created
between the space, the patron and his descendants. Still, it caused a
bit of friction between Brunelleschi and Donatello, even though
it was Cosimo’s idea (he saw it as Donatello’s work).


Tabernacle da Settignano San Lorenzo 5289 M

Created in 1461, the Tabernacle of the Sacrament was either intended for the Sacrament Chapel, dedicated to the Medici family saints Cosmas and Damien (as you discovered in the previous section above), or in the main chapel choir.

Desiderio da Settignano created an early Renaissance masterpiece blending the new art of perspective, medium and low relief sculpture, marvelous renderings of the Christ Child and putti, and two whimsical hip-shot candle-holding figures.


Tabernacle da Settignano San Lorenzo 5289 detail 1

Alluding to the work of his teacher Bernardo Rosellini and that of Donatello, he executed what is one of the more interesting pieces of early Renaissance sculpture. The pilaster-framed upper structure is reminiscent of the Donatello Annunciation in Santa Croce, but within this aedicula is a deep barrel-vaulted corridor which spatially recedes using Brunelleschi’s newly demonstrated methods of geometric perspective. In exquisite low relief reminiscent of Donatello’s best work, Desiderio rendered a half figure above the actual door of the Sacrament closet, and halfway down the corridor, angels in low relief flit in from the side passages. The piece is subtly ornamented in a way that does not detract from the scene. The Lamentation scene below does seems to be a little out of touch with the lighthearted mood of the rest of the piece.


da Settignano Madonna HS7690 LG
1632 x 2136 (767 KB)

This piece is not in San Lorenzo (it is in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena).

Beauregard Madonna, attributed to Desiderio da Settignano, c. 1455, Italian, white Carrara marble.

Desiderio de Bartolomeo di Francesco detto Ferro (da Settignano) was, like many of his contemporaries,
known for the village he came from (Settignano), and was typically referred to as Desiderio da Settignano.

Born and trained in Settignano, a village of stonecutters in Tuscany, Desiderio was one of the most talented marble sculptors at work in Florence during the Renaissance. In this sculpture, the Virgin embraces and presents the Christ Child, who stands in contrapposto, clutching his swaddling cloth in both hands, a gesture that conveys both visual and emotional meaning. It adds movement to the composition and it reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice with reference to his burial shroud. Desiderio carved the figures in low relief, paying great attention to the tangible details of texture and weight. The description of the Virgin’s dress and veil, and the soft, pudgy flesh of the Infant, appear to transcend the hardness of the medium.

Desiderio created the Beauregard Madonna in 1455, roughly six years before the Tabernacle of the Sacrament in San Lorenzo. This is called the Beauregard Madonna because that is the name of the first documented owner. In his short life (1430-1464), Desiderio created some truly masterful sculptures. He achieved some important commissions early in life based on his mastery of marble and his sensitivity, and he really had a gift in the representation of children. Note the character of the pudgy skin of the child around the knees and elbow, and the character of the folds of the dress. The textures he created here were exquisite. He invented the sculpted portraiture of children, made popular the low-relief techniques he had learned from Donatello, and had a delicacy of expression and texture unique to his time.

Half-length painted or carved images of the Madonna and Child adorned domestic interiors, especially the private chapels of wealthy and aristocratic families. As objects of devotion and prayer, they were believed to have power as intermediaries to their divine counterparts.


Cupola San Lorenzo 5206 M
1500 x 1290 (620 KB)

The magnificent frescoes of the cupola over the high altar at San Lorenzo.

By the way, you might think from looking at the images that there was plenty
of light to work with. Not so... the image above was handheld (as they all are)
at 1/25 second at f/2, in other words, I was shooting a very fast lens nearly wide
open at a shutter speed that yields marginal results, and I had to underexpose
over a stop to yield even this shutter speed. It was not a bright day, and there
was not much light getting in to the church. This caused major challenges.

More images of Renaissance art from San Lorenzo on the San Lorenzo page.


The Banner below leads to the Italy Collection where images can be selected.


Images are in a number of Galleries in the Italy Collection.

Direct Links to the Florence and Rome Collections:

Florence          Rome


San Marco

San Marco was home to Fra Angelico (the 15th century painter) and Girolamo Savanarola,
the fiery preacher who instituted the Bonfire of the Vanities, burning books and Renaissance
artwork by artists such as Sandro Botticelli (he burned anything and anyone he considered to
be immoral, and was hostile towards the Renaissance. He personally threw Sandro Botticelli’s
paintings into the fire in 1497). He was eventually burned at the stake himself, on the site where
he burned other people (and held the Bonfire of the Vanities) in the Piazza della Signoria in front
of Palazzo Vecchio on May 23, 1498. After his death, the Medici regained control of Florence.


Madonna della Robbia
Funeral Passignano San Marco 5125 M
966 x 1500 (375 KB)


Translation of St. Antonius Passignano San Marco 5137


In the vestibule hallway leading to the Salviati Chapel are the two frescoes by Domenico Passignano (Cresti) created in 1589 in a late-Renaissance style called “Counter-Mannerism”. It is a style deliberately intended to rebel against the classical realism depicted in much of theRenaissance art which preceded it. Much of the style was based on the Grotesque art which was discovered in a grotto in Rome by Raphael and other artists of the period (some grotesques can be seen in the Palazzo Vecchio hallways and cortiles).

This particular set of frescoes is a little different in that it has a normal group of fully-clothed people watching or participating in the events, but in the foreground are partially-clad figures which look like they just stepped out of a spa to see what was going on. While these figures are not in the contorted poses used by the artist Agnolo di Cosimo (Il Bronzino), this painting is somewhat similar in style to the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence in San Lorenzo, which was painted about 20 years earlier.

The painting of the Funeral of St. Antoninus is placed
above a display case containing one of the della Robbia
tin-glazed polychrome terra-cotta sculptures that the
family made so famous. This one, by the founder
of the process Luca della Robbia, depicts the
Crowned Madonna with Child (1475).

At left is a large detail crop of della Robbia’s Madonna.

Madonna della Robbia San Marco 5125 detail
(detail crop — no linked image)

More from San Marco on the Assorted Churches page.

Basilica di Santa Croce

Built in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambio, Santa Croce is the principal Franciscan church in Florence.
It is the largest Franciscan church in the world, and it is famous for the artwork and monuments in
the nave and its 16 chapels, decorated with frescoes by Giotto, Taddeo Gaddi, and several other
prominent pre-Renaissance and Renaissance artists. The church was completed in 1442, but the
facade was not completed until 1857-1863, when it was designed and built by Nicolo Matas (who
designed the layout for the cemetery of San Miniato al Monte at the same time). Several additions
were produced, some designed by Brunelleschi, Michelozzo, and other Renaissance architects.


Dante Alighieri Santa Croce 4507

Basilica di Santa Croce is known for its large number of tombs, frescoes, and works of art. Near the left portal is a statue of Dante Alighieri, who wrote “The Divine Comedy” and who was responsible for the development of the modern Italian language. Dante wrote the ”Comedy” while he was exiled from Florence on falsified charges. He was not treated well by the Florentine Council, who regretted their treatment of him (many years after his death) and tried to recover his remains from Ravenna, who refused, even hiding the bones. A cenotaph was built for him in Santa Croce (1829).

His sentences were finally commuted in 2008. Dante died in 1321. Florence does move slowly...

The sculpture of Dante (Durante degli Alighieri, 1265-1321) was donated to the city of Florence by the sculptor in 1856. Enrico Pazzi represented Dante deep in thought, holding the  folds of his robes with his left hand and a tome in his right.

Formerly residing in the center of Piazza Santa Croce, the statue was moved near the steps in 1968, two years after it witnessed the devastating Arno Flood which had destroyed so very many artworks and lives in Florence.

Dante, like most Florentines of his day, was heavily involved in the Guelph vs. Ghibelline battles and the political conflicts that surrounded the strongly opposed factions: the Guelphs who supported the Pope and the Ghibellines  who supported the Holy Roman Emperor.

The actual power struggle between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor had ended in 1122, but the conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines lasted in Italy until the the middle of the 1400s. Italians have created a high art out of the act of holding a grudge.

This panel is called the Bardi St. Francis, as it resides in the Bardi Chapel alongside Giotto’s fresco of St. Clare. The initial research to find out what this was took quite a while, as there was little written on it in many normally accessible sources. There has since been more written about this panel, but they still are not certain who painted it. The panel was painted between 1250-1260 for the original church of Santa Croce (not the current basilica, which was founded in 1294).

The unknown artist is called “Master of the Bardi St. Francis”.

The Master of the Bardi St. Francis is named for this panel, as his name is otherwise unknown, although some scholars are now saying that the Master may have been Coppo di Marcovaldo (c. 1225-1276), who created the cartoons for the Baptistry mosaics. The Master of the Bardi St. Francis is also credited with creating St. Francis Receives the Stigmata, now residing in the Uffizi Gallery, and a crucifix with eight Stories of the Passion.

I am sure there are at least a few of you who are wondering why the color of the stained glass windows looks so natural. When shooting indoors the color temperature of the indoor light is totally incompatible with the color temperature of the light entering a stained glass window (or other windows). If you color balance for the interior  light, the windows shift to blue. I processed these images twice, once for daylight and once for the interior light, and overlaid the windows from the daylight processing into these images.


Bardi St. Francis Santa Croce 4564


Michelangelo Santa Croce 4607

The Tomb of Michelangelo Buonarotti
created by Giorgio Vasari in 1570-79

Michelangelo Buonarotti
(Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni)

Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, engineer... the archetypical Renaissance man. The sheer volume and quality of his work is truly astounding. He was the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was alive.

His style was such that the attempts by succeeding artists to emulate him resulted in the next major movement in Western Art: Mannerism. Such artists as Giambologna owed a lot of their style to Michelangelo’s sculpture, and his achievements in architecture were at least their equal. Michelangelo had little respect for painting, but he was responsible for two frescoes that had an extreme effect on his contemporaries and future artists: his work in the Sistine Chapel.

It was after the construction of the  tomb of Michelangelo that Santa Croce decided to become the “Pantheon of Italian Glories” and house the tombs of those who were famous for their great achievements.

The Pope wanted to bury Michelangelo in Rome, but as he had promised his body to Florence  (even though he had not lived in Florence for 30 years), the Florentines stole his body in the middle of the night and moved it to Florence in a horse cart. Needless to say, this annoyed the Pope somewhat.

The frescoes were executed by Giovanni Battista Naldini. The allegorical sculptures represent the three artistic disciplines Michelangelo perfected (left to right): Painting (by Battista Lorenzi);  Sculpture (by Valerio Cioli);  and Architecture (by Battista Lorenzi). Above the sculptures are the sarcophagus, Battista Lorenzi’s bust of Michelangelo, the three wreath rings  (also representing the Arts) and the coats of arms.

The central Pieta fresco alludes to the Pieta Michelangelo created as a young man in St. Peter’s Basilica at the end of the 15th century (click here to see an image).


Altar with Crucifix Santa Croce 4627

The frescoes in the Capella Maggiore depict the
 Legend of the True Cross, by Agnolo Gaddi (1380).

The Polyptych with Madonna and Saints is by
Niccolo di Pietro Gerini (c. 1380), and the Crucifix
is by the School of Giotto (c. 1325). The stained glass
windows represent a Deposition from the Cross, created
from cartoons drawn by Lorenzo Ghiberti in the 14th c.

The flood of the Arno River in 1966 damaged many of
the artworks in the church. Recently, a restoration of
the frescoes in the Capella Maggiore was begun.

There are a number of images on the Santa Croce
page detailing the Altarpiece, Crucifix and Frescoes.


Donatello Annunciation 4549 M

Near the altar of the Cavalcanti Chapel is the Annunciation by Donatello (1435). This was one of his first works after his return from several  years spent in Rome. Based on 14th century iconography, it was also  influenced by Classical designs. Made in gilded Pietra Serena (grey  sandstone), it was originally intended for the Cavalcanti chapel altar.  (It is now mounted in a recess on the south wall).

During this period he concentrated on recovering the beautiful style of ancient sculptures. Notice the positions of Mary’s leg and foot, how her hips and shoulders are turned in opposite directions, the drapery hinting at the leg shape, and how she seems to be startled by the appearance of the angel.


Giotto Baroncelli Polyptych 4719
1500 x 975 (654 KB)

The Baroncelli family commissioned this altar in 1327. The five panels are composed as a
single space. The central scene is the Virgin Mary being crowned the Queen of Heaven. The
wings show a crowd of angels and saints watching. Every face in the crowd shows individuality.
Kneeling in front are music-making angels. Giotto had significant experience in the creation of
polyptychs... the friars actively promoted them, and Giotto had created what was probably one
of the first polyptychs for Badia Fiorentina. Giotto painted four altars for Santa Croce, and this is
the only one left in its original position, on the original altar, surrounded by the original artwork.

Not long after completing this piece, Giotto was appointed Master Builder
of the Cathedral by the city of Florence and began work on the Campanile.

Giotto di Bondone is generally considered to be the first of the artists who contributed to
the Renaissance. He created a natural style that radically diverged from the Byzantine style
of the painters in his day, and introduced the concept of accurate proportion and shape. The
intention was to draw from the natural world, and artists from his time on created work that
looks “modern” in comparison to the oddly shaped heads and flattened perspectives
of Byzantine artists. His work is usually used as the dividing line. You can tell by the
style whether an artist came from before or after Giotto... he was that influential.
He also reintroduced the Classical concepts of space, known to the ancient
Greek and Roman artists but forgotten throughout the Middle Ages.


Giotto Death and Ascension of St. Francis Santa Croce 4569
1631 x 900 (446 KB)

The Bardi Chapel was commissioned by the most wealthy merchant and banking family in Florence
(until 1343-45, when the combination of the Anti-Magnate Revolt of 1343, and King Edward III of England,
who defaulted on his debt of 400,000 Florins borrowed for the Hundred Years War bankrupted the Bardi).
—  400,000 Florins is equivalent to about $100 Million US at a value of about $250 per Florin. —

In 1325, when Giotto was commissioned to paint the chapel, they were at the height of their glory, and
their company was one of the richest in Europe (the Bardi and the Peruzzi families essentially controlled the
Papal finances). Giotto was brought in to recreate his masterwork at the Church of St. Francis in Assisi.

He created six scenes from the Life of St. Francis.

The damage you see is because the Bardi chapel was whitewashed in the 17th century when the entire
church was renovated to fit in with the Baroque tastes of the period, and some wall tombs were attached
over the frescoes. In the mid-19th century, the plaster and lime was removed from the walls and a feeble
attempt was made to restore the frescoes. The tracings and contours were as originally done by Giotto,
but the 19th c. artists could not follow Giotto’s methods of expression. These frescoes in the Bardi Chapel
suffered badly from the poor restoration. The expressions are somewhat wooden and there is little detail in
the features, plus the facial lines and other outlines are essentially traced in. They rescued the compositions
(that is something), but all the subtlety of Giotto’s art has been destroyed. They are still famous scenes...


Gaddi Last Supper Tree of Life 4723
1500 x 1225 (673 KB)

Considered Gaddi’s best work, this fresco in the refectory was painted in 1335.

Taddeo Gaddi was Giotto’s primary pupil and assistant, working with him for 24 years.
By 1347 he was considered the best living painter. He was also an accomplished architect,
and is credited with creating the Ponte Vecchio and the Ponte Santa Trinita (a five-arch bridge
destroyed by a flood in the 16th c. and replaced by Bartolomeo Ammanati’s three-arch bridge).
Few of his works survive. Two paintings are known along with the frescoes here at Santa Croce,
but the bulk of his fresco work done at San Spirito and the Serviti have all disappeared. Taddeo
Gaddi was one of the few artists whose name was remembered 200 years after he died, and
he was one of the best of the pre-Renaissance artists. It’s too bad that many of his frescoes
were either painted over or destroyed during renovations over the years... a great loss.

His sons Agnolo and Giovanni were also well-known artists, the greater being Agnolo.


Taddeo Gaddi Crucifixion Santa Croce 4659
1500 x 1150 (756 KB)

The four frescoes in the Sacristy:

top:    Ascension (Niccolo di Pietro Gerini)       left:   Ascent to Calvary (Spinello Aretino)

center:  Crucifixion (Taddeo Gaddi, c. 1330)      right:  Resurrection (Niccolo di Pietro Gerini)

—  More images with detailed captions are on the Santa Croce page in the Florence section. —


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Images are in a number of Galleries in the Italy Collection.

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Fountain Piazza della Santissima Annunziata 4954
795 x 1290 (285 KB)

Fontane del Caccuccio (Fish-Soup Fountains)
by Pietro Tacca (1629)

These two identical bronze fountains were originally intended to be mounted in Livorno, but were instead installed in the Piazza della SS Annunziata in Florence. They were created in a Mannerist style based on Flemish goldsmith’s designs of strange sea-creatures and shells. These are by far the most unusual fountains in Florence, and show the tremendous imagination of both Tacca and the Flemish goldsmith(s) who created the original designs.

Ferdinando II de’ Medici commissioned the fountains as a gift to the port town of Livorno, where they were to be installed at the docks in honor of their fishing industry (explaining the sea monster motif), but he liked them so much they were installed in Piazza della SS Annunziata. The two Triton-like creatures on each fountain are perched over a basin that looks like sea otters lying on their backs in the water. The pedestals are adorned with all sorts of shellfish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Because the pedestal decorations contain the contents of Caccuccio (fish soup), the fountains are often called Fontane del Caccuccio.

In 1956, the original molds were found, and the mayor of Florence had a copy cast as a gift to Livorno (who never got over losing the fountains). Later, Livorno bought another copy.

Pietro Tacca was Giambologna’s chief pupil, and succeeded him as Court Sculptor to the Medici upon his death. Tacca finished a number of uncompleted Giambologna sculptures, including the enormous equestrian bronze of Ferdinando I also in Piazza Annunziata, and was also responsible for the plans for restoration of Menelaus and Patroclus shown above. He also created the famous Four Moors (installed in Livorno).


Fountain Piazza della Santissima Annunziata 4935M
1206 x 1575 (578 KB)

The Triton-like creatures are perched above two basins resembling sea otters.
The pedestal is adorned with shellfish, crustaceans and molluscs, prompting the
Florentines to call the fountains Fontane del Caccuccio (Fish-Soup Fountains).


Neptune Fountain Piazza della Signoria detail 4117 M
1000 x 1600 (397 KB)

Commissioned for the wedding of Francesco I de’ Medici and Grand Duchess Johanna of Austria in 1565, the Fountain of Neptune was created by  Bartolomeo Ammannati and his assistants (including Giambologna). It was originally assigned to Bartolommeo Bandinelli (who created the model), but he died before starting work on the Apuan marble. For the face of Neptune, Ammannati used Cosimo I de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany (alluding to the dominion of the Florentines over the sea). The statue of Neptune displayed on the fountain is a copy made in the 19th c. (the original is in the National Museum).

The sea-horses are supposed to be drawing Neptune’s chariot (a giant seashell on
a pedestal decorated with the chained figures of Scylla and Charybdis). The water for the
fountain is supplied by a specially-constructed aqueduct fed from an original Roman aqueduct
from the Porto San Giorgio, across the Ponte Rubiconte bridge and to Piazza della Signoria.

The Mannerist bronzes represent a satyr on the left, and Tethys (Neptune’s wife) on the right.
These were created by Giambologna, who was apprenticed to Ammannati at the time.

When the statue was completed in 1565, the Florentines did not like it very much.
Michelangelo (Ammannati’s teacher) said: “What a fine piece of  marble you have ruined.”
The Florentines who lived in the area then started to wash their clothes in the fountain.

The fountain has experienced a lot of damage over the years. It was vandalized in 1580, used as a washbasin at the end of the 16th century, a satyr was stolen by masked men during a carnival in 1830 (replaced by a new one in 1831), and it was damaged in the Bourbon bombardment of 1848. It has been restored numerous times. In 1982 Neptune was painted blue after a win by Florence’s soccer team. Hooves of the horses have been snapped off in 1981, 1986 and 1989. In 2005, an idiot climbed the statue late at night, slipped, and tried to catch himself on the right hand. The hand broke off.


Menelaus Patroclus Loggia dei Lanzi 4120 M
1500 x 1290 (332 KB)

Controversy surrounds this Roman copy of a Greek original of the 3rd c. BC from Pergamon.
The first regards the date of origin: recent scholars place the date between 150-125 BC based on
gems with a similar motif, others say it is 1st c. AD. The other controversy is regarding the restoration.
 When the statue was found in a Roman vineyard around 1570, Cosimo I had it brought to Florence.
The Menelaus figure was missing the torso above the waist. Pietro Tacca (Medici court sculptor)
worked out a restoration plan, which was executed by Lodovico Salvetti using a simpler helmet.

In the background on the left is the Germanic Prisoner, the Princess Thusnelda,
a marble from the 2nd c. AD, probably from the Forum of Trajan. It was found in Rome,
ended up (as did many other antiquities) at the Medici Villa, then was moved here in 1789.
On the right is the Roman Matron, also found in Rome (16th c.), also probably from the
Forum of Trajan, and also previously located at the Medici Villa in Rome. It was
brought from the Villa to the Loggia dei Lanzi to keep Thusnelda company.

Continuing the controversy... in 1771, a neo-Classicist artist (Anton Mengs) took casts
of the parts of this sculpture he considered antiques, and parts of another similar ancient
sculpture in the Palazzo Pitti, and reassembled them the way he thought they should be. The
statue was removed from its mounting on the Ponte Vecchio in 1798 and disappeared for
forty years of additional restorations, including work by Stefano Ricci in the 1830s. It
was finally re-erected in 1838 in the Loggia dei Lanzi, where it remains today.

The current controversy is over the left arm of Patroclus, hanging lifeless (which
was part of the original restoration by Pietro Tacca and Salvetti), that appears to
be dislocated at the shoulder, and the raised knee of Patroclus. Other issues include
the shape of the ground they are on (overly picturesque) and the leg positions of Menelaus
(plus the elaborate neo-Classical helmet of Menelaus, added by Stefano Ricci in the 1830s).

While a lot of this seems to be the incessant yammering of a bunch of critics, the major issue is the liberties that were taken in the post-Renaissance period with antique art created prior to the contemporary period, altering them to fit into contemporary art sensibilities. Consider another example: During the Mannerist/Baroque period, the character of Santa Croce was called into question. To make it fit into the current Baroque mold, the magnificent frescoes of the pre-Renaissance master Giotto were plastered over and whitewashed, and in some areas of the Bardi Chapel, wall tombs were mounted over them. These tombs destroyed Giotto’s frescoes. Many years later, the tombs were removed and the plaster was demolished (taking a lot of the fresco work with it). The frescoes were discovered, and journeyman artists were put to work to try to fix them, but they had no hope of following Giotto’s subtle expressions and shadings, so what they did was preserve the general outline and composition where they could, and otherwise painted very simple faces and clothing. A great master’s work was totally destroyed by tyros.


Hercules Nessus Loggia dei Lanzi 4125 MG
1332 x 1650 (577 KB)

Jean Boulogne (Giambologna) sculpted this from a single large block of marble
(with Pietro Francavilla) in 1599. Giambologna had a spectacular ability to portray
movement and tension, and his finish work was superb. It was placed here in 1841.

Nessus carried Hercules wife Deianeira across the river Euenos (he was the ferryman), then he tried to rape her. Very bad idea. Hercules saw this from across the river and shot an arrow dipped in the poison of the Hydra into Nessus’ chest. Nessus, as he lay dying, told Deianeira that his blood would ensure Hercules’ fidelity. She believed him, and when she became worried, she dipped his shirt into the blood. Later, she spilled a little on the floor and saw it fuming. She realized it was poison, but it was too late. Although she sent a messenger to warn Hercules, he was already dying.

Bottom line? This fight never really happened in the mythological tales.
It’s still a truly exceptional sculpture, and a little artistic license is expected.

The body positions and the look of pain on the centaur’s face are dramatic,
but the truly exceptional thing about this sculpture is the fact that it was created
from a single block of marble. This is the sign of a master as there is no tolerance
for error, and you must see the entire sculpture in your mind’s eye as you are sculpting.


Hercules Nessus Uffizi 4739 M
1000 x 1600 (342 KB)

Giovanni Battista Caccini was famous for restoring ancient fragmentary  sculptures such as this 3rd century BC Roman sculpture of Hercules and  Nessus, mounted on a 1st. c. AD Roman funerary monument with busts of a  married couple.


Hercules Nessus Uffizi 4746 M
1000 x 1600 (331 KB)

Caccini repaired the centaur’s forelegs and replaced one section of leg, grafted a modern head onto the centaur’s body, and sculpted Hercules. Caccini’s presentation is more like a wrestling match than the duel to the death which you saw in Giambologna’s version of this subject (the previous image).


Fabriano Adoration of the Magi Uffizi 4764 M
1600 x 1690 (1265 KB)

—  Note the file size  —

This is the most famous and best work of Gentile da Fabriano, commissioned by Palla Strozzi
on the arrival of da Fabriano in Florence in 1420. It required three years to complete, and it was
installed in the chapel of Santa Trinita. It portrays the path of the Magi in several scenes starting in
the upper left corner and continuing clockwise. The people are dressed in Renaissance costume, with
real gold and jewels inlaid into the panels. The frame is a masterpiece, with several small paintings
and a fully illustrated predella (the area below the main scene) Note the exotic animals. There
are monkeys, a leopard, a macaque, a lion and other animals (including superb horses).

This piece is considered to be one of the premiere masterworks of the International Gothic style.

Just about this time is when I was approached and told that no photography was allowed.
Meanwhile, everyone with a little point-and-shoot camera was happily snapping away, flash
activated. I suppose they don’t want anyone with good lenses taking pictures of their artwork.


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Images are in a number of Galleries in the Italy Collection.

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Medici Bust Palazzo Vecchio 5605

This bust is using exquisite stone for the drapery. It is one of the more interesting ancient busts in the Palazzo Vecchio, and it reminded me of another Medici bust from the Uffizi Gallery... the bust of Emperor Trajan. The Medici were great  collectors of antiquities. They had the word out that they would buy antiquities, so whenever anything was discovered during construction in Rome, the Medici usually ended up with it.


Antinous Palazzo Vecchio 5587

Hadrian searched for the most beautiful youth in the Empire and found Antinous. Antinous drowned in the Nile in 130 at 19, and Hadrian was devastated.  He deified Antinous (made him a god), a process previously reserved for  the Imperial family. Cities were founded in his name, temples were  founded, and statues of Antinous as Apollo, Osiris, and other gods were  created. Antinous is the most well-preserved face of antiquity.


Roman Bust Sala di Ester Palazzo Vecchio 5542
1500 x 1092 (299 KB

In the Sala di Ester (Room of Esther, the dining room) of the Quartiere degli Elementi (Apartment of the Elements).
This bust may be a fragmentary ancient sculpture which was cut off at the chest, or it may be a Renaissance copy of an
ancient sculpture. Either way, it looks very interesting, the way it seems to grow out of the table. It is one of my favorites.


Putto with Dolphin del Verrocchio 5467 M

Putto with Dolphin
Andrea del Verrochio (c. 1470)

Andrea del Verrocchio was the teacher of such renowned Renaissance artists as Leonardo da Vinci, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Lorenzo di Credi and Pietro Perugino (who was the teacher of Raphael). Verrocchio (and Donatello) created some of the early sculptures in the round (all viewpoints are of equal significance and the statue can be viewed from all sides rather than being placed in a niche and viewed from a few positions in front of the sculpture). The Putto with Dolphin is sculpted in the round.

Created for Lorenzo de’ Medici (the Magnificent) for his villa at Carregi for use as a fountainhead, it was originally part of a group of sculptures that were delivered (the others were lost). Cosimo I de’ Medici had the Putto with Dolphin transferred to the Palazzo Vecchio in 1557, where it was the fountainhead for the porphyry and marble fountain in the first cortile (courtyard). Today, a copy made by Bruno Bearzi acts as the fountainhead and the original is displayed in the Apartment of the Elements.

The Putto with Dolphin was created during the same period in which del Verrocchio created the bronze group Christ and St. Thomas for Orsanmichele, which was an elegant solution to the problem of placing two more than life-size statues into a niche designed for one (the statue of St. Thomas was placed entirely outside the niche, with only one foot on the ledge). At this same time, he also created the enormous gilded-bronze ball for the top of the lantern of Brunelleschi’s Dome at Santa Maria del Fiore, destroyed by a lightning strike in 1600.

Judith and Holofernes Donatello
Sala dei Gigli 5571 M
1000 x 1600 (483 KB)

Judith and Holofernes (1460) was one of Donatello’s last works. Like his David (in the Barghello), it was created in the round (meant to be seen from all sides), and along with David was one of the first Renaissance statues to be created in the round. They were both done for Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, where the two original free-standing Renaissance statues stood together (until they were split up when the Medici were temporarily ousted from Florence in 1494), with Judith being moved to the front of the Palazzo Vecchio. A copy now stands in that position. This is the original.

Judith is considered to be the symbol of liberty and the victory of the weak over the oppressor. It depicts the assassination of the Assyrian General Holofernes by Judith, the Jewish widow, who got into the General’s tent by promising to inform on the  Jewish leaders, then when he was drunk, she decapitated him and took the head back to her Jewish compatriots.

The statue was originally gilded (some gold remains on the sword). The base of the statue resembles a cushion, similar to the St. Mark which Donatello created for Orsanmichele.

Another of Donatello’s final works is the statue of St. John the Baptist (1457) in the Cathedral of Siena, this one rendered in an unusual style, with John the Baptist portrayed as an ascetic with an emaciated body. Click here for an image.


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The Vasari Frescoes, Palazzo Vecchio
Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of 500)

Giorgio Vasari’s monumental battle scene frescoes depicting battle victories of the Florentines
over Pisa, Siena, Porto Ercole and Leghorn (or Livorno). Porto Ercole (Hercules) was captured
from the Sienese. Leghorn was captured from the Pisans. Both are ancient west coast ports.

Salone dei Cinquecento was built in 1495-96, during the leadership of Girolamo Savanarola after the exile of Piero de’ Medici (1494), by Simone del Pollaiuolo (Cronaca), Francesco di Domenico, and Antonio da Sangallo. Built during a revival of the Florentine Republic, it was built to house the 500 members of the Greater Council.

Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were originally commissioned to paint frescoes of battle scenes on the walls, but Michelangelo only created cartoons (which were mostly stolen by young artists and Bandinelli). Leonardo’s fresco was partially damaged when he used braziers to try to increase drying speed, and they melted the wax that he had added to his paint. What work he did complete was covered up by the work done in the 1560s by Vasari (seen here), but many art historians hope that he did not destroy Leonardo’s fresco: recent examinations reveal that there is an interstitial wall behind Vasari’s fresco, and a banner in Victory at Marciano reads: Cerca Trova (Search and Find), which created the hope that Vasari did not destroy Leonardo’s work, but instead built a wall to cover it before painting his frescoes (preserving Leonardo’s fresco). Vasari also enlarged the hall to create a space where Cosimo I could conduct his court activities.


Vasari Hall of 500 Frescoes LG
2000 x 1000 (741 KB)

This composite is available as an SXXL (5520 x 2730)
or in XXL (5520 x 1380), upper (Pisa) or lower (Siena) halves.

The individual images are available in VLG.
Contact me for custom sizes (size chart on Ordering page)

Top, left to right:

Defeat of the Pisans at the Tower of San Vicenzo;
Maximilian of Austria Attempts the Conquest of Leghorn
(also called: Siege of Livorno Lifted in 1496);
Pisa Attacked by the Florentine Troops
(also called: The Battle of Stampace in 1499)

Bottom, left to right:

The Taking of Siena
(also called: Conquest of the Fortress near the Porta Camollia in 1554);
The Conquest of Porto Ercole;
The Victory of Cosimo I at Marciano in Val di Chiana
(also called the Battle of Scannagallo in the Val di Chiana in 1554)


Vasari Defeat of Pisans San Vicenzo 5365
1500 x 912 (507 KB)

Defeat of the Pisans at the Torre di San Vicenzo in 1505

Far left, in the red cap below the flag, is Antonio Giacomini, who engineered the victory.
He was also responsible for much of the victory in the Battle of Torre San Vincenzo (below).


Vasari Pisa Attacked by Florentines 5368
1500 x 921 (508 KB)

Pisa Attacked by the Florentine Troops
(also called: The Battle of Stampace in 1499)

Far left: Paolo Vitelli (mounted, holding the baton of command with coat of arms on his chest).
Background: Pisa with the bastion of Stampace breached and a dirt counter-bastion inside the walls.


Vasari Conquest of Leghorn and Porto Ercole
1500 x 1019 (539 KB)

Maximilian of Austria Attempts the Conquest of Leghorn
(also called: Siege of Livorno Lifted in 1496);
The Conquest of Porto Ercole

(Two ports on the Tyrhennian Sea, north and south of the Island of Elba)
Cosimo purchased the Island of Elba from Genoa in 1548.

The connection of the left painting to Pisa and
the right painting to Siena are explained below.

Maximilian of Austria Attempts the Conquest of Livorno:

During the Italian Wars, Maximilian I of Austria attempted to take hold
of territory in Italy, first in Milan, then Pisa, then he beseiged Leghorn, but
had to quit, marched back to Pisa and then returned to Austria in disgrace.

In the painting, Emperor Maximilian is mounted on the right, holding a baton, with a
Ā chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece around his neck and a double eagle helmet.
He leads the forces allied with Pisa away from Livorno (in the background, the
Livorno and Genoese Fleets, with Imperial Troops being lost in a storm).

The Conquest of Porto Ercole:

In 1552, an uprising in Siena drove out the Imperial Garrison and allowed French troops
to enter the city. Cosimo I realized that he had toconquer Siena to consolidate his power,
as they were allied with the French and were opposed to the Medici and Imperial Power
(they also harbored Florentine outlaws). In 1555, Giangiacomo de’ Medici was sent on
the expedition (Giangiacomo is at right, with the baton of command). This led to the
Battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana (see below). It was also necessary to attack
Porto Ercole, where Sienese had taken refuge with French and German soldiers.
After a siege of 24 days and the conquest of surrounding fortresses, the Medici won.


Vasari Taking of Siena 5385
1500 x 921 (467 KB)

The Taking of Siena
(also called: Conquest of the Fortress near the Porta Camollia in 1554)

Foreground left: Giangiacomo de’ Medici (mounted, holding the baton of command).

See the description below of the Final Battle for Siena.


Vasari Victory Cosimo Marciano 5390
1500 x 921 (499 KB)

The Victory of Cosimo I at Marciano in Val di Chiana
(also called the Battle of Scannagallo in the Val di Chiana in 1554)

Left: the Sienese, French and Florentine exiles under Piero Stozzi
are running from the field, chased by Florentine forces on the right
under command of Giangiacomo de’Medici, Marchese di Marignano.

This was the decisive battle finalizing the defeat of the Republic of Siena
in their war against the Duchy of Florence. Their loss of this battle spelled
doom for the Republic of Siena, which ceased to exist and was absorbed
into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. A major coup for Cosimo I (bad for Siena).

The Republic of Siena was Cosimo’s last remaining rival in Tuscany, and the only
city-state left to challenge his power. With the support of Emperor Charles V, Cosimo
launched a major campaign against the Sienese, commanded by Piero Strozzi, who was
a fierce rival of the Medici. The campaign lasted nearly seven months, with a long siege of
Siena and pitched battles all over the surrounding area. The final battle lasted only two hours
and the Sienese were completely routed. The neighboring castles fell a few days later, and
the Siege of Siena tightened. Over the next several months, the city starved, tried to
send out a group of mercenaries for food (who were destroyed) and finally,
after a 15 month long siege, The Republic of Siena surrendered.

More images of Vasari’s artwork is in the Palazzo Vecchio subsection,
on both the Architecture and Art and the Apartment of the Elements pages.


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Apartment of the Elements
(residence of Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici and Eleanora di Toledo)


Fruits of Earth Offered to Saturn Christofano Gherardi 5441
1500 x 1092 (482 KB)

Saturn is dressed in a cloak covering his head, which refers to portraits of the
Emperor Augustus dressed as Pontifex Maximus. At Saturn’s feet is a Capricorn,
(shown in a detail crop below), which is a male goat from the head to the belly, with a
serpentine tail that terminates in a sort of flower-shape. The Capricorn is holding
a red ball between its hooves. This refers both to the red balls on the Medici
heraldic coat of arms, and to the Capricorn of Emperor Augustus, which
was often shown holding the world-globe between its hooves.


Birth of Venus Vasari Gherardi 5439
1500 x 1083 (474 KB)

Giorgio Vasari and Cristofano Gherardi painted the fresco of the Birth of Venus as an
allegory of Water in the Sala degli Elementi in 1555. Vasari had seen Sandro Botticelli’s
Birth of Venus (c. 1485) at the villa of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici at Castello, and
incorporated characteristics of Botticelli’s masterpiece into his plans for this fresco. This
was primarily painted by Vasari, with detail work by Gherardi. Detail crops are below.

Botticelli’s Birth of Venus was the source for the scallop shells, and Vasari borrowed
from the Medici Venus and Praxiteles’ Aphrodite for the shape of the female bodies.
At left is Thetis, driving Hippocamps. On Venus’ right is Proteus (primordial sea-god),
bringing Venus a shell of pearls and Palaemon brings her pearls, coral and a lobster
Above Thetis in the top left background is Dawn, and with her back to us is Galatea.
The two beyond Galatea’s Hippocamp are Leucotea and Pistro (a beautiful virgin).
Above Leucotea and Pistro are two nereids, and Amor brings the chariot of Venus
drawn by Doves. Top center background is the ship Argo, vessel of the Argonauts.
To Venus’ left, Glaucus (a Greek sea-god) approaches with a dolphin. In front is
the Terror of the Sea, who commands the Sea to be calm while Venus is born.

Descriptions are from Vasari’s Ragionamenti, where he discussed the work.
Below are two detail crops of the sections with Thetis (left) and Venus (right).


Birth of Venus detail 1 Vasari Gherardi 5439c


Birth of Venus detail 2 Vasari Gherardi 5438c


Hercules and Cerberus Marco da Faenza 5463
1500 x 1092 (722 KB)

Painted by Marco Marchetti (da Faenza), the Sala di Ercole (Room of Hercules) contains paintings
of the Labors of Hercules along with Marchetti’s famous Grotesques and figures representing both the
fantasy and the mythological. He was responsible for the painting of decorative friezes in the Palazzo
Vecchio, as well as the Grotesques and the creation of the vases shown further above. According
to Vasari, Marchetti had no equal or near-equal in the creation of the Grotesques, which were a
newly re-discovered technique from ancient Rome. The name derived from the Latin for cave.

One fine day, not long before the Apartments were painted, a fellow fell into what he thought was a cave on the Aventine Hill. What our intrepid explorer had actually fallen into were ruins of Nero’s Domus Aurea (Golden House). Nero had appropriated a huge area in the heart of Rome (about where the Colosseum is) after the Great Fire of 64 AD had cleared the Esquiline Hill of the houses of the aristocrats (many thought he had the fire set to acquire the real estate). Nero’s party house (300 rooms with no kitchens, latrines or sleeping rooms) was covered with precious stones and ivory, the first ceiling mosaics (which would lead to the apse mosaics in churches), and the walls were frescoed (by an artist named ‘Fabulus’) with “fabulous” creations, which were applied very rapidly over a wide area by his team of artists. After the discovery, Raphael, Pinturicchio and Michelangelo were lowered into the cave on ropes to see the art, and a new art form was born. Raphael immediately applied the concept to his work in the Vatican loggias, and it took off from there.  Marco Marchetti was Vasari’s expert in the grotesque style.

Hercules and Cerberus are surrounded by Grotesques, faces within butterfly wings
and more of Marchetti’s Fantasy figures. A large detail clip of the painting is below.


Hercules and Cerberus Marco da Faenza 5463 M
1290 x 1400 (510 KB)

A large clip of the central image of Hercules and Cerberus.
To save some email time: I didn’t rotate it, Marchetti painted it at that angle.


Madonna and Child with Infant John Baptist UFO Del Sellaio 5456 M
1500 x 1625 (566 KB)

Also in the Sala di Ercole is this image of the Madonna and Child with Infant St. John the Baptist.
There are numerous issues with the attribution of this work of art. When I was there, it was marked
“Nativitą” and attributed to “Master of the Tondo Miller”. For my previous Florence section, I
did a lot of research and found several dissertations by Nicholas Pons which identified the
“Master of the Tondo Miller” (the name which Edward Fahey grouped all his work under
before the artist was identified) as Archangelo di Jacopo del Sellaio, and found other
work by del Sellaio in a similar vein and style (a similar one had recently been sold).
Since then, the Palazzo Vecchio has changed the marking to Jacopo del Sellaio,
but recently scholars have been saying that this may have been painted by
Sebastiano Mainardi, and the figure of the Madonna resembles several
others painted by Lorenzo di Credi. The attribution is still unresolved.


UFO Del Sellaio 5456c
(detail crop — no linked image)

The UFO Controversy

This painting is the darling of the UFO set. More than any other painting, this is used as evidence that UFOs appeared before the advent of science fiction, and is quoted along with other medieval artworks which depict flying or unexplained objects as proof of UFO activity in the Middle Ages and earlier.

On the left, you can see the object in the sky behind the Madonna. Below it, a man and his dog stand staring at the object, the man shading his eyes and the dog barking at it (or sitting awestruck with his mouth open).

There are all sorts of theories expounded regarding the provenance of the object along with the star and flames seen on the left side of the pillar (in front of the Madonna). It is said that these are typical religious symbology, that the object is actually an announcement of the birth to the shepherds (which was used in a number of paintings and frescoes, but  always as an angel floating above the landscape or emerging from a  cloud). Personally, I have never seen anything quite like this, but I  have seen medieval paintings with objects in the sky.

Like the attribution for the artwork,
the issue is still “up in the air”

Sorry about the pun... I simply could not resist.



The Banner below leads to the Italy Collection where images can be selected.


Images are in a number of Galleries in the Italy Collection.

Direct Links to the Florence and Rome Collections:

Florence          Rome


Pieta Panel Sala di Ester 5541 M
1226 x 1500 (617 KB)

This oval Pieta (a type of Lamentation scene with the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Christ)
is done in a spectacular manner. What it looks like is a low relief sculpture which has been painted.
I have tried several times over the years to find out what this is and who created it, with no luck at all.
I can not find another picture of it (other than a few websites which have used mine without asking).

Does anyone out there know anything about this? Contact information is at the bottom of the page.


Vasari Chariot of Ceres Sala di Cerere 5486
1500 x 1092 (562 KB)

Ceres (Roman goddess of Agriculture, equivalent to the Greek Demeter) is looking for
her daughter Proserpina, carried along on what is less a chariot and more like the ancient
mythical skateboardius, an imaginary four-wheeled contraption that bears an uncanny
resemblance to a device often seen in skateparks, on streets and at the X-Games.

Ceres’ “foot-chariot” is drawn by two dragonhounds, a dog with a long, sinuous
neck and tail, scaled like those of reptiles, and long feet with fearsome talons.

Ceres stopped everything she was doing to look for Proserpina, including
the growth of crops, causing widespread starvation. Finally, Jupiter sent
Mercury to order Pluto (Hades) to free Proserpina, but Hades made
her eat six pomegranate seeds. Those who eat the food of Hades
have to remain in the Underworld, so Proserpina had to stay with
Hades six months each year. Ceres then mourns, causing winter.


Penelope at the Loom Sala di Penelope 5544 M
1273 x 1500 (613 KB)

This image is of the central tondo in the Room of Penelope. Penelope was a major
character in Homer’s Odyssey. The wife of Odysseus, (who was away at the Trojan War
for 10 years, and then on his journey home for 10 more years), she kept a herd of 108 suitors
at bay by telling them she had to weave a burial shroud for Odysseus’ father before choosing
one of them. She undid everything she wove every night for three years until an unfaithful
maiden betrayed her to the suitors. Finally, she tells them that anyone who can string
Odysseus’ bow will win her hand. Of course, Odysseus has come back by now
(in disguise), finds she has been faithful, and hears her say this. None of
the suitors can string the bow, except Odysseus of course, who then
proceeds to slay the suitors (who have abused his hospitality).
That Homer... he always came up with a moralistic story.

Stradano emphasized Penelope’s industry in the
creation of the shroud each night as an allegory to
illustrate her fidelity to Odysseus over the 20 years
he was gone. Penelope is known for her unwavering
fortitude, temperance and honor in rejecting the endless
suitors over the years, as well as for having executed the role
of King in her husband’s absence. She was what Cosimo considered
to be the perfect model for Eleonora di Toledo’s noble role in Florence.

Stradano used rose shading on Penelope’s hands to show they were sore
from the work at the loom, and to allude to how tired she must have been from
her never-ending role in deceiving the horde of suitors trying to gain the throne.
Also, notice that he has all of the women dressed in 16th century clothing and
working on a 16th century loom (and using other 16th century textile tools).
The buildings in the background are also 16th century, so he is not even
trying to depict Penelope in the original setting, but is making an
allusion to Eleonora as Penelope, supervising the booming
16th c. Florentine textile industry established by Cosimo.


Bronzino Vault Chapel of Eleanora 5530
1500 x 1092 (458 KB)

Agnolo di Cosimo (Bronzino) spent the summer of 1541 painting the vault of Eleonora di Toledo’s
Chapel, and rendered one of his masterpieces. Above is shown three of the four sections of the vault,
with St. John the Evangelist on Patmos on the left, St. Michael Fighting the Devil in the center, and on the
right is St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata. Below is a large detail crop of St. Michael Fighting the Devil.


Bronzino Vault Chapel of Eleanora detail 5530c
1500 x 1000 (449 KB)

The vault was very difficult to shoot due to the poor lighting (the entire upper section with
St. Jerome in Penitence, and much of St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, were in shadow.
I had to shoot over my head (of course) at 1/30 sec. at f/2 and underexpose by 1.67 stops to
get the shot. This is very, very difficult, as you may know if you have tried it, but that is nothing
compared to the difficulty presented by the next shot. Paintings are demanding subjects... if
you move the camera even a little bit during the exposure, there will be significant blurring
and the shot will be ruined. I have shot thousands of paintings in museums, and know
exactly what my yield is at various shutter speeds and focal lengths. 1/30 second
is a long time to hand-hold when perfection is demanded (your heartbeat can
ruin the shot), but with lots of practice it can be done. Now, consider how
much more difficult it is at 1/15 second (twice as long). That is what I
had to do for the next image (actually taken before the vault). That
is a really long time, and based on my knowledge of my yield
I took six shots to ensure one, underexposed 1.67 stops.

The processing was also extremely difficult (extracting
color from an image that dark is tricky). I know that
this is a lot of photographic geek talk, but I hope
that you might appreciate the difficulty these
two shots represent. Since I was there, a
professional lighting company installed
a superb lighting system that eliminated
the problems with the shadows (and also
allows you to see the highly saturated colors
without the yellow cast of the original lighting).
The lights made color balancing these images
a total nightmare, on top of the other problems.
Anyway... enough geek talk. Next: Bronzino’s
famous Lamentation Scene and a bunch
of historical information to support it.


Lamentation Bronzino Chapel of Eleonora 5526 M
1500 x 1200 (487 KB)

Bronzino’s exquisitely complex altar painting and fresco set for Eleonora’s Chapel.
The centerpiece of the altar is Bronzino’s deservedly famous Lamentation Scene.

The Lamentation centerpiece is a duplicate, painted by Bronzino in 1553, as the Duke had given the original (which was completed in 1545) to Nicholas Perrenot de Granvelle as a political gift (Granvelle was Keeper of the Seals and First Minister to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and had been instrumental in securing the return of fortresses in Livorno and Florence that had been occupied by Spanish troops). He was also bribing Granvelle prior to the awards of the Order of the Golden Fleece, which honor Cosimo had duly bestowed on him in 1545. Bronzino’s original was rescued when the Granvelle Chapel was destroyed during the French Revolution, and was placed in the Musee Beaux-Arts when it opened in 1834. Between the time the original was removed and the new painting was delivered, a tapestry based on a cartoon by Francesco Salviati (1545-46) was hung in its place.

The two paintings on the left and right of the Lamentation depict the Annunciation,
with the left painting showing the Angel Gabriel, and the right showing the Virgin Annunciate.

These two wings were not completed until after Eleonora’s death in 1562 from malaria. They are also a second set, as the original wings were delivered to de Granvelle with the original Lamentation. Bronzino was exceedingly busy with other work during the period between 1545 and 1562, as he was court painter for the Medici and also was creating portraits for many others associated with the court. He also made another replica of the Lamentation for Cosimo as a diplomatic gift, which hangs in the parish church of Castrojeriz in Old Castile, Spain (several members of the Mendoza family who owned the town were linked with Cosimo). The wings were finally completed in the summer of 1564, 20 years after the original set was created.

The frescoes (1543), include King David (above the Angel Gabriel)
and the Erythraean Sibyl (on the right, above the Virgin Annunciate).

The Erythraean Sibyl was an Oracle of Apollo at Erythrae in Ionia, who prophesied the Trojan War, Alexander the Great’s divine parentage, and in Christian iconography, she foretold the coming of Christ and his sufferings (Crown of Thorns), as well as his crucifixion and resurrection. Homer also used numerous verses from the Erythraean Sibyl in several of his poems.

The spandrel on the left (to the left of King David) shows an allegory of Justice.
The spandrel on the right (right of the Erythraean Sibyl) shows an allegory of Fortitude.

Justice was painted with the original fresco work and shows a far more delicate touch than Fortitude, which was completed in the last phase of work on the Chapel (which was done in a hurry to be completed in time for Francesco’s wedding to Johanna of Austria in late 1565). Three spandrel medallions (including the Fortitude) were painted a secco (dry plaster).

Many more images and more information on the spectacular artwork is on the Apartment of the Elements page.


The Banner below leads to the Italy Collection where images can be selected.


Images are in a number of Galleries in the Italy Collection.

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Fresco Sala dell'Udienza Palazzo Vecchio 5565
1500 x 1092 (657 KB)

A section of the Stories of Marcus Furius Camillus by Francesco de’ Rossi (Il Salviati), 1543-45.
The Furius frescoes were done in the style of Raphael and represent the Roman fresco tradition.

This fresco is outside the Chapel of the Signoria, the other small chapel on the second  floor, dedicated to St. Bernard. The chapel was for the use of the ruling body of Florence (the Signoria), where the nine priori would get their spiritual guidance. This was also the chapel where Girolamo Savonarola said his last prayers before being burned at the stake (an apt ending for the man who carried out the Bonfire of the Vanities).

Directly above the door is Christ’s monogram IHS, an inscription, and a plaque in honor of Christ (1529).


Coffered Ceiling Sala dell' Udienza Palazzo Vecchio 5562
1500 x 1092 (1045 KB)

The ceiling images are tremendously highly detailed, and are large files (note sizes).

The Sala dell’Udienza (Audience Hall) used to be the Sala Grande and Hall of Justice
until it was split into two large rooms in 1472 by Benedetto and Giuliano da Maiano, who
were also responsible for the monumental carved, coffered ceilings laminated with 24K gold.
Probably one of the most exceptional ceilings ever made (although the one the Maianos created
for the Sala dei Gigli, shown below, is not far behind it), the ceiling for the Sala dell’Udienza
took six years to carve and to laminate with pure gold, and it must have cost a fortune.
The carved frieze around the ceiling is decorated with Marzocco (Florentine lions),
garlands of flowers and ribbons which are also laminated with gold. Below is
a large detail crop showing the fresco frieze and the carved ceiling frieze,
along with one row of the carved ceiling coffers to reduce the file size.


Sala dell'Udienza frieze ceiling detail 5562c
1727 x 831 (677 KB)

The frescoes were done 70 years later, by Francesco de’ Rossi (Il Salviati) in 1543-45.
They illustrate scenes from the life of Furius Camillus, with references to Cosimo I de’ Medici
to tie Cosimo to Marcus Furius Camillus, who was honored with four Roman Triumphs.
Because of Camillus’ efforts, the nascent Roman civilization of the 4th c. BC gained
70% greater territory and became the most powerful nation in Italy. The comparison
to Cosimo I de’ Medici, who headed the most militaristic period in Florentine
history and who unified all of Tuscany under his rule was obvious and apt.
Detail of part of the Furius frescoes was shown at the top of this section.


Coffered Ceiling Sala dell'Udienza
Palazzo Vecchio detail 5560
776 x 1290 (818 KB)


Coffered Ceiling Sala dell'Udienza
Palazzo Vecchio detail 5566
960 x 1290 (998 KB)

A tight shot of a small section of the gold laminated coffered ceiling, taken while lying on the floor looking straight up (that got some strange looks). It was the only way to get a rock solid hold due to the slow exposures. This is a tremendously detailed ceiling, and in this image, you can see every bit of it.


Frescoes Hall of Lilies Ghirlandaio 5574
1500 x 1128 (686 KB)

The Apotheosis of St. Zenobius and the Cycle of Illustrious Men.

Atop the door on the left is Marcus Furius Camillus with the Flag of Triumph. Atop the door on the right are Trajan Decius, Scipio Africanus, and Cicero. The central scene was damaged when a portal to the map room was opened during Vasari’s modifications. Above the fresco is a frieze of gold-plated Marzocco lions flanking heraldic shields matching the gold-laminated coffered ceiling. The fresco is described below:

St. Zenobius is rendered enthroned, giving a blessing, flanked by St. Stephen and
St. Lawrence in a vault open to the air, in front of a landscape (barely seen).
Perspective has been rendered on the vault, and Ghirlandaio has
matched the ceiling of the vault to the pattern on the walls.
In the lunette above the frieze over St. Zenobius is a
Madonna and Child with two Angels Praying.

Each of the sections are rendered inside of an arch,
with painted scrollwork on the body of each column and
Corinthian capitals, white in the center and gold-accented
on the two side arches. Atop each capital is a gold-painted
fleur-de-lis pattern that matches the frieze above St. Zenobius.
The arches are decorated with white garlands and gold flowers.
At the apex of each arch is a heroic figure in relief, standing on a
scroll, white over the center and gold-painted on the side arches.

The arch-enclosed sections are separated by painted pilasters,
with an elaborate painted alternating leaf-and-flower scrollwork,
gold-painted Corinthian capitals. The spandrels contain medallions
representing Caligula, Vespasian, Nero, Faustina and Antoninus Pius.
Between all elements is a field of blue with the gold fleur-de-lis of France.
At the base of each pilaster is a Marzocco heraldic lion holding a banner.
The left banner is a cross of the people and the right is the Florentine Lily.

The room (and fresco) were patterned with the French fleur-de-lis to honor
the Anjou (Charles, Duke of Calabria and Robert of Anjou) who had aided
them militarily, controlling and protecting the city. The monarch were tyrants
though, and did not last long. The room was decorated long after the Anjou
had left, but it was done to honor the alliance and the French ambassadors.

Domenico Ghirlandaio painted this fresco in the Sala dei Gigli (Hall of Lilies) in 1482.
He was Ridolfo Ghirlandaio’s father, and was the teacher of Michelangelo Buonarroti.
He used a fresco style called Buon Fresco which used no tempera in the paint, but
he was very fond of brilliant color. He did tempera work as well, and in those he
often created extremely highly saturated works that sometimes drew critical
comments on his color sense. He died in 1494 at the age of 44 or 45.


Ceiling Sala dei Gigli Palazzo Vecchio 5576
796 x 1290 (896 KB)

Note the file size. This image shows Benedetto and
Giuliano da Maiano’s carved, coffered gold-laminated
ceiling (1472-76) for the Sala dei Gigli (Hall of Lilies).


Ceiling Sala dei Gigli detail 5576c
750 x 800 (409 KB)

Another spectacular da Maiano ceiling adorns the
Sala dei Gigli, this one patterned with gold fleur-de-lis
of France on a blue field within carved gold-laminated
coffers in a hexagonal pattern that repeats across
the entire ceiling. It is really quite beautiful.

Even though the portrait image to the left is only 796 x 1200 (plus title  bar) it is 900 KB. For those who want to examine the detail, I took pity on you and created this clip with one section of the ceiling. It shows in great detail the spectacular carved ceiling, yet it is only 409 KB as it only shows one section of the ceiling. After the other ceiling I decided to give your internet connection a break, so to speak, while still giving you the option of examining the detail if you want to.


The Banner below leads to the Italy Collection where images can be selected.


Images are in a number of Galleries in the Italy Collection.

Direct Links to the Florence and Rome Collections:

Florence          Rome


Boboli Gardens and the Grotto of Buontalenti

The Boboli Gardens are located behind the Palazzo Pitti, the Ducal palace of Cosimo I
de’ Medici, the first of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Palazzo Pitti was originally built by one
of the Medici family’s competitors to exceed in every way their Palazzo Medici, but it was later
bought by Eleonora di Toledo de’ Medici. The hill behind the Palazzo Pitti, excavated for stone to
expand the buildings, was then turned into the Boboli Gardens, a segmented strolling garden with
statues, fountains, grottoes, water tricks and other features which became the most often copied
of the Italian Formal Gardens. Boboli’s design influenced formal gardens in the rest of Europe.

The images below are just a few selections from those shown on the Boboli Gardens page.


Boboli Viottolone 5649
795 x 1290 (562 KB)

(Cypress Alley, the Grand Boulevard)

The view down one of the side paths in the second axis created by Giulio Parigi to expand the Viottolone in the early 17th century. These paths (covered by the arching foliage) branch off in a grid pattern, and are decorated with numerous statues, ancient Roman and 16th-18th century, depicting various mythological subjects and allegories as well as contemporary subjects for both the ancient and 17th-18th century sculptures. The statues are located at each branch of the path (there are three branches that separate this part of the garden into six sections).

This is the first “side street”, formed by an oak arbor with low stone benches. At the branching you can see ahead are the first of several statues by Giovanni Battista Caccini. Caccini was one of Giambologna’s pupils, and was most famous for restoring numerous ancient fragmentary sculptures, such as “Apollo with a Lyre” and “Hercules and the Centaur Nessus”, both at the Uffizi (see the Florentine Sculptures page).

Statues were created for Boboli Gardens from the late 16th century through the 18th century, and some ancient Roman statues are also salted throughout the Garden. Below are a few selections from the Boboli Gardens page, which includes statues by Mannerist and Baroque artists such as Caccini; Giovanni Francesco Susini, who created the Fontana del Carciofo; Giambologna, one of the most influential Mannerist sculptors; Bartolommeo Bandinelli (who trained a number of famous artists and was a favorite of Cosimo I); and Stoldo Lorenzi (creator of the Fountain of Neptune, which served as a triumphal chariot for the marriage of Francesco I de’ Medici and Johanna of Austria in 1565 (Johanna was the model for Giambologna’s “Abundance” below).


Abundance Giambologna Tacca Salvini Boboli 5666 M
1000 x 1600 (633 KB)

Modeled by Johanna of Austria (a very small woman), wife of Francesco I de’  Medici. Intended for a column in Piazza San Marco, this sculpture was incomplete when Giambologna died in 1608. It was completed by his pupils Pietro Tacca and Sebastiano Salvini da Settignano in 1637 and moved  here.


Fontana delle Arpie Boboli 5711 M
1000 x 1600 (361 KB)

The Fountain of the Harpies (Arpie) is most likely by Giovanni Francesco Susini, who was working with Giambologna during the creation of the Fountain of Oceanus and other sculptures in the Island Basin. Few of Susini’s works bear his signature, but the sculpture above has a style similar to Susini’s.


Fontana delle Arpie Boboli 5709

Detail of the basin and pedestal of the Fontana delle Arpie (Fountain of the Harpies).


Fountain of Neptune Boboli Gardens 5659
795 x 1290 (609 KB)

The Fountain of Neptune, Stoldo Lorenzi’s masterwork, was originally created as a triumphal chariot to carry the Medici to the wedding of Francesco I and Johanna of Austria in 1565. After the wedding of Francesco I to Johanna, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I,  it was set up in the basin.

The Florentines call it “pitchfork (Forcone) fountain”. This is  not just an irreverency... the use of forks originated in Western Europe at the tables of Catherine de’ Medici and spread from there to France,  the noble houses of Europe, and finally to the tables of the common folk. It is a point of Florentine pride.


Oceanus Giambologna detail Boboli 5717c
800 x 1290 (515 KB)

The Fountain of Oceanus (click to view full image) combines the monumental figure of Giambologna’s Oceanus with a huge basin in granite from the island of Elba (purchased by Cosimo I in 1548), which was carved by Niccolo Tribolo (first architect of Boboli Gardens). Elba was the island on which Napoleon I was exiled after his forced abdication in 1814.

The original statue of Oceanus is in the Bargello Museum.
The sculptures below Oceanus represent River Gods: the
Nile, the Ganges and the Euphrates, pouring water into
the enormous basin which represents the Ocean.


Grotto of Buontalenti Facade 5769
1500 x 1092 (854 KB)

— Note the file size —

The central mosaics and Medici Ducal crest over the entrance to the Grotto of Buontalenti.
Seated atop the concretions are two women carrying branches and sheaves with shells and
wreaths in their hair, mosaics of shells, colored stone, and stucco. The one on the left wears a
shell necklace, and her bodice is (partially) held up by a shell clasp. The one on the right has
a shell belt and arm-band, with shells holding up both sides of her bodice. Note the boots.

The Grotta Grande (Great Cave), known as the Grotto of Buontalenti, was built in 1583-93.
The lower part of the facade was created by Giorgio Vasari, but most of the construction was
created by Bernardo Buontalenti, who received the commission from Francesco I de’ Medici.
The grotto is a Mannerist masterpiece blending architecture, fresco and sculpture in stucco
and pumice to create the appearance of an actual cave used to shelter shepherds. Inside
are three rooms, each decorated differently, with a sculpture of Paris and Helen in the
opening between the first and second room, Giambologna’s Bathing Venus in the
inner room, and Michelangelo’s Prisoners (copies) in the outer room (originals
were moved from the Grotto to the Museum of the Accademia in 1924).


Grotto of Buontalenti Left 5761
1500 x 1092 (535 KB)

Detail of the scene on the left side of the outer room of the grotto. There are stucco, pumice and
colored stone sculptures of a Shepherd and his dog, two peasant women and a musician amid a
scene representing the interior of a cave, complete with trees, sheep, cows and other details.
The carved stucco work was done by Pietro Mati, the frescoes by Bernardino Pochetti.


Paris and Helen Grotto of Buontalenti 5809 M
1000 x 1600 (277 KB)

A large, detailed image of the right side view.
Balancing exposure, light and shadow was difficult.

Paris of Troy and Helen of Sparta are depicted in this
sculpture by Vincenzo de’Rossi (from 1560). The sculpture
is designed to be viewed from two significant angles: from
in front and from the right (as here), where you see it upon
exiting the inner room. The left and rear views are nulls.

Click the following link to see a 982 x 1600 image
of Vincenzo Rossi’s sculpture taken from the front:

Paris and Helen Grotto of Buontalenti 5777 M

More images from the Grotto on the Boboli Gardens page.


Bathing Venus Giambologna
Grotto of Buontalenti 5779 M

1000 x 1600 (407 KB)

Giambologna’s Bathing Venus is one of several he created on this theme. Jean Boulogne was Medici court sculptor for the last part of the 16th century. (See the Sculpture page).

Giambologna’s (Jean Boulogne) sculptures show exceptional movement, intense action, and great expressiveness. He emulated Michelangelo in his earlier years, and the dynamic tension of his stronger pieces shows the Michelangelo influence. Giambologna rendered his ideal female form with long limbs, a very long neck, and a rather theatrical stance and posture. He was the most influential of the Mannerist sculptors, and his works continued to be in demand after his death. Because of his influence, the Baroque revolution took a long time to arrive in Florence (over 80 years after his death).


The Banner below leads to the Italy Collection where images can be selected.


Images are in a number of Galleries in the Italy Collection.

Direct Links to the Florence and Rome Collections:

Florence          Rome


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Italian Art: Rome page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Florence section.