Baroque Florence

The Baroque is not a style with which I am overly familiar. It is, of course, more associated with Rome, where after the sack of 1527 huge swathes of the city required rebuilding, much of which was done in the new style, commissioned by the Vatican from rising stars such as Bernini and Borromini.

But there is Baroque art in Florence too and I managed to seek some out on this trip.

Corsini chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine This was designed by Pier Francesco Silvani and financed in 1675 by Bartolomeo and Neri Corsini. Occupying the end of left transept, it is one of the finest and richest examples of Florentine baroque. Square in plan, it is surmounted by a cupola on pendentives.

I loved this space. It had all the harmony of the Renaissance chapels, such as the Pazzi chapel in Santa Croce which we visited yesterday whilst the added drama of the Baroque gives it an extra edge of excitement.

It was in 1683 with marble reliefs by Giambattista Foggini:

Altar: Glory of St Andrea Corsini

Left wall: Miraculous vision of the Virgin by a young Sant’Andrea

Right wall: Sant’Andrea descends girded with sword to lead the Florentines to victory at the Battle of Anghiari. The detail in this sculpted relief is awesome.

Above the altar: God the Father by Carlo Marcellini

The dome was frescoed in 1682 by Giordano and restored after a fire in 1771 by Stefanie Fabbrini.

Complex of San Firenze This 17th century Baroque building consists of a church, palace and former oratory in piazza of San Firenze. It was commissioned by the Oratorians of Saint Philip Neri. The church, founded in 1174, was acquired in the 1640s and the Oratorians commissioned Pier Francesco Silvani to construct an additional oratory, which was completed in 1648. The church modernisation was completed by Gioacchino Fortini in 1715. In 1645, Pietro da Cortona was commissioned to build an additional church with two parallel flanking rectangular facades. Work progressed slowly and restarted under Silvani after 1668. By 1715, the church façade was completed by Ferdinando Ruggieri. The matching oratory façade was built by Zanobi Del Rosso between 1772 and 1775.

As is obvious, the history of the development of this complex has been tortuous, so it is refreshingly surprising to find such a harmonious outcome.

The current arrangement has the church on the north wing, seminary and housing in the centre and the oratory on the south wing. The central portion is currently the Fondatione Franco Zeffirelli. It was the Church of Filippo Neri, here on the left, which we visited.

The two advanced wings, church on the left and oratory on the right, are flanked by monumental Corinthian columns. The portals have triangular pediments with white marble allegorical sculptures and are surmounted by a single rectangular light. The façade is capped by a segmental pediment above which rises a square attic. The central block is much more restrained with five bays and three orders, all with rectangular windows surmounted by triangular pediments (first order), segmental pediments (second order) and square heads (third order).

Interior of San Filippo Neri:

Long nave without aisles and a semicircular apse by Gioacchino Fortini. Two orders, the upper lit by clerestory windows. A flat ceiling above.

On the walls, the articulation is flat, fluted Corinthian pilasters with two orders divided by a deep entablature. Altars between pilasters have altarpieces set into stone aedicules. The high altar is flanked by Corinthian columns.

The apse and altars of the church were designed by Fortini, who also completed statues in the presbytery and bas-reliefs.

Santi Michele e Gaetano A church has stood here since the eleventh century on Piazza Antinori. The current Baroque building was created between 1604 and 1648 to original designs by Buontalenti, subsequently changed by a number of subsequent architects, the most important being Nigetti, who created the choir and transepts, Gherardo Silvani, responsible for the nave and his son, Pier Francesco, who began the façade in 1643; it took decades to complete.

The facade is three bays and two orders. The ground floor has three portals, the central one with a triangular tympanum surmounted by reclining statues of Faith and Charity. Above the side doors are statues of St Catejan on the right and St Andrew Avellino on the left. Marble statues contrast with the pietra forte stonework. The upper order is confined to a central bay, with a rich central oculus and paired Corinthian pilasters. In the centre above the door is the heraldic shield of the Theatine order, above which is the shield of Cardinal Giovanni Carlo de Medici.

The interior is richly decorated, one of the few Florentine Baroque interiors to survive. In plan it is a Latin cross. Three chapels flank either side of the nave. Along the cornice are 14 statues of apostles and evangelists, with a bas-relief depicting an event in the life of each.

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