Monday, June 16, 2014

135. The Palazzo Vechio conquered ...

Today my Florence experience is to the very impressive and grandly massive Romanesque fortress-palace in the centre of old Florence -The Palazzo Vecchio
 

The cubical building is built in solid rusticated stonework, with two rows of two-lighted Gothic windows. The building is crowned with projecting battlements, supported by small arches. Under the arches are a repeated series of nine painted coats of arms of the Florentine republic. Some of these arches can be used as embrasures for dropping heated liquids or rocks on invaders – and presumably, on pesky tourists ….

 
An impressive front door ... 

Michelangelo’s David stood at the entrance from its completion in 1504 to 1873, when it was moved to the Accademia Gallery ( see previous blog ) – it was replaced with this replica in 1910 flanked by Baccio Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus. 

The Palazzo has had many uses down through the centuries since its construction at the end of the 13th century – including a Medici palace and town hall. Overlooking the Piazza dell Signoria and the Gallery of Statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public places in Italy. 


 Gallery of Statues ...

Originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the Signoria of Florence, the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, it was also given several other names: Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori, and Palazzo Ducale, in accordance with the varying use of the palace during its long history. 

First Courtyard ..

Duke Cosimo I de' Medici moved his official seat from the Medici Palazzo in via Larga to the Palazzo della Signoria in May 1540, signalling the security of Medici power in Florence. Then the name was officially changed after Cosimo moved again to the Palazzo Pitti, renaming his former palace the Palazzo Vecchio, the "Old Palace". 

Cosimo then built an above-ground walkway, the Vasari corridor, from the palace, through the Uffizi, over the Ponte Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti. Access to this corridor is available to tourists – but this mean tourist wasn’t prepared to pay the exorbitant fee for the privilege.


Although most of the Palazzo Vecchio is now a museum, it remains the symbol of local government: since 1872 it has housed the office of the mayor of Florence, and it is the seat of the City Council. 

 


Up two flights of stairs from the courtyard and into the Salone dei Cinquecento - an imposing chamber that has a length of 52 m long and 23 m broad. It was built in 1494 and was used as the seat of the Grand Council consisting of 500 members. Later the hall was enlarged so that Grand Duke Cosimo I could hold his court in this chamber. 
 

Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned in 1503 to paint one long wall with a battle scene celebrating a famous Florentine victory. He was always trying new methods and materials and decided to mix wax into his pigments. Leonardo had finished painting part of the wall, but it wasn't drying fast enough, so he brought in braziers stoked with hot coals to try to hurry the process. As others watched in horror, the wax in the fresco melted under the intense heat and the colors ran down the walls to puddle on the floor. Needless to say, no-one was amused and Leonardo lost the commission ...

 

Michelangelo was also commissioned to paint the opposite wall – however he never even got past making the preparatory drawings for the fresco he was supposed to paint, as Pope Julius II called him to Rome to paint the Sistine Chapel, and the master's sketches were destroyed by eager young artists who came to study them and took away scraps.

The surviving decorations in this hall depicting battles and military victories by Florence over Pisa and Siena were made between 1555 and 1572 by Giorgio Vasari and his helpers.

 
 
The ceiling consists of 39 panels also constructed and painted by Vasari and his assistants, representing Great Episodes from the life of Cosimo I. The six statues along the walls that represent the "Labors of Hercules" are by Vincenzo de'Rossi.


Vincenzo de’ Rossi's Hercules and Antaeus, 
also referred to as Hercules and Diomedes - marble - 1560s
 
Antaeus was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and Gaia, the personification of the earth. He gained strength when he was firmly rooted to the earth, but as you can see in de’ Rossi's statue Hercules lifts him into the air and eventually strangles him. It seems that the artist imagined Antaeus’ final move as grabbing Hercule's family jewels ... Is Antaeus acknowledging Hercules’ superior strength through this gesture ... ? ... and in case you didn’t notice, Hercules is the one winning. Or is he ? 

 
OK boys, on with the tour ...

So back to the Palazzo ... Unfortunately the many rooms on show were quite bare - presumably all the fine art and furnishings etc are now in the various museums scattered around the city. So basically the only art to see were the extraordinary ceilings and the odd fresco ...










  This is a tiled floor -
just to give your neck muscles a rest ...







I rather liked this "still life" arrangement ...





The Audience Chamber or Hall of Justice used to house the meetings of the six priori ( guild masters of the arts ). It contains the oldest decorations in the palace. The large frescoes on the walls, of a decorative value representing Stories of Furius Camillus, by Francesco Salviati, were made in the middle of the 16th century.




The Hall of Geographical Maps or Wardrobe is where the Medici Grand Dukes kept their precious belongings. The doors of the cabinets were decorated with 53 remarkable maps of scientific interest, oil paintings by the Dominican monk Fra Ignazio Danti (1563–1575). They are of great historical interest and give a good idea of the geographical knowledge in the 16th century. In the center of the room is the large globe "mappa mundi" unfortunately ruined by excessive restorations.


So after that gazing at the incredible ceiling art for an hour or so, it was time to give the neck a rest and start on the legs ... the assault of yet another tower ... don't know how many steps in this one - but there were a lot ... !!! ... 


Almost to the top ... and Florence will be at my feet - again ...


The Pitti Palace at centre right 
and the Ufizzi Gallery in the centre front ...
Approaching thunderstorm ...
the River Arno flows through the centre ...
and the church of San Miniato on the top of the hill ...


Florence Cathedral ...
looking tiny from up here ...

Piazza dell Signoria below ...

The Basilica di Santa Croce ...


And so after catching my breath and a half hour in the cool breeze overlooking the city, 
it was down all those steps ...

into the courtyard ...
and back out into the Piazza ...

Guess which famous man-about-town they are photographing ... ???
One final image of the Palazzo and Torre 
to give you an idea of the size of the building ...

Now where's that bar ... ? ... I need a drink ...