The Italian Art section contains over 160 images selected from the Florence and Rome Portfolios,
separated into two pages plus this Section Overview, which contains sample images from each page.
This section contains secular and religious art from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque periods,
including representative samples from some of the most famous artists of these periods. The Florence
and Rome Portfolios house 1400 images, including a wide variety of architecture, art and sculpture
from ancient times to the Baroque period (1600-1725) and scenery from Florence and Rome.

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

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Story of Joseph 4258

A section of the Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghibert, the East Doors of the Florentine Baptistry,
which are considered by many experts to be the crowning achievement of the Italian Renaissance.

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.


Baptistry Ceiling detail 5018
1500 x 1065 (874 KB)

A section of the High Middle Ages mosaics from the ceiling of the Florentine Baptistry,
created by some of the finest Venetian artists of the 13th century, including Cimabue.

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.


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.


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.


Donatello Annunciation 4549 M

Near the Cavalcanti altar in Santa Croce 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).


Giotto Baroncelli Polyptych 4719

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.


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

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.


Hercules Nessus Loggia dei Lanzi 4125 MG

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.

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.


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.


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.


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Pieta St. Peter’s 7760 M

Originally created for the Chapel of Santa Petronilla in the ancient basilica, Michelangelo’s Pieta
was completed in 1499 when the sculptor was 24 years old. The Pieta is probably the world’s most
famous religious sculpture, and it is very likely one of the most recognizable sculptures of any kind.

It was installed in 1500 for the Jubilee Year, and Michelangelo stood by proudly when
his masterpiece was unveiled (it was after all only his third completed sculpture). To his
dismay, he overheard someone who attributed his work to Cristoforo Solari. Picking up
his hammer, he immediately carved the following into the sash across Mary’s breast:

(Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence Created This)

He later regretted that his emotions got the better of him, vowing to never sign work again.

The Pieta was originally intended to be viewed from the right, which foreshortens
the elongated limbs of Christ’s body, and Mary’s arm extends towards the viewer.

Michelangelo depicted the signs of the Crucifixion by small nail marks and a slight
indication of a wound in Christ’s side. He did not display marks of the Passion as
he did not want his sculpture to represent Death, but instead the composure of
the sculpture was intended to show the “religious vision of abandonment”.

The composition forms a pyramidal structure with the apex at Mary’s head.


St. Peter’s Bernini Baldachino 7654 M
1200 x 1650 (697 KB)

Bernini used 100,000 lbs. of bronze from the portico ceiling of the Pantheon and the
same amount from the dome ribs to create the world’s largest bronze structure (98 ft.).

Atop the canopy are four enormous volutes rising from behind each corner angel to an
upper cornice which supports a bronze orb (symbolizing the world) topped with a cross.
This was originally to be a gigantic statue of the Risen Christ, but the engineering issues
this design entailed caused Bernini to rethink the design. He filled in the hollow shafts of
the columns with concrete to increase the stability of the structure and switched to the
volutes, orb and cross. He attached the canopy structurally to the column cornices.

The Baldachino stands under Michelangelo’s Dome in the vast space of the
crossing under the dome and acts as a visual centerpiece to the nave.
It provides a visual intermediary between the human scale and the
enormous architectural scale of the basilica, and fits perfectly
into the space. Along with his Cathedra (which can be seen
behind the Baldachino in this image), he created two
artistic elements which were perfectly proportioned
to the enormous space in which they were placed.


St. Peter 7655 M

Arnolfo di Cambio’s sculpture of St. Peter, c. 1300. Placed against the Pier of St. Longinus, this highly venerated sculpture has feet worn down from centuries of pilgrims kissing and rubbing them. St. Peter is seated on an alabaster throne, and is mounted on an alabaster base. The right foot protrudes from the base and is the most worn of the two.

The alabaster base was created in 1757 by Carlo Marchionni. The statue has long been regarded as having been created in the 5th century, commissioned by Pope Leo I (440-461), but modern analysis has dated the statue to the 13th-14th century.


Monument Alexander VII 7636 M
1000 x 1600 (592 KB)

The final masterpiece of GianLorenzo Bernini: the Monument to Alexander VII (1678). Bernini, who was the Chigi Pope’s favorite, created the monument with the assistance of several talented artists in his studio. The Pope is surrounded by the allegorical statues of Justice, Prudence, Charity and Truth.

The monument is swathed in an enormous drapery of Jasper which defined the shape of the base, and Bernini used the Jasper over the door (an exit from the basilica) in an innovative way. Note the skeleton in the Jasper over the door.


Chiesa del Gesu Altar Apse 6601 M
1000 x 1600 (709 KB)

The marble and alabaster in the nave was added between 1858-61 and the high altar was built by Antonio Sarti (who also covered the apse in marble). The antique yellow marble columns support a Neo-Classical pediment over which are two angels (Francesco Benaglia and Filippo Gnaccarini) on  either side of the aureole containing the IHS monogram with three smaller angels below the aureole (by Rinaldo Rinaldi). The altarpiece is the Circumcision by Alessandro Capalti.


Chiesa del Gesu Altar Apse 8465
(under artificial lighting at night)

The apse vault frescoes, by Giovanni Battista Gaulli. The main vault depicts the Adoration of the Mystical Lamb, in which the reclining lamb is surrounded by a group of raptly gazing figures. The fresco in the arch vault has musical angels playing a harp, trumpet, viola and a tambourine while watching another group of three angels, floating overhead carrying a Latin inscription reading “Calling the Name of Jesus”.


Chiesa del Gesu Triumph Name of Jesus 6588 M
1000 x 1600 (705 KB)

Triumph of the Name of Jesus
by Giovanni Battista Gaulli (Baciccia)

Considered to be the finest ceiling fresco in Rome other than the Sistine Chapel. Gaulli received the commission to create his masterwork when he was only 22 years old. His patron, GianLorenzo Bernini (the foremost Baroque artist in Rome), was successful in recommending him for this most prestigious  job. Gaulli, Antonio Raggi and Leonardo Reti decorated the entire dome, lantern and pendentives, vault, transept ceilings and window recesses with frescoes and the foreshortened trompe-l’oeil stucco and wooden figures used to create the 3D effects that make the fresco work so striking.

Triumph of the Name of Jesus (also known by several similar names) was created within a gilded frame which is supported by stuccoed angels and unveiled on Christmas Eve, 1679 to a stunned audience. A horde of floating children surround the  luminous golden monogram IHS, and the children are in turn surrounded by older figures clamoring for a view. Men and women, Kings and peasants surround the outer group, sitting on clouds and staring at the spectacle. An angel peeks out of the lower cloud at the scene of trompe-l’oeil figures of fallen angels and heretics tumbling in disarray out of the  lower edge of the composition. The scene can give you a pain in the neck as you strain to take it all in. A masterwork of Baroque theater.

Raggi’s foreshortened wood and stucco figures were attached to the ceiling and then painted by Gaulli so they seemed to be a part of the fresco. You really have to look twice when you first see it. There were a number of classic double-takes by people who walked over to look while I was  shooting (I understood completely). The effect must have been astounding in the 1680s when people first saw it.


Pantheon Annunciation 7470

Painted by Melozzo (Ambrosi) da Forli during his Roman period between 1480 and 1484,
the Annunciation is one of the most recognizable and famous works in the Pantheon, partly
because it is one of the few remaining works by Melozzo da Forli, one of the most influential
artists of the Forlivese School, as his works exhibited an early use of geometric perspective.
Introduced by Brunelleschi c. 1425, geometric perspective was gradually picked up by artists,
 in Florence and later in Rome. Melozzo influenced Raphael, Michelangelo and Donato Bramante.


Santa Maria in Trastavere Apse Mosaics 6947 M
1000 x 1600 (781 KB)

The 12th century apse mosaic of Santa Maria in Trastavere. The primary mosaic in the vault of the apse was created in 1140-48 during  the rebuild by Innocent II. The vault mosaic depicts the Coronation of  the Virgin.


Santa Maria Maggiore Apse Mosaic 7565 M
982 x 1600 (747 KB)

The 13th century apse of Santa Maria Maggiore with mosaics by the Franciscan monk Jacopo Torriti. Above the altar painting (The Nativity, by Francesco Mancini,  c. 1750), is the central mosaic depicting the Assumption of Mary.


Santa Maria Maggiore Apse Mosaic Detail 7565 M
1350 x 1475 (1018 KB)

  Note the file size  —  highly detailed image 

The central medallion of Torriti's apse Mosaic depicts the Coronation of Mary,
seated on an Oriental throne with choirs of angels at the base of the medallion.
The medallion is surrounded by swirling Acanthus leaves, and on the right are
St. John the Baptist, St. John Evangelist, St. Anthony and Cardinal Colonna.
On both sides of the right window are mosaic Scenes from the Life of Mary.

Inscribed on the underside of the Apse Arch keystone is Constantine’s
Labarum (Chi-Rho, the first two Greek letters in Christ) with Alpha and
Omega, the first and last letters of the Ionic Greek alphabet. This was
an ancient symbol of Christianity, which can be seen on many of the
older mosaics (e.g. San Clemente and Santa Maria in Trastavere).

In front of the keystone is the Agnus Dei (the Lamb of God).


Santa Maria Maggiore Pauline Chapel 7559 7562 M
Composite image  —  1500 x 1290 (794 KB)

The composite shows the left and right sides of the chapel together.
Between the two sides is the altar of the Salus Populi Romani, shown earlier.

On the left is the tomb of Paul V, which was designed by Flaminio Ponzio.
The statue of Paul V was created by Silla di Viggiu. The bas-relief to the
right of the statue of Paul V was sculpted by Ambrogio Buonvicino. The
Caryatids and Coronation relief above were created by Ippolito Buzio,
and the putti in the frieze between tombs were by Stefano Maderno.

The center statues are King David and High Priest Aaron.
Both of these statues were sculpted by Nicholas Cordier.

On the right is the tomb of Clement VIII, also designed by Flaminio Ponzio.
The statue of Clement VIII was sculpted by Silla di Viggiu, reliefs include the
“Coronation of Clement VIII” (above the statue) by Pietro Bernini (father of the
famous Baroque artist GianLorenzo Bernini), who also sculpted the Caryatids.
Other reliefs were created by Ippolito Buzio, Antonio Vasoldo and Camillo Mariani.


Lateran Baldachino Cathedra 8362 M

The Basilica of St. John in Lateran, viewed from the central nave towards the Apse and Papal Cathedra, past the Gothic Baldachino by Giovanni di Stefano (1367), from a design by Arnolfo di Cambio.


Lateran Apse Mosaics 8278 M
1134 x 1600 (803 KB)

A 1134 x 1600 detail crop of the four sections of the Apse Mosaics. The  River Jordan is the oldest section, dating from the founding of the  Basilica in the early 4th c. The upper section of the vault is 4th or  5th century. The center section above the River Jordan with the Cross,  Dove, and Saints is 6th c. (restored in the 13th c.), and the lower  section was 13th century work by Jacopo Torriti and Jacopo da Camerino.


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Direct Links to the Florence and Rome Collections:

Florence          Rome


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