Showing posts with label Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. Show all posts

7 October 2023

Michelozzo - architect and sculptor

Designs became a template for Renaissance palaces

A detail from a Fra Angelico painting is taken to be a depiction of Michelozzo
A detail from a Fra Angelico painting is
taken to be a depiction of Michelozzo 
The influential Florentine architect and sculptor Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi died on this day in 1472 in his home city.

Known sometimes as Michelozzi but more usually Michelozzo, he is most famous for the palace in the centre of Florence he built on behalf of one of his principal employers, Cosimo de’ Medici, the head of the Medici banking dynasty, for which he developed original design features that became a template for architects not only of the Renaissance era but in later years too.

He was similarly innovative in his work on the ruined convent of San Marco in Florence, also on behalf of Cosimo, which he completely rebuilt.

Such was the influence of these two buildings on many projects during one of the busiest periods of architectural development in Italy’s history that the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, as it became known to reflect its ownership by the Riccardi family after 1659, came to be called ‘the first Renaissance palace’ and San Marco ‘the first Renaissance church’.

His other notable works in Florence include the renovation of the Basilica of della Santissima Annunziata and some additions to the Basilica di Santa Croce, while outside the city he built or renovated a number of villas for the Medici family, including the Castello di Caffagiolo at Barberino di Mugello, the Villa del Trebbio at Scarperia and the Villa Medici at Fiesole.

Michelozzo also worked outside Italy, in the Greek islands, and notably in what is now Croatia, primarily on the city walls of Dubrovnik and Ston.

In his early career, he was apprenticed to Lorenzo Ghiberti, the goldsmith and sculptor, and worked closely with the classical sculptor, Donatello. 

Michelozzo's Palazzo Medici Riccardi set the standard for Renaissance palaces
Michelozzo's Palazzo Medici Riccardi set the
standard for Renaissance palaces
Michelozzo was born in around 1396. His father, Bartolomeo di Gherardo Borgognone, was a tailor of French origin who lived and worked in the Santa Croce neighbourhood. The family moved to the San Giovanni quarter, the heart of the city, and later established a family home in Via Larga - now Via Camillo Cavour - which Michelozzo kept after his parents died.

His first employment, at the age of about 14, is thought to have been as a die-engraver for the Florentine mint. He became apprenticed to Ghiberti, who is best known as the creator of two of the three sets of sculpted brass doors of the Florence Baptistry, one of which - the east doors - was dubbed the Doors of Paradise by Michelangelo. 

He collaborated with Donatello on several projects, including the sacristy of Santa Trinita and an open-air pulpit at the cathedral in Prato. He was responsible for the architectural frames of a number of funerary monuments sculpted by Donatello.

Cosimo de’ Medici worked with Filippo Brunelleschi, another pioneer of Renaissance architecture and the architect of the enormous brick dome of the Florence Duomo, but is said to have found Michelozzo more receptive to his wishes than the more temperamental Brunelleschi.

Such was Michelozzo’s loyalty to Cosimo than when the latter was exiled to Venice in the 1430s as a result of political rivalries in Florence, Michelozzo went with him.

Soon after Cosimo’s exile ended, Michelozzo began the rebuilding of the ruined monastery of San Marco, where his elegant library became the model for subsequent libraries throughout 15th-century Italy. He directed the reconstruction of the large complex of church buildings at Santissima Annunziata and temporarily succeeded Brunelleschi as architect for the Duomo after the latter died in 1446.

He began work on the Palazzo Medici in 1444. The palace, a short distance from Michelozzo’s own home in Via Larga, is characterised by an elevation consisting of three storeys of decreasing height, divided by horizontal string courses, the lowest storey finished in rustic masonry, the uppermost in highly refined stonework, the middle one somewhere in between. 

The walled old city of Dubrovnik with Michelozzo's cylindrical Fort Bokar guarding over the western harbour area
The walled old city of Dubrovnik with Michelozzo's cylindrical
Fort Bokar guarding over the western harbour area
With influences of classical Roman architecture and some of the principles Michelozzo learned from Brunelleschi, Palazzo Medici came to be seen as one of the finest examples of early Renaissance architecture, and a template to which future architects referred.

In addition to the Medici villas, Michelozzo worked on the restoration of the Palazzo Vecchio - originally the Palazzo della Signoria - and undertook a number of projects abroad, including a guest house in Jerusalem for the use of Florentine pilgrims.

In 1461, at the age of 65, Michelozzo was invited by the government of what was then the Republic of Ragusa - an independent maritime trading republic with ties to Venice - to work on the city walls of Dubrovnik and Ston, now part of Croatia.  His cylindrical Fort Bokar, which defended the western gate of Dubrovnik, was hailed as a masterpiece. 

Michelozzo might have remained there longer, but a dispute over his ideas for rebuilding the Rector's palace - the seat of the republic's government - after an explosion left it badly damaged led him to cut short his stay and return to Florence. 

With his wife, Francesca, who was 20 to his 45 when they were married, Michelozzo had seven children, two of whom, Niccolò and Bernardo, were educated by the Medici and grew up to occupy important positions in Medici households.

After his death, Michelozzo was buried at the monastery of San Marco.

Part of the beautiful frescoes by Gozzoli in the Magi Chapel at Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Part of the beautiful frescoes by Gozzoli in
the Magi Chapel at Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Travel tip:

For all its architectural significance, the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, which can be found on Via Camillo Cavour about halfway between San Marco and Piazza della Repubblica, has a relatively modest appearance from the outside, which is probably as a result of the laws in existence at the time governing public displays of wealth. It was completed in 1484 and remained a Medici property until it was sold to the Riccardi family in 1659, after which it was renovated and the magnificent gallery frescoed with the Apotheosis of the Medici, by Luca Giordano, was added. The palace was sold to the Tuscan state in 1814. Since 1874, the palace has been the seat of the provincial government of Florence and has housed a museum since 1972. As well as the gallery, the palace is also noted for the Magi Chapel, which was frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli and also contains an altarpiece by Filippo Lippi. Two statues by Donatello - a David in the courtyard and a Judith and Holofernes in the garden - are other notable works.

Piazza San Marco in Florence with the facade of the church of San Marco, part of the convent complex
Piazza San Marco in Florence with the facade of
the church of San Marco, part of the convent complex
Travel tip:

The Museo Nazionale di San Marco, which houses the world’s most extensive collection of works by Fra Angelico, the early Renaissance painter and Dominican friar, is an art museum housed in the monumental section of the mediaeval Dominican convent of San Marco, situated in Piazza San Marco. Situated in the oldest part of the building, which was modernised by Michelozzo between 1436 and 1446, it has been a museum since 1869. It also houses works by Fra Bartolomeo, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Alesso Baldovinetti and Jacopo Vignali. Michelozzo’s library, on the first floor, was the first of the Renaissance to be opened to the public, representing the humanist ideal of the Florentines. 

Also on this day:

304: The execution of Santa Giustina of Padua

1468: The death of condottiero Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta

1675: The birth of Venetian portraitist Rosalba Carriera

1972: The birth of celebrity cook Gabriele Corcos


18 October 2017

Luca Giordano – artist

Talented Neapolitan was renowned for being a fast worker

Luca Giordano was influenced by Caravaggio
Luca Giordano was influenced by Caravaggio
Luca Giordano, the most celebrated and prolific Neapolitan painter of the late 17th century, was born on this day in 1634 in Naples.

His nicknames were Luca Fa Presto - "Luca work faster" - said to derive from the way his father, the copyist Antonio Giordano, used to admonish him, Fulmine (the Thunderbolt) because of his speed, and Proteus, because he was reputed to be able to imitate the style of almost any other artist.

Giordano’s output both in oils and in frescoes was enormous and he is said to have once painted a large altarpiece in just one day.

He was influenced at the start of his career by Jose de Ribera, who he was apprenticed to, and he also assimilated Caravaggio’s style of dramatic intensity.

But after Giordano had travelled to Rome, Florence and Venice, his style underwent a profound change. The influence of Pietro da Cortona’s frescoes in the Pitti Palace in Florence can be detected in Giordano’s huge ceiling fresco in the ballroom of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, which he completed in 1683, and he became noted for his showy use of colour.

He went to Spain in 1692 as court painter to Charles II and stayed there till 1702. The frescoes in El Escorial are often claimed to be his best works, but there are nearly 50 paintings by him in the Prado in Madrid, which are evidence of his huge output.

Detail from Giordano's ceiling fresco at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardo in Florence
Detail from Giordano's ceiling fresco at
the Palazzo Medici-Riccardo in Florence
After his return to Naples he continued to paint prolifically. His last great work there was the ceiling of the Cappella del Tesoro in San Martino, begun on his return to the city in 1702 and completed in 1704.

Many of Giordano’s other works in Naples were destroyed during the Second World War.

His St Benedict cycle, painted in 1677 in the abbey of Monte Cassino in Lazio, was entirely destroyed.

But his painting of Christ expelling the Traders from the Temple, painted in the monastery church of Girolamini (or Gerolamini) next to the Duomo in Naples, miraculously survived. It is full of expressive lazzaroni, Neapolitan beggars, who Giordano would have seen every day in the surrounding streets while he was working at the church.

Giordano died in Naples in 1705 and was buried in a tomb in the Church of Santa Brigida, where he had previously painted the cupola. He was to have a profound influence on many Italian artists who came after him.

The Palazzo Medici-Riccardi
The Palazzo Medici-Riccardi
Travel tip:

Construction of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence was begun in 1444 to provide a home for the Medici family and the headquarters for their banking business. It was later sold to the wealthy Riccardi family. Part of the palace now open to the public includes the room where Giordano painted his frescoes between 1682 and 1685.

Travel tip:

The 17th century church of Santa Brigida in Naples had to have a dome that was no more than nine metres high, otherwise it would have obstructed artillery fire from Castel Nuovo. The fresco of a vivid sky executed by Giordano on the cupola cleverly creates a feeling of immense space. The artist’s tomb can be found in the left transept of the church.