So, we’ve seen some of the quattrocento palazzos which typified the family rivalries rife in Florence at the time. But what happened next…?
For once, artistic licence trumped politics, and aesthetics took centre stage. A stylistic rivalry developed between an ongoing ‘Florentine style’ and one being developed and championed in Rome. How much Florence became subsumed to all that was developing in the Eternal City is open to debate – personally I’m happy to credit Florence with a continuing ability to shape its own destiny, although admit I’m biased.But one can’t deny the creeping influence of Roman ideas on Florentine palazzo design and today we visited some examples of those buildings exemplifying this tussle for idealistic supremacy.
Palazzo Pandolfini The pivotal work in the new phase of facades alla Romana; built mainly from 1515 to 1520, but work continued into 1530s.Built for Gianozzo Pandolfini, bishop of Troia in Puglia. Designed by Raphael, his only work of architecture in Florence, executed under the supervision of GianFrancesco and Aristotele da Sangallo. The original scheme had nine bays, although only four were eventually built, in two distinct elements. A larger C-shaped plan was built around a courtyard, with four bays and two orders. Rusticated quoins and large rectangular windows are treated as aedicules with alternating curved and triangular pediments. Ionic semi-columns apply to upper windows and a massive projecting cornice crowns the facade.
An inscription below cornice in large, elegant Roman lettering records the construction following the issue of a papal bull by Leo X
There is a smaller narrower wing along Via San Gallo, the upper order of which was never completed, with a huge rusticated portal in the centre.
So, what makes it Roman? It is built on only two (very spacious) storeys. Also, the treatment of the windows, which are framed by aedicules and surmounted by a pediment, the profiles of which alternate between triangular and segmental. The first floor windows have balconies and only the huge entrance portal and the quoins are rusticated.
Palazzo Capponi Farinola Built on the northern edge of the city between 1702 and 1716 to a design by the Roman architect Carlo Fontana, this is one of the most notable of the last generations of palaces. The first-floor salon is the largest of any private palace in Florence. It was executed by Ferdinando Ruggieri and Alessandro Cecchini. The exceptional monumental façade on Via Gino Capponi has a traditional urban face, while two rear wings form a U onto rear extensive gardens. The street façade is nineteen bays; two outer wings of five bays and a central section of nine bays, taller and set slightly forward. There are three storeys
Windows to piano nobile capped by idiosyncratic Mannerist pediments. Central bays are further articulated with full-height pilasters, arched windows and balconies.
The rear garden façade is lighter and well-articulated, with an open colonnade at ground level
Palazzo Grifoni Planned by Baccio d’Agnolo then completed around 1563 by Ammannati for Cosimo’s secretary, Ugolino Griffoni, it shows the spread of Roman Mannerism in palazzo design and is the only well-known example of finished external brickwork in Florence.
In design it is a cube five bays on each side. Architectural detail is picked out in pietra forte stone, including quoins, crowning cornice and window frames, with their Mannerist broken pediments. The north façade is almost symmetrical, although portal is offset to right and its place taken by a window, another new feature, reflecting the influence of Sebastiano Serlio, while the Via dei Servi façade has a central portal with a heavy, arched, rusticated surround. The rectangular windows are treated as aedicules but differently on each storey; triangular on ground, curved broken on first, flat cornices on second.
Casino Mediceo Designed by Buontalenti and built from 1568 to 1574 for Francesco, son of Cosimo I, it stands on the axis of Medicean power in Via Cavour. It was designed to be a mixture of laboratory, workshop and study. The Opificio delle Pietre Dure also based here after 1587 and sculpted motifs of animal, vegetable and mythical forms are applied to the façade. The overall plan is a U-shape, wrapped around a courtyard whilst the Via Cavour façade is eleven bays long, restrained apart from quirky ground-floor windows.
I must say I found this building really underwhelming!
Palazzo Cocchi Serristori
On Piazza Santa Croce, this pre-existing mediaeval palace, owned by the Peruzzi, was given a new façade by Baccio d’Agnolo (or perhaps Giuliano da Sangallo) in the early 1500s. The façade attracts controversy and debate because of its singular form.
It has a conventional three bay, three storey structure. The rusticated ground floor piers are from the original 14th century houses of the Peruzzi family which were subsumed in the new palazzo. The upper floors consist of an articulated arrangement of pilasters and cornices loosely derived from Albertian principles, with three generous arches on the piano nobile and three large rectangular windows on the top storey. Prominent jetties and support corbels at the outer corners. The first-floor articulation has a major order of paired pilasters and trabeation containing within its bays a secondary order of arches, into which the windows and smaller mezzanine openings are set. The central window was transformed in the 18th century into a full-length combination window and door with a balcony. The facade is topped by massive overhanging eaves.
The whole hints at the more full-blooded Roman style of the later works of Baccio and Raphael
Palazzo Uguccioni This palazzo dominates the centre of the north side of Piazza della Signoria, opposite Palazzo Vecchio. It was built in 1549-50, attributed to Michaelangelo and to Antonio Sangallo the Younger and was the most Roman façade yet seen in Florence. Strong rustication of lower floor is surmounted by two upper storeys whose bays are defined by paired half-columns (Ionic below, Corinthian above) standing on tall, rectangular plinths. The windows are surrounded by deeply modelled aedicules.
Above the portal is a bust of Francesco I.
Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni Easily my favourite building of the day.
This family was originally from Siena but moved to Florence at the turn of the 14th century, becoming active in the city’s political life and intimates of the Medici. They amassed significant wealth through the silk trade and held public office on numerous occasions. Giovanni di Bartolomeo di Leonardo Bartolini Salimbeni purchased houses and workshops in the area, keeping fastidious records of his transactions. The first entry is dated February 27, 1519 and Baccio d’Agnolo worked on the project until May 28, 1523, when construction was largely complete. It is his masterpiece – although much criticised by his fellows; to my delight he placed above the portal – CARPERE PROMPTIUS QUAM IMITARI – ‘it is easier to criticise than to imitate’. Loving your work sir!
It incorporates prominent aediculed windows similar to Palazzo Pandolfini, but here they are subdivided by stone mullions and transoms into four smaller lights, to which are added Mannerist touches, such as niches scooped out from the surface alternating with the windows. There are the conventional three bays and three orders, defined by string courses, framed by rusticated quoins, surmounted by a massive overhanging dentilled cornice. The stone escutcheons with the lion rampant are a symbol of the family.
The façade on Via Porta Rossa has a majestic portal, crossed windows and oculi just beneath the eaves. It uses all three types of stone – pietra forte, pietra serena and pietra bigia (light grey). The lower order has a large central pedimented portal flanked by smaller aediculed windows, while the second and third orders have three large pedimented windows, alternating with shallow niches on second floor and square recesses on third. The pediments are alternating triangular and ellipsoidal. All main windows are again divided into four by stone transoms and mullions. On the cross-bar is the family motto ‘Per non dormire’ – ‘Lest we sleep’. This comes from an incident when a family member, in order to be the first one at market and secure a shipment of silk at an excellent price, drugged the wine of his closest rivals with opium; the blooms of opium poppies can be seen in the friezes that run the length of the building.
I loved being able to access the courtyard here, something missing from the majority of palazzos visited. It is three bays square and colonnaded on three sides, with walls richly decorated with grotesques in sgraffito. Within the frieze above the arches are oculi, with further oculi above the piano nobile windows. The principle upper windows repeat the transom-and-mullion design of the façade. There is a small side loggia on the second floor, with graceful arches and a lacunae ceiling
House of Biancho Cappello Originally a 15th century house owned by the Corbinelli, Buontalenti, transformed this typical quattrocento Florentine palazzo in 1570-74; it was his first major architectural commission. He inserted two massive new ground-floor windows and a heavily rusticated central portal. The two principal orders have simple arched angle-light windows. Above is a low attic lit by four oculi. Rich, complex sgraffito decoration covers almost all of the façade was by Bernardino Poccetti in 1579. Most is monochrome, but the Medici coat of arms is in colour.
Bianca was a Venetian noblewoman, the lover and later wife of Francesco I, becoming grand duchess in 1579, at which point she gave the house to Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova