This page details the Frescoes and Sculpture in the apartments of the
Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici and Eleanora di Toledo, created on the
upper floors of the Palazzo Vecchio (then the Palazzo della Signoria) by a
select team of Renaissance artists led by Giorgio Vasari in 1555-1557.

Forge of Vulcan
Fruits of Earth Offered to Saturn
The Birth of Venus
The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn

Roman Busts
Hallway Grotesques
Putto with Dolphin; Marchetti Vases

Chariot of Ceres and Ascalaphus
Calliope; Triumph of Opi (Ops)
Madonna with UFO; Pieta Oval Relief

Penelope; Gualdrada, Sala di Ester Bust
Camera Verde Grotesques; The Sabine Women
Bronzino Frescoes (Chapel of Eleonora)
Stipo Cabinets with Pietre Dure inlay

Click an image to open a larger version
Use your back button to return to this page


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of the Palazzo Vecchio:

Art and Sculpture: Palazzo Vecchio

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Vulcan’s Forge Birth of Venus 5425
1500 x 1092 (635 KB)

The Sala degli Elementi (Room of the Elements) in the Apartment of the Elements is
dedicated to allegories of the ancient Elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Here are the
Elements of Fire and Water, separated by transitional frescoes by Cristofano Gherardi:
Daedalus Making Achilles’ Weapons and Offerings to Venus. The coffered ceiling
was created in 1554 by Battista di Marco di Tasso, who had incorporated
early medieval rooms and created a low ceiling. You can see where
Vasari raised the central soffit sections for the oil paintings.


Vulcan’s Forge Christofano Gherardi 5433
1500 x 1092 (464 KB)

At the bottom of this image is the lintel of the marble fireplace with its inscription to Cosimo I de’ Medici,
designed by Bartolomeo Ammanati (who also created the Fountain of Neptune sculpture outside the Palazzo).
The fresco of The Forge of Vulcan was created by Cristofano Gherardi (il Doceno) in 1555. You can see
the problems which were caused by the extremely intense lights placed very close to the frescoes.


Fruits of Earth Offered to Saturn Christofano Gherardi 5430
1600 x 950 (462 KB)

A wide rendition of the entire fresco “First Fruits of the Earth offered to Saturn” by
Cristofano Gherardi (Doceno), 1555-56 (finished by Vasari after Gherardi’s death).
Again, there were severe issues caused by the lights. I am supplying two other
images below showing the right 3/4 of the scene, and the central scene.


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.


Capricorn 5444c
(detail crop — no linked image)

One of Cosimo I de Medici’s impresa (personal symbols).
He was made a Duke under the sign of the Capricorn, and he
took it as his political symbol. They are all over Palazzo Vecchio.
It was the sign of Emperor Augustus, whom Cosimo identified with.
It was also the sign under which Emperor Charles V of Habsburg had
been proclaimed the Duke of Burgundy, and Cosimo was indebted to
Charles V for much of his power and for protection from the Spanish.


Saturn Ouroboros
(detail crop — no linked image)

Detail of the Ouroboros (snake eating its own tail),
an ancient allegory for the cyclic character of nature.
The Ouroboros was a popular 14th-15th c. symbol.


Fruits of Earth Offered Saturn
Cristofano Gherardi detail 5441c

925 x 1290 (332 KB)

A detail crop of the right side of the fresco. In the center are Ichthyocentaurs (combination Centaur and Triton). The fellow in the foreground seems to be about to hurl a turtle. It’s a turtle with a sail, another of Cosimo’s impresa (personal symbols).


Fruits of Earth Offered to Saturn Christofano Gherardi 5444
1500 x 1092 (507 KB)

Detail shot of the central section of the fresco. Note the ancient ruins in the background.


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)


Birth of Venus detail 1 Vasari Gherardi 5439c
960 x 1290 (396 KB)


Birth of Venus detail 2 Vasari Gherardi 5438c
960 x 1290 (384 KB)


Mutilation of Uranus Vasari 5506
1500 x 960 (462 KB)

Armed with an iron sickle provided to him by his mother Gaea, Saturn prepares to castrate
his father Uranus in a literal bloody coup to take over the cosmos. He tossed the severed testicles
into the sea, which turned into sea foam from which was born Aphrodite (Aphros=foam). The blood which
fell to Earth gave birth to the Furies, Giants and the Meliads (nymphs of the Ash tree), from Greek myth.

Painted by Giorgio Vasari and Cristofano Gherardi in 1555. The lights were again a real problem.
I processed this image twice, with different settings for the image above (to reduce the effect of
the lights on the figures at far left) and the crop below, processed for the images in the crop.
I unfortunately did not shoot the right side of the fresco because the light totally washed
out the rather suggestive figure of a woman massaging her breasts on the right side.


Mutilation of Uranus Vasari detail 5506c
1500 x 1200 (583 KB)

Detail of the central section of the fresco, processed especially for the figures in the crop.
Sky gods were rather brutal, were they not? When they took power, they took more than that.
Uranus pretty much asked for trouble. He hated his children, and locked them in the bowels
of the Earth (in Tartarus). Cronus (Saturn) was convinced by Gaea to castrate Uranus in a
bloody act of revenge. She freed Cronus and armed him with the sickle (which was his
primary attribute in depictions of the Titan). When Uranus came to Gaea that night...
well... the events you see occurred. The time of Cronus’ rule was the Golden Age:
there was no crime, and everyone was nice. Probably worried about Cronus...

When the Romans conflated their head god Saturn with the Cronus story, they
created an entirely different background for their god. The Greeks considered
Cronus to be an intermediate ruler between Uranus and Zeus, but the Romans
made him their main god, and his importance to the Romans influenced Western
culture to the point that the seventh day (Deis Saturni) is still called Saturday. The
outermost planet visible to the naked eye (the outer Classical Planet) is Saturn.

Return to the top of this page


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of the Palazzo Vecchio:

Art and Sculpture: Palazzo Vecchio

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Roman Bust Room of Elements 5446
795 x 1290 (280 KB)

Below the frescoes in the Room of the Elements
(Sala degli Elementi) are ancient Roman busts.


Roman Bust Room of Elements 5448
795 x 1290 (294 KB)

Note the elephant ears on the head
depicted on this fellow’s breastplate.


Roman Bust Room of Elements 5501
795 x 1290 (262 KB)

The Medici were great collectors of antiquities.
Many sculptures were found around Rome when any
construction was done around the city and ancient villas.


Roman Bust Room of Elements 5503
795 x 1290 (287 KB)

The Medici had the word out that they would buy any
antiquities, so when something was found by a treasure
hunter or a construction crew, it ended up in Medici hands.


Vaulted Hallway with Grotesques
Apartment of the Elements 5450

875 x 1375 (420 KB)

In the vaulted hallway between sections of the
Medici apartments, Marco Marchetti (da Faenza)
created spectacular scenes using a newly discovered
technique called the ‘grotesque’. The word comes from
the Latin root for cave. One fine day, not long before
these hallways 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).


Vault Grotesques Bolt from Sky 5450 c1
960 x 1290 (445 KB)

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.


Vault Grotesques Medici Symbols 5450 c2
1500 x 1200 (657 KB)

The previous image showed a bolt from the sky (emanating from an anthropomorphic face)
blasting through an orb and immolating a poor unsuspecting plant. Fantasies were a part of
the grotesque style, along with other light-hearted symbols and symbols of fertility, beasts of
unusual character, and objects that defy descriptions. In some cases, such as the section of
the hallway shown above, there are also cherubs, angels and other heavenly beings added
to the mix, seasoned with a few herbs and landscapes. In the masterfully dimensional
lunette, two angelic beings are unveiling a coat of arms that combines the Medici
and Toledo heraldic arms, with the Medici symbol of a golden diamond ring
as a ducal crown. Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici married Eleonora di Toledo
(tying the Medici to the court of Spain and to Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V, King of Italy and Spain and head of the Habsburgs).
This coat of arms will also be seen later surmounted by the
Habsburg Eagle, acknowledging fealty to Charles V.


Putto with Dolphin del Verrocchio 5467 M
1000 x 1500 (264 KB)

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 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.


Putto with Dolphin del Verrocchio 5467, 5473
1500 x 1182 (280 KB)

Composite will open in a second window or tab

Most of Andrea del Verrocchio’s principal works were created in the last twenty
years of his life, after he came under the patronage of the Medici. The Medici took
notice of him after the death of their court sculptor Donatello, who died in 1466.


Vases Marchetti Apartment of Elements 5488, 5491 M
1500 x 1230 (418 KB)

Composite will open in a second window or tab

Marco Marchetti was principally employed as Vasari’s expert on the new form called Grotesque,
the fantastic swirling frescoed characters which were sweeping Renaissance Italy (shown earlier
on the vaulted hallway). He also created these vases in 1556 for the Apartment of the Elements.

Return to the top of this page


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of the Palazzo Vecchio:

Art and Sculpture: Palazzo Vecchio

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


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.
The difference between the mythical skateboardius and the modern device is
that the skateboardius is drawn by dragonhounds, a detail crop of which
is shown below. Ceres stopped everything to look for Proserpina, and
stopped the growth of crops, starving the people. 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.

Below the detail crop, you will see what Ceres did when she
found out that Proserpina had eaten the pomegranate seeds.


Dragonhounds of Ceres Sala di Cerere 5486M
1500 x 1400 (457 KB)

Detail of the Dragonhounds of Ceres.


Ascalaphus turned into Owl and Pomegranate 5497
1500 x 1029 (568 KB)

In the Sala di Cerere (Room of Ceres), near the doorway is this unusual allegorical painting
showing Ceres’ angry reaction to the news that her daughter Proserpina had eaten some of
the Pomegranate seeds given to her by Hades, and would be forced to remain with him for
part of each year. This is the Roman myth corresponding to Demeter and Persephone of
the Greeks, explaining winter and the rebirth of the spring (when Persephone/Proserpina
returned to the world of the living from Hades realm). Ascalaphus was a river sprite who
tended the gardens of Hades, and was turned into a screech owl (Greek: Askalaphos).
His name is now that of the Pharaoh Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus, Great Horned Owl
of North Africa and the Middle East), the Owl Fly (Ascalaphidae), the Ascaphalus
Swallowtail butterfly, and is forever remembered as an example of what often
happens to the bearer of bad tidings... first you get squished under a rock,
then you get turned into an owl, and finally... you become an allegory.

By the way, the Pomegranate is considered by many scholars
to be the forbidden fruit of Eden eaten by Adam and Eve. In
other traditions, it was the apple, fig, grape, tomato, etc.


Vasari Calliope with Eros and Anteros 5494 M
(Calliope e due genietti)
1500 x 1200 (425 KB)

Vasari painted Calliope (Muse of Poetry) on the ceiling of the writing room (scrittorio).
She sits in a vast landscape, holding a lyre, and her foot rests on a zodaical clock.
The eight symbols of her sister muses surround her, and she extends her free
hand towards the sky, addressing Helios (the sun god). On Calliope’s left
are a large globe, which along with the zodiacal timepiece allude to
the muse of Astronomy (Urania). The globe is modeled after the
famous terrestrial globe by Paolo Forlani of Verona. The ivy
behind the globe, books and instruments is sacred to Dionysius,
and symbolizes the immortality of artists, musicians and poets. The
opened and closed books near the globe symbolize the attributes of
Clio (History), Polyhymnia (Sacred Music) and Erato (Love Poetry). The
musical instruments symbolize Euterpe (Lyric Poetry) and Terpsichore
(Muse of Choral Dance). Calliope, leader of the Muses, is crowned by
laurel and wings (referring to the attributes of Apollo and of Orpheus,
who are also poets, and who share her attributes). She sits beside
two cupids Eros and Anteros, shown in the detail crop below left.


Eros and Anteros detail 5494c
960 x 1290 (330 KB)

Eros and Anteros, the two cupids in the Vasari’s painting of Calliope, are playing with an S-shaped Cornucopia. The shape alludes to the musical note ‘Sol’ and the ‘solis (sun). It has a comical face on it, which alludes to Thalia (the Muse of Comedy and Pastoral Poetry). Thalia’s counterpart (the Muse of Tragedy, Melpomene) is portrayed by the disgruntled face of the head being knelt on by one of the cupids.


Vasari Triumph of Opi Sala di Opi 5483 M
1029 x 1500 (629 KB)

This room is often identified as the Room of Cybele, but the on-site identification states Ops (Opi), the Roman goddess of fertility and the Earth (of Sabine origin). Ops is the wife of Saturn, is generally shown seated with a scepter, and is sometimes shown in a cart driven by lions. Cybele is also an earth-mother (of Greek origin), who gained great status in Rome around 200 BC, and who is often shown in a chariot drawn by lions. The Romans saw the mother-goddess having attributes of Ops, Cybele, Rhea, Vesta, Ceres and others.


Ceiling Room of Hercules 5461
1500 x 1092 (717 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. In the image
above, you can see part of the decorative frieze encircling the room, and the images of
Hercules Battling the Hydra and Hercules and the Nemean Lion, surrounded by
some of Marchetti’s Grotesques and Fantasy figures and ornate patterns.


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

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.
To save additional email time, I did rotate the one in the display composite.


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.



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.


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.


Gualdrada Panel Chamber of Eleanor 5554 M
1500 x 1382 (691 KB)

Note that Gualdrada is cuddling a lion, a reference to the Marzocco, the heraldic lion of Florence.
Painted by Giovanni Stradano (1561-62), born Jan van der Straet in Bruges.

Used as an allegory of moral virtue, Guadralda (1165-1226) was a renowned Florentine historical figure.
Her tale was alluded to in Dante’s famous Divine Comedy (which was not a comedy as we would define it).
One day, a festival was being held in the Florence Baptistry of St. John, and Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV
Came to town and entered the Baptistry with his huge train of followers, supposedly to make the festival
more festive, so to speak. He spotted Gualdrada as a jewel among the other Florentine beauties, and
asked an elderly gentleman who she was, saying that her face surpassed all others in its dignity. As
the story goes, this elderly gentleman was her father (Bellincion Berti), and told the Emperor that
whoever she was, she would kiss the Emperor if Bellincion told her to. Gualdrada overheard
and told her father to stop and say no more, that unless she was forced she would give that
which he offered so freely only to the man she married. The Emperor was stunned by her
response, and praised her in glowing terms. As he left the festival he promoted one of
his barons to a count and gave Gualdrada a large dowry. Gualdrada was later married
to the Count (Guido). One of her sons was a leader of the Guelphs who contributed to the
victory of Charles of Anjou at Benevento (1265), leading to Charles gaining the Sicilian throne.


Gualdrada Panel Chamber of Eleanor 5554
1500 x 1092 (936 KB)

The central section of the ceiling of the Room of Gualdrada, the private
chamber of Eleonora di Toledo. Note the file size (it is highly detailed).

The selection of this subject for the ceiling of Eleonora’s private chamber
suggests that Cosimo was initially attracted to Eleonora’s virtuous character.
Cosimo first saw Eleonora when he visited Naples as part of Duke Alessandro
de’ Medici’s entourage. Cosimo I was elected Duke after the assassination of
Duke Alessandro in 1537 by his cousin, Lorenzino (whom Cosimo had killed
in Venice where he was living in hiding). When Cosimo was offered the hand
of Eleonora’s older sister Isabella, he wrote to the Emperor and suggested
that the Viceroy was attempting to “saddle him with his eldest daughter”,
and asked the Emperor to persuade the Viceroy to allow him to marry
Eleonora instead (in the end, the Emperor arranged the marriage).

I shot the ceiling at this angle to avoid the nasty reflection from the window
(this was the only attractive angle which did not wash out Stradano’s paintings).


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.

Return to the top of this page


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of the Palazzo Vecchio:

Art and Sculpture: Palazzo Vecchio

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Ceiling Camera Verde
Apartment of Elements 5524

960 x 1290 (494 KB)

Camera Verde (Green Room)
(Quartiere di Eleonora)

The entrance to the private residence of Eleonora di Toledo, the Camera Verde was the public room of the private quarters where she met with visitors both official and personal. It was also where Donna Antonia, her primary lady in waiting, screened all entry to the suite, and it acted as both the reception room and audience hall, depending on the visitors.

The ceiling by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, completed in 1542, is frescoed with a combined coat of arms of the Medici (six balls on a field) and Toledo (House of Alba, a checkered field) surmounted by the Habsburg Double Eagle of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. It contains numerous grotesque figures and fertility symbols (it was begun early in the marriage of Cosimo and Eleonora). The Camera Verde was expressly created to impart an impression of regal splendor to the ambassadors and other official visitors to the palace. It also functioned as Eleonora’s office when it was not being used as a reception room for visitors.

One thing that is somewhat odd about Eleonora’s suite is that it was two floors above Cosimo’s Apartment of the Elements, and her mother-in-law lived on the floor in between. I’ve heard plenty of tales about Italian mothers-in-law, but the thought of having your mother-in-law living in your house, permanently in between you and your spouse, raises some question. The marriage was by all accounts a marriage of love and a good one, but I still wonder about this mother-in-law situation.


Ceiling Camera Verde Apartment of Elements 5524 M
1500 x 1290 (605 KB)

A large detail crop of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio’s frescoes in the Camera Verde.


Sabine Women Palazzo Vecchio 5537
1500 x 1150 (692 KB)

The Sala delle Sabine was used as a waiting room for ladies waiting to be admitted to the
court of Eleonora di Toledo. The central tondo in the room is by Giovanni Stradano (c. 1560), and
depicts the Sabine Women making peace between their Roman Husbands and their Sabine Relatives.
The scene shows Hersilia (their leader) in the foreground along with her companions rushing in to
separate the men before their husbands and their fathers and brothers kill each other. The first
generation of Roman men “acquired” wives for themselves by abducting them from their
Sabine neighbors after negotiations with the Sabines failed. The Sabines were not
about to allow the establishment of a rival society in their midst. The Romans
feigned acceptance, and invited their neighbors (including the Sabines)
to a festival, at which the Romans abducted the women and fought
off the men. They then offered the women property rights and
civic status (which they did not have in their society), so
the women freely chose to stay with the Romans.

Unfortunately, the surrounding tribes did not see
things the way the Sabine women did, and one of
the other tribes’ kings brought his army into Roman
territory (the army was routed and the king was killed).
Then another of the neighbors invaded Roman territory,
and they too were defeated and the Romans conquered
their town. A third neighbor also attacked Roman territory,
and they too were defeated and their town captured. When
the Sabines attacked Rome, theey almost succeeded due to
the Treason of Tarpeia, daughter of the governor of the citadel
on the Capitoline Hill, who thought she would receive the golden
bracelets the invaders were wearing (she was instead crushed
under their shields and thrown from the rock which now bears
her name: the Tarpeian Rock). The Romans counter-attack
was repulsed, but when they recovered and were about
to defeat the Sabines, the women intervened and
reconciled the battling men: their husbands on
 one side and their fathers and brothers on the
other. The Sabines and Romans agreed to form
a joint nation, and the new Sabine Romans lived on
the Capitoline Hill, the land they had fought for in battle.


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).


Stipo Sala di Opi 5480 M
1500 x 1200 (384 KB)

A Stipo (cabinet) surfaced with tortoise shell in the Sala di Opi, with matching columns and gold accents.
This style of cabinet was brought to a high art in the Renaissance, with some becoming very ornate. This cabinet
displays a simple elegance with subtle details that display the excellence of the design and workmanship. Note
the curved accents, the architecture of the upper section, the little “apse” in the center, the superb columns and
the quality of the surface fitting and finish work, and the gold accents including the Marzocco (the Florentine
heraldic lion) and angels supporting the cabinet and the gold figured columns above. This is very nice.

Below are several stipos with Pietre Dure inlays, which the Medici family
established a government-sponsored training center and workshop to develop.


Stipo Sala di Opi 5479
841 x 1290 (309 KB)

A different angle of the stipo shown above.
This image shows the nicely matching table.


Stipo Ebony Lapis Pietre Dure
Sala di Ercole detail 5452c

960 x 1290 (479 KB)

Detail crop of a recently restored stipo with Pietre Dure
inlay of birds, flowers and fruit in the Sala di Ercole. Pietre
Dure is a method of creating a nearly seamless interlocking
pastiche of multicolored stones to create what many artists
call a “painting in stone”. See below for more information.


Stipo Ebony Lapis Pietre Dure Sala di Ercole 5452
1500 x 1092 (446 KB)

The full image of the pietre dure inlaid cabinet shown in the detail shot above.
Note the lapis lazuli columns, and the superb pietre dure inlays depicting birds,
flowers and fruit (sorry about the reflection in the upper right. This was the absolute
best angle available. That window was a problem that could not be avoided).

Pietre Dure (or pietre dura) is a technique for creating images from cut stone.
Unlike mosaic, the pieces are larger, highly polished, and cut in shapes that are
assembled so the seams are nearly invisible. The underside of the pieces are
cut with joinery so they interlock, and they are then either glued to a substrate,
or inlaid as you see here. Marble, Opal, Mother of Pearl, Carnelian, and many
other stones are used to create the images. First appearing in Rome in the
1500s, it reached its highest level in Florence, where the Medici created a
training institute to assemble a group of craftsmen and promote the art.
Galleria di’Lavori, founded by Ferdinando I de’ Medici in 1588, is now
called the Opificio delle pietre dure. The products of the Opificio, by
the early 17th century, had been widely distributed throughout Europe
and had made it to India, where they were bought up by the Mughal court
and imitated using an Indian style. They were widely used in the Taj Mahal.


Stipo Ebony Lapis Pietre Dure Apartment of Elements 5477M
1500 x 1290 (456 KB)

Another ebony cabinet with lapis columns and pietre dure birds and flowers.
This cabinet uses the lapis lazuli in large pieces (very expensive), rectangular in
 shape, as columns and across the entablature. The predella has large pietre dure
 flower panels alternating with lapis rectangles. Gold bases and Corinthian capitals
adorn all four lapis columns, and gold-framed inlays define the apse and pendentives
above the arch. The pediment (triangular section at the top) is inlaid with lapis, framed
with gold, and the square space below the pediment is also gold-framed lapis with onyx,
lapis and gold inlays. Gold-framed lapis-inlaid feet flank the square inlay, defining the curve.
Pietre dure birds and flowers adorn each of the drawer faces as well as the door and the arch.

This is one very exquisite cabinet, with a lot of extremely high quality workmanship. Superb.


Cabinet Inlaid Stone Apartment of Elements 5532
1500 x 1092 (572 KB)

In the Room of the Sabines (Sala delle Sabine) is this spectacular cabinet inlaid with
precious and semiprecious stones and marbles in Pietre Dure. Surrounded by Flowers,
Fruits, Birds and Shells is the central scene depicting Villa Medici di Cafaggiolo, which was
one of the oldest of the Medici family estates. Cafaggiolo was a 14th century castle that
was transformed into the first of the Humanist country villas by Cosimo de’ Medici.
Cosimo the Elder set his favorite architect Michelozzo to redesign the fortress
into a country retreat (although it retained a lot of its defensive character).
It had passed into the possession of a younger branch of the Medici
family until Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici bought back all of
the original Medici holdings, including the Villa at Cafaggiolo.

Return to the top of this page


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of the Palazzo Vecchio:

Art and Sculpture: Palazzo Vecchio

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Click the display composite above to visit
the Palazzo Vecchio Architecture and Art page

Return to the Master Index on the Florence Select page


Click the display composite above to return to the Master Index on the Florence Select page