Showing posts with label Florence Duomo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Florence Duomo. Show all posts

30 October 2018

Poggio Bracciolini – scholar and humanist

Calligrapher who could read Latin changed the course of history

The linguist and scholar Poggio Bracciolini was born in a village near Arezzo in Tuscany
The linguist and scholar Poggio Bracciolini was
born in a village near Arezzo in Tuscany
Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini, who rediscovered many forgotten Latin manuscripts including the only surviving work by the Roman poet and philosopher, Lucretius, died on this day in 1459 in Florence.

For his services to literature he was commemorated after his death with a statue by Donatello and a portrait by Antonio del Pollaiuolo.

Bracciolini was born in 1380 at Terranuova near Arezzo in Tuscany. In 1862 his home village was renamed Terranuova Bracciolini in his honour.

He studied Latin as a young boy under a friend of the poet, Petrarch, and his linguistic ability and talent for copying manuscripts neatly was soon noted by scholars in Florence.

He later studied notarial law and was received into the notaries guild in Florence at the age of 21.

After becoming secretary to the Bishop of Bari, Bracciolini was invited to join the Chancery of Apostolic Briefs in the Roman Curia of Pope Boniface IX.

Part of one of Cicero's Catiline Orations copied by Bracciolini  in a style of writing that became the basis for Roman fonts
Part of one of Cicero's Catiline Orations copied by Bracciolini
 in a style of writing that became the basis for Roman fonts
He was to spend the next 50 years serving seven popes, first as a writer of official documents and then working his way up to becoming a papal secretary.

Bracciolini was well thought of because of his excellent Latin, beautiful handwriting and the diplomatic work he was able to carry out with Florence.

He was never attracted to the ecclesiastical life and its potential riches and, despite his poor salary, remained a layman to the end of his life.

He invented the style of writing that, after generations of polishing by other scribes, served the new art of printing as the prototype for Roman fonts.

In 1415 while working for the Pope at a monastery in Cluny, Bracciolini brought to light two previously unknown orations of the Roman statesman Cicero.

At another monastery in 1416 he found the first complete text of Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria, three books and part of a fourth of Valerius Flaccus’s Argonautica and the commentaries of Asconius Pedianus on Cicero’s orations.

A statue said to be of Bracciolini in the Duomo in Florence, attributed to Donatello
A statue said to be of Bracciolini in the Duomo
in Florence, attributed to Donatello
While visiting other monasteries in 1417 he discovered a number of Latin manuscripts, including De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius.

It is believed he subsequently discovered seven other orations of Cicero in a monastery in Cologne.

He made copies of the works he found in his elegant script, some of which have survived.

Bracciolini also collected classical inscriptions and sculptures, with which he adorned the garden of the villa he eventually bought near Florence.

At the age of 56 he left his long-term mistress and married a girl of 17, who produced five sons and a daughter for him.

He spent his last years having intellectual arguments with Lorenzo Valla, an expert at philological analysis of ancient texts, and writing a history of Florence.

Bracciolini died in 1459 before he had put the final touches to this work and was buried at the Church of Santa Croce in Florence.

The 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt, tells the story of Bracciolini’s discovery of the ancient manuscript written by Lucretius. Greenblatt analyses the poem’s subsequent influence on the Renaissance, the Reformation and modern science.

The facade of the beautiful Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence,  where Bracciolini was buried in illustrious company
The facade of the beautiful Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence,
 where Bracciolini was buried in illustrious company
Travel tip:

The Basilica of Santa Croce, consecrated in 1442, is the main Franciscan church in Florence and the burial place among others of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, the poet Ugo Foscolo, the philosopher Giovanni Gentile and the composer Gioachino Rossini.  It houses works by some of the most illustrious names in the history of art, including Canova, Cimabue, Donatello, Giotto and Vasari.  The Basilica, with 16 chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and his pupils, is the largest Franciscan church in the world and the present building dates back to the 13th century.

The village of Terranuova Bracciolini, near Arezzo, where Bracciolini was born and which was renamed in 1862
The village of Terranuova Bracciolini, near Arezzo, where
Bracciolini was born and which was renamed in 1862
Travel tip:

Terranuova Bracciolini is a town in the province of Arezzo in Tuscany, located about 35km (22 miles) southeast of Florence and about 25m (16 miles) northwest of Arezzo.  Originally called Castel Santa Maria, the town was part of Florence’s massive 14th-century project to build new areas to populate in the countryside. It was renamed after Poggio Bracciolini in 1862.  Terranuova Bracciolini still conserves its medieval walls and some perimeter towers.

More reading:

The politically astute poet who ruled an Italian state

The death of Hadrian

The artistic brilliance of Donatello

Also on this day:

1893: The birth of bodybuilder Angelo Siciliano, also known as Charles Atlas

1896: The birth of conductor Antonio Votto


2 December 2017

Roberto Capucci - fashion designer

'Sculptor in cloth' who rejected ready-to-wear

Roberto Capucci is still involved with the  fashion world even in his 80s
Roberto Capucci is still involved with the
fashion and design world even in his 80s
The fashion designer Roberto Capucci, whose clothes were famous for their strikingly voluminous, geometric shapes and use of unusual materials, was born on this day in 1930 in Rome.

Precociously talented, Capucci opened his first studio in Rome at the age of 19 and by his mid-20s was regarded as the best designer in Italy, particularly admired by Christian Dior, the rising star of French haute-couture.

It was during this period, towards the end of the 1950s, that Capucci revolutionised fashion by inventing the Linea a Scatola – the box-line or box look – in which he created angular shapes for dresses and introduced the concept of volume and architectural elements of design into clothing, so that his dresses, which often featured enormous quantities of material, were almost like sculpted pieces of modern art, to be not so much worn as occupied by the wearer.

Growing up in Rome, Capucci was artistically inclined from an early age. He attended the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma and wanted to become either an architect or a film director, designing clothes initially as no more than a diversion.

Yet he quickly revealed a talent for creating innovative, non-conformist dresses and fashion became his main occupation. He opened his first atelier in the Via Sistina in Rome in 1950 and the following year was invited to exhibit at one of the earliest fashion shows in Italy, organised by the aristocratic entrepreneur Giovanni Battista Giorgini.

Some of the Capucci designs on display at the Roberto Capucci Foundation Museum in Florence
Some of the Capucci designs on display at the Roberto
Capucci Foundation Museum in Florence
His coats lined with ermine and leopard and capes trimmed with fox fur would not have found favour with many of today’s buyers yet at the time were a hit.  The press noted Capucci’s youth and dubbed him ‘the boy wonder’. Giorgini was well aware of the appetite for spending among post-War jet setters and promoted his young protégé for all his worth.

It was not long before Capucci was being hailed as Italy’s best designer and was becoming known in Paris, the world’s fashion capital.  But it was the American market that Giorgini was keen to exploit, having made good contacts while the Allies were liberating Italy.

After he had unveiled his Linea a Scatola collection in 1958 Capucci was awarded the Boston Fashion Award, considered to be the clothing trade’s equivalent of an Oscar, which established his reputation beyond Italy.

He opened an atelier in Paris in 1962 and remained in the French capital for six years, living in some style in a suite at the Ritz Hotel and keeping the company of Coco Chanel among others.  He launched a perfume range, the first Italian to do so in France, but in 1968 he decided to go back to Italy, establishing a new Rome studio in Via Gregoriana.

The logo of today's Capucci fashion house
The logo of today's Capucci fashion house
Where Capucci differed from other designers is that he was not interested in producing clothes for the mass market.  He considered himself an artist and an architect and regarded his creations less as garments so such as sculptures in cloth.  He used yards and yards of material in order to create volume and shape; one critic observed that his clothes were ‘like soft body armour’.

So when ready-to-wear clothing and consumer fashion took hold in Italy in the 1980s, Capucci withdrew.  He would not allow his agenda to be set by the demands of the market and resigned from the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, the body that promoted Italian design, membership of which would have required him to participate in four fashion shows each year.  He would exhibit, but only at times that suited him and in carefully chosen settings, often museums.

He also opposed the cult of the supermodel, which in his opinion was a distraction from the garment.  He preferred to create dresses for individuals – opera singers, actresses, the wives of politicians and debutantes from Roman society. He made outfits for Marilyn Monroe, Gloria Swanson, Jacqueline Kennedy and Silvana Mangano, the Italian actress, who was raised in poverty in Rome during the Second World War but who blossomed, in his opinion, to be ‘the most elegant woman in the world’.

Capucci today is a brand, with a ready-to-wear range established in 2003. The clothes are not designed by Capucci himself but by young designers such as the German Bernhard Willhelm and the American Tara Subkoff, who have access to a huge archive of the maestro’s work, which runs to 30,000 individual designs.

Today, aged 87, he remains involved through the Fondazione Roberto Capucci, set up in 2005, which preserves an archive of 439 historical dresses, 500 signed illustrations, 22,000 original drawings and a large photo and media library.

In 2007, at Villa Bardini in Florence, he opened the Roberto Capucci Foundation Museum, which hosts organised exhibitions and teaching activities.

The Via Sistina in Rome looking towards Piazza Trinità dei Monti
The Via Sistina in Rome looking towards
Piazza Trinità dei Monti
Travel tip:

Via Sistina, where Capucci opened his first studio in Rome, is the wealthy Campo Marzio district of the city centre, linking Piazza Barberini with the church of Trinità dei Monti, at the top of the Spanish Steps.  It was orginally part of the Strada Felice, commissioned by Pope Sixtus V to link the Pincian Hill with the Basilica of Santa Croce in Jerusalem, about two kilometres to the east of the centre.  The street today is lined with elegant palaces. The Via Gregoriana, where Capucci established his second studio in the city, runs almost parallel with Via Sistina

Elegant Via della Spiga in Milan's 'fashion quadrilateral'
Elegant Via della Spiga in Milan's
'fashion quadrilateral'
Travel Tip

Anyone wishing to admire the designs of today’s Capucci fashion house should head for Via della Spiga in Milan, where the company has its main prestige showroom. The elegant, pedestrianised street forms the northeast boundary of the luxurious Quadrilatero della Moda – the fashion quadrilateral – bordered by Via Monte Napoleone, Via Manzoni, Via Sant'Andrea and Corso Venezia.

1 December 2017

Lorenzo Ghiberti – sculptor

Goldsmith renowned for 'Gates of Paradise'

The baptistry doors known as 'The Gates of Paradise'
The baptistry doors known as
'The Gates of Paradise' 
Sculptor, goldsmith and architect Lorenzo Ghiberti died on this day in 1455 in Florence.

Part of his legacy were the magnificent doors he created for the Baptistery of the Florence Duomo that have become known as the Gates of Paradise.

Ghiberti had become a man of learning, living up to the image of the early 15th century artist as a student of antiquity, who was investigative, ambitious and highly creative.

His Commentaries - I Commentarii - which he started to write in 1447, include judgements on the great contemporary and 14th century masters as well as his scientific theories on optics and anatomy, revealing the scope of his artistic and practical experimentation.

Ghiberti was born in 1378 in Pelago near Florence and was trained as a goldsmith by Bartolo di Michele, whom his mother had married in 1406 but had lived with for some time previously.  Ghiberti took his name from his mother’s first husband, Cione Ghiberti, although he later claimed that Di Michele was his real father.

He moved to Pesaro in 1400 to fulfil a painting commission from the city's ruler, Sigismondo Malatesta, but returned to Florence when he heard about a competition that had been set up to find someone to make a pair of bronze doors for the Baptistery of the cathedral.  

Detail from Ghiberti's second set of doors to the baptistery, which depicts scenes from the life of Joseph
Detail from Ghiberti's second set of doors to the baptistery,
which depicts scenes from the life of Joseph
Ghiberti’s design won and the contract was signed for him to produce the doors in Di Michele’s workshop.  He began the project in 1407 and it would take him until 1424 to complete. He actually created two sets of doors; the first, for the Baptistery, depicted scenes from the New Testament, the second, with ten square panels and deemed to be superior to the first, scenes from the Old Testament.

It was Michelangelo who suggested they were of such quality they would be worthy of being chosen as the Gates of Paradise.  The painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari declared then to be “undeniably perfect in every way”.

Although, it was the doors that established Ghiberti’s reputation he took other commissions, including gilded bronze statues of St John the Baptist for niches of the Orsanmichele church in Florence and the Arte di Calimala (Wool Merchants' Guild) and one of St. Matthew for the Arte di Cambio (Bankers' Guild). He  also produced a bronze figure of St. Stephen for the Arte della Lana (Wool Manufacturers' Guild).

He also wrote what is considered to be the first autobiography of an artist, which formed part of I Commentarii. 

I Commentarii has come to be regarded as one of the most important sources of information about the Renaissance and the art of the period.

Ghiberti was an influential figure in many ways.  Among the artists who worked in his studios as they were making their way in the world included Donatello, Masolino di Panichale, Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi, Paolo Uccello, and Antonio Pollaiuolo.

He married Marsilia, the 16-year-old daughter of Bartolomeo di Luca, a wool carder. They had two sons – Tommaso, who was born in 1417, and Vittorio born the following year – who both joined Ghiberti in his business, Vittorio taking over the workshop after his father’s death.

The market square in Pelago
The market square in Pelago
Travel tip:

Pelago, a small town in Tuscany about 20km (12 miles) east of Florence, was developed by the Etruscans on the site of a settlement thought to date back to the Paleolithic period. It grew around a castle built in the 11th century in an area rich in castles, usually built on the top of a hill.  At the foot of Pelago Castle is a marketplace and a number of palaces once owned by wealthy noblemen.  The church of San Clemente, which originates in the 12th century and now contains a museum, can be found within the castle walls.

Florence's Duomo is one of the most familiar sights in Italy
Florence's Duomo is one of the most familiar sights in Italy
Travel tip:

The Florence Duomo - the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - with its enormous dome by Filippo Brunelleschi and campanile by Giotto, is one of Italy's most recognisable and most photographed sights, towering above the city and the dominant feature of almost every cityscape. From groundbreaking to consecration, the project took 140 years to complete and involved a series of architects. Arnolfo di Cambio, who also designed the church of Santa Croce and the Palazzo Vecchio was the original architect engaged and it was to his template, essentially, that the others worked.  When he died in 1410, 14 years after the first stone was laid, he was succeeded by Giotto, who himself died in 1337, after which his assistant Andrea Pisano took up the project.  Pisano died in 1348, as the Black Death swept Europe, and a succession of architects followed, culminating in Brunelleschi, who won a competition - against Ghiberti, as it happens - to build the dome, which remains the largest brick-built dome ever constructed.