Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. The revival of a historical home
Palazzo Scala Della Gherardesca
Palazzo Scala Della Gherardesca Four Seasons Hotel Firenze The revival of a historical home
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Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca
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Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. e revival of a historical home
Project Alessandro Grassi, Grassi|Partners, Firenze-Milano Edited by Marco Ferri Editorial coordination Gianluca Tenti Texts Cristina Acidini Marco Ferri Giorgio Galletti Marco Gemelli Marzia Locorotondo Andrea Noferi Cesare Peruzzi Gianluca Tenti Brunella Teodori Vincenzo Vaccaro graphic design RovaiWeber design Photographs Francesco Bedini, Carlo Giorgi, Mathias Hamel, Barbara Kra, Susan Mariani, Guglielmo de’Micheli, Roberto Quagli, Riccardo Schirmacher, Richard Waite. Translations and Editorial revision Anthony Brierley Printed By Gruppo Editoriale Baroni & Gori
Acknowledgements e authors wish to thank the following for their kind and generous collaboration: Francesco Cramer, Ugolino della Gherardesca, Fondazione Roberto Longhi, Giorgio Mauri, Giuseppe Petruzzelli and the staﬀ of the Biblioteca Comunale Centrale di Firenze. anks also to Arturo & C., Firenze; Hermès, Italia; Petra Casini, Firenze; Tuscany Flowers, Firenze.
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7 Foreword Marcello & Corrado Fratini 9 Florence, forever wise and beautiful Wanda Lattes
Part 1: The Present v
17 Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca in the third millenium Marco Gemelli
Part 2: History v
104 Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca through the centuries Gianluca Tenti
124 The unfulfilled dream of Ismail Pasha Marco Ferri
136 The rooms of economic power Cesare Peruzzi
Part 3: Architecture and Art v
146 Five centuries of history Vincenzo Vaccaro
160 Expressions of artistic achievement Brunella Teodori
186 Bas-reliefs and apologues Cristina Acidini Luchinat
Part 4: Restoration v
206 The Della Gherardesca garden Giorgio Galletti
226 The commission and the restoration Marzia Locorotondo and Andrea Noferi
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The aim of the present work is to document the remarkable history and magnificent restoration of one of the most important places in Florentine history, that Palazzo Della Gherardesca, formerly Palazzo Scala, which from the times of Lorenzo il Magnifico has been one of the mainstays of the city’s cultural, artistic and entrepreneurial activity. A unique place which by virtue of its location, a little removed from the main stage of the city’s bustling centre and protected by a vast monumental park, has succeeded in preserving over the centuries, notwithstanding its beauty and splendour, an “aura” of reserve and inaccessibility that has inspired almost legendary stories about its owners’ lifestyles.
This book, the very first to have been written specifically about Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, makes a journey through the ages rather like a time machine which from the present day returns to the origins of the property and runs through the salient events of its past, the successive transformations, related anecdotes and stories of particular interest, gradually yet exhaustively composing a fresco spanning over five centuries of the city’s history. The works of restoration, lasting over five years and executed by Italian workers and master craftsmen, are incomparable in terms of complexity and quality. They have resulted in the return of an extraordinary place to its original beauty, the rediscovery of neglected portions of it, and the revitalization of a monumental urban garden that is unique in the world. We wish to express our gratitude to the authors Marco Ferri and Gianluca Tenti, and to the distinguished scholars of the Florentine ‘Sovrintendenze’ whose knowledge has contributed to the recomposition of this extraordinary mosaic, hitherto consisting of documents and scattered writings, into a single, organic work. Thanks are due also to the architects Pier Yves Rochon (the interiors), Andrea Noferi (the architectural project) and Giorgio Galletti (the park), with whom the owners established an intense and constructive dialogue in restoring to the palace and its garden, with the best in modern quality and functionality, the glory and opulence of the past. Lastly, a special acknowledgement goes to the architect Roberto Magris, a professional man of enormous humanity and insight, who was sadly unable to fully enjoy the end result of that project which he himself had originally envisioned.
Today, thanks to the superb work of reconversion by the Fingen Group, and to the outstanding quality of the services offered by the Four Seasons Hotel, Florence and the world can once again enjoy this palace that is open for the pleasure of all, guests and cityfolk alike, lovers of beauty and admirers of the uniqueness of the Italian lifestyle.
Marcello and Corrado Fratini Presidents, CU.GI.MI SpA - Gruppo Fingen 7
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Florence, forever wise and beautiful Wanda Lattes
In the beginning there were towers. High, bare and grim. In the period we call the Middle Ages influential Florentines, living near the Arno, resided in towers, secure homes that stayed warm and cool at the right times. Not aggressive, but terribly haughty, disdainful of anyone who might threaten the life and power of the fearless family, of fathers, mothers and children who moved easily within tall, narrow spaces, noble, brave, and also wealthy. From these tower houses, scattered among the humble dwellings of workers and servants, nobles and fearless merchants, having won battles and wars and enriched themselves through trade and by the fruits of the land, moved on to finer and more important palaces, buildings that have made the history of architecture, seeking out and financing artists that might even be called Brunelleschi, Alberti, Michelozzo, Sangallo. The fine house, the palace-residence. Thus, while philosophy, literature and the arts of sculpting and painting accomplished the great leap of the Renaissance, eminent Florentine families, the Strozzi, the Davanzati, the Rucellai, had new and important houses constructed. Away with the towers, now that the city prospered with its trade and with its culture, now that the streets and the daring bridges were safe. Better, and perhaps earlier than elsewhere, the art of living flourished in the city enclosed by beautiful hills and rivers. When invited to the discovery and to the enjoyment of an important building that now has the fortune of becoming a hotel, it is worth remembering for a moment that pondered wisdom with which Florence was built. Yes, of course, a hotel for guests who come from the outside, but also a home for the important, agreeable, daily meetings of those who live in the city and its surroundings. Palazzo Della Gherardesca, dubbed with the name of a family that as early as 1200 was a leading presence on the Tuscan scene (remember Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, who in Danteâ€™s magnificent verses â€“ Canto 33 of Inferno â€“ appears as one of the most tragic figures in medieval history?) is a treasure trove of true masterpieces, with beautifully proportioned halls and living areas, bedrooms and studies, able to offer marvellous walks in the lush garden, almost twelve acres in size after having incorporated the richness of orchards, vegetable gardens and small woods. The palace has a name that demands respect, and in fact it has always been the scene of deeds and events of an elevated nature. On the wishes of a high-ranking literary man, Bartolomeo Scala, who lived in close contact with
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Lorenzo the Magnificent, the house was built according to designs attributed to Giuliano da Sangallo. This immense building, destined for future vicissitudes of a certain complexity, had an exceptional characteristic, a characteristic shared in Florence only with the famous, later, grand-ducal Palazzo Pitti. It was, in short, a city house, situated within the walls and therefore safe, yet at the same time overlooking fields and with a view toward the hills. It is this characteristic that the guests of the hotel will certainly know and appreciate, even today. They are in the city, but also in the country. Borgo Pinti, where the entrance is, is a long, convenient city street that leads to Santa Croce, running near to the Annunziata and the Duomo, but was once surrounded by fields and gardens, despite being protected by the walls. In the 19th century the handsome Porta Pinti was sadly destroyed, together with the walls, and the palace and its gardens thus became the noble sentinel of a city that was, somewhat haphazardly, expanding. Something precise must be pointed out to those who, lingering in the frescoed rooms, in the portico full of statues and splendid, miraculously preserved bas-reliefs, and along the green avenues stretching as far as Via Gino Capponi, can treat themselves to business meetings and lunches surrounded by original frescoes. It should be remembered how special and unmistakable a long and meditated stay in this city is. How in time, particularly after the post-Napoleonic changes in Europe, Florence became much more than merely a journey’s destination. How the joy that one now feels moving from a small temple to a grotto, from a swimming-pool to a gentle rise, was already a dream of happiness for the extraordinary stream of people of class who chose Florence, from the time of the Grand Tour onwards, not only for a visit, or perhaps a stay, but for long periods of happy life. Because Florence was, and is, art, painting, sculpture and history. But it is, above all, noble, beautiful and good. The palace that has become a hotel, after being a convent, a financial headquarters and a management centre for a great industrial concern, has been restored with high levels of expertise, but also and above all with respect for the values of the city. The same values, and that irreplaceable charm, which over the years seduced people like Elisabeth Browning, and many years later Berenson. Was it the memory of Donatello or Michelangelo, or the fascination of the Cupola or the Uffizi? No. It was, and is, Florence in its very essence. The great American writer and author of The Scarlet Letter, the finest novel in the world, Nathaniel Hawthorne, accurately summed up this absolute value: “The artists who live in Florence create an atmosphere that cannot be found elsewhere”.
v Following pages: From the Guests’ Book, the signed dedications of Prince Al-Waleed, Naomi Campbell, Spike Lee, Priscilla Alexander, Chris Rea, Fiorello and Neil Young.
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The Present v
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Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca in the third millennium Marco Gemelli
The Florentines have a new “home”, one in which to savour again that taste for conviviality and gregariousness that have always been an integral part of the city’s genetic code. That home has of course always been there, standing solidly in the heart of Borgo Pinti, one of the city centre’s most characteristic areas, and in many ways a strategic location. And yet for many years relations between Palazzo Scala Della Gherardesca and Florence had somehow lost their vitality. Destined with the passing of time to have a more markedly entrepreneurial use than in the past – when instead it was owned by eminent aristocratic families and had created for itself a role as a pole of cultural aggregation and interaction – in the course of the 20th century a sort of wall had gradually grown up between the old palace and the rest of the city. What happened inside those rooms had, essentially, stopped involving the people who lived outside them. Today all this has changed, and Florence can once again embrace an architectural jewel where the beauty of the rooms and furnishings blends and is intimately bound up with history and classical art. We owe this change to the initiative of the Fingen Group, headed by Marcello and Corrado Fratini, which combined the know-how of quality hospitality with a sense of responsibility towards a city and a surrounding territory whose destinies are inextricably linked to the Four Seasons. It was of course an extremely arduous undertaking: reconciling disparate values and criteria, making choices that responded to the requirements of a national and international clientèle, yet at the same time were respectful of local tradition and open to interaction with the Florentine citizenry; and yet, as those who visit the renewed Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca are immediately able to see, the challenge was won thanks precisely to the experience and philosophy that characterize the hotels of the Four Seasons chain. A new direction, therefore, inspired by certain fundamental themes which here have become a veritable leitmotif: accessibility, the art of welcoming, and that extra allure which is so much a part of the savoir faire typical of the Four Seasons.
v The Sangallo courtyard, 15th C. Today the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.
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It has been just over than a year, now, that an important bond has been re-established between Palazzo ScalaDella Gherardesca and Florence, a connection certainly destined to grow even stronger in the future. There was no interruption in the work, in the palace of Borgo Pinti, until everything – from the 116 rooms to the restaurant, from the lemon-house converted into suites to the 11-acre garden – was impeccable for the inauguration in July 2008. The challenge was of course an ambitious one: building in the centre of Florence the first “city-resort” in Italy within a superluxury hotel, combining the magnificence of the past with the comforts of the modern ars hospitandi. In other words, making absolutely sure that for the visitor the pleasure of a stay here starts from the moment he sets foot inside the building. And although one knows that Four Seasons is a guarantee of quality standards of the highest level, it is also true that even for those who are accustomed to staying in the world’s best hotels it is difficult not to be overwhelmed at the incomparable beauty of the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. The establishment’s trump-card is that of having succeeded perfectly in realizing the concept of a “metropolitan oasis”, a new frontier in top-flight hotel hospitality. The Four Seasons opens its doors, however, not exclusively to clients of the hotel, but to the city of Florence and its people. This is why one may talk with good reason of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca as a “home” in which to set up an appointment or meet with friends over a cocktail. Relaxing perhaps in the comfort of the couches of that remarkable place that is the Atrium Bar; awarded the “Tre chicchi” and “Tre tazzine” by the Gambero Rosso Bar d’Italia 2010 guide, it is the ideal “visiting card” for those who cross the threshold of the Borgo Pinti hotel. If we reflect that – compared to when Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca was a centre of the production and diffusion of ideas (both under Bartolomeo Scala and during the ownership of the Della Gherardesca family) – there have been profound changes in the very ways of practicing and experiencing sociality and conviviality, good living and pleasant company, then we can understand how today it plays a fundamental role in cultural promotion, how much it represents an international showcase for Florence and for the Florentines, in which the latter, with renewed impetus, can
v The Reception of the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.
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Previous pages: v The Atrium Bar, the former carriagesâ€™ courtyard. v Il Palagio, the restaurant area in the old stables of the palace.
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v The gallery of the ‘piano nobile’, 17th C. v The south wing of the ‘piano nobile’, with frescoes of the Della Gherardesca properties in 1253. v The north wing of the ‘piano nobile’.
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again reach the artistic, intellectual and cultural heights to which they were accustomed in the past. With its choice of bonding organically to “Florentineness”, and thus projecting its best image in the world, the Four Seasons aspires to become another powerful motor of the city’s social life, one of its throbbing hearts. Compared to the past, however, the building’s charm and that search for a certain joie de vivre shared by all clients have remained unchanged. The former – embodied in the bas-reliefs of the central atrium, in the sumptuous frescoes, in the paintings along the corridors and in the classical statues adorning the rooms – certainly runs no risk of instilling in guests a sort of reverential awe, forming as it does an ideal backdrop to the visitors’ need for relaxation. The latter is guaranteed by a house-owner who, as in all residences of a certain calibre, makes a fuss of his guests and ensures that they are able to take advantage of all its available areas and facilities: thus, making sure that everything runs smoothly in Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca there is the tried and tested organization of the Four Seasons. In the end, in great things as in small ones, it is the details that make the difference.
v Frescoed coat-of-arms representing the union of the Medici and Della Gherardesca families.
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v The ballroom of the â€˜piano nobileâ€™, with frescoes by Giovan Domenico Ferretti, Mauro Soderini and Vincenzo Meucci, 18th C.
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v Royal Suite, ‘piano nobile’, details of the frescoes of the gallery, 18th C. v Royal Suite, ‘piano nobile’, the frescoed gallery, 18th C.
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v Royal Suite, ‘piano nobile’, dining room and gallery-living area.
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v Royal Suite, ‘piano nobile’, frescoed bedroom.
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A new season The Four Seasons in Florence – the second hotel in Italy, after the one in Milan – opened under the diligent management of the Tuscan Patrizio Cipollini (originally from Garfagnana, and former deputy manager of the Milanese hotel belonging to the international chain), at the end of lengthy restoration work that transformed the old Palazzo ScalaDella Gherardesca into a 5-star luxury hotel. All renovation work was carried out under the attentive supervision of the Florentine Soprintendenza (Monuments and Fine Arts Service), and allowed the building to “change its skin” without losing its patrimony of frescoes, stuccoes, visual effects, plays of light and depth that are evidence of its rich past. The building where the Florentine Four Seasons now stands dates back to 1472, and its existence we owe to Bartolomeo Scala, the discreet, unassuming “puppeteer” of the Medici court, a man capable of accumulating riches, though never so excessively as to arouse any envy or bitterness. Over the centuries the building has changed ownership various times, passing from the noble Della Gherardesca family to the Pasha of Egypt, and – in more recent times – from the Southern Railways Company to the Orlando family, which subsequently sold it to the Fingen group of the brothers Marcello and Corrado Fratini. After being an aristocratic residence and passing unscathed through a period in which it was partly used as offices, the building now enters the Four Seasons era. A development, in short, that from history embraces architecture, without of course precluding those pleasures of contemporary life of which Florence boasts a carnet of all-round excellence. The hotel has 116 rooms, 42 of which are suites (including the “Garden Suite” outside the Conventino) and a staff composed of up to 250 members. It consists of two main structures – the main building, and a former convent not far from it, constantly linked by shuttles – separated by the garden which members of the Della Gherardesca family populated with trees from all over the continent: cedars of Lebanon, sequoias and other rare plants. The rooms of the hotel range in size from a minimum of 45 square metres to a maximum of 270, and each is furnished in a different way. The furnishings – contemporary in the making, though Renaissance in style – were commissioned
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to 42 of the most eminent Florentine artisans, a way of getting the visitor directly acquainted with Florentine workmanship in all its splendour. The hotel interior is breathtaking for the sumptuousness of the decoration, and for the possibility of admiring frescoes painted almost five hundred years ago and walking along corridors where – surrounded by Carrara marbles, bas-reliefs and fine Japanese wallpapers – one can still breathe a Renaissance atmosphere. Those who during the first year the Four Seasons was open didn’t miss the chance of a visit know something about this. And it is the discretion and reserve characterizing company policy that has caused so many of the world’s jet-set to choose the hotel in Borgo Pinti for their Florentine stay. Together with them, a cosmopolitan and refined clientèle which – not wanting to take anything away from the fascination of the Medicean city – increasingly often go for the Four Seasons as the main criterion in their choice of a destination. However, even in the city that lives much more on tourism than on business in the true sense, special attention to the business world has not been neglected. The building is equipped with a number of attractive facilities, including five meeting rooms – able to accommodate between 16 and 80 people – for conferences, seminars and private social events.
v Presidential Suite, dining room.
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Previous pages: v Presidential Suite, bedroom. v Presidential Suite, gallery-living area. v Presidential Suite, entrance hall.
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v Presidential Suite, bathroom.
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v Volterrano Suite, detail of the original handpainted wallpapers, 19th C. v Volterrano Suite, bedroom with ceiling frescoed by Volterrano, 17th C.
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v Renaissance Suite 124, bathroom. v Renaissance Suite 121, bathroom.
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v Noble Suite, bedroom with frescoes of the 17th C. v View overlooking the Della Gherardesca garden and Florence cathedral.
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The garden unveiled If the hotel interior is a breathtaking experience for any visitor, the exterior is of no lesser impact, both those areas left untouched by the works of restoration and others where recent interventions have created new spaces. The stones of the old Florentine walls before 1865 were used by Poggi to create a series of mounds in the garden, with views of the cupola of the cathedral, and inside the middle of the largest of these mounds the hotel management intends in the future to create a cellar for the wine bar and the “Il Palagio” restaurant. The garden is undoubtedly one of the great treasures of the hotel. “Top-flight clients”, says the manager Patrizio Cipollini, “tend to snub Florence because of its small airport or because infrastructures are occasionally inadequate. They prefer instead to stay in old villas that have been converted into hotels in the Tuscan countryside, moving into the city for day-long lightning visits. Here, instead, we have created a kind of oasis in the heart of Florence: with this garden it is like being immersed in the hills of Chianti, when you are actually in the centre of the city”. In point of fact, there are two gardens belonging to the Borgo Pinti property. The larger of these – eight and a half acres of greenery laid out in the English style – is known as the Della Gherardesca garden, traversed by a series of curving pathways and with a small neoclassical temple and Kaffeehaus in the middle. To have an idea of how rich the vegetation is consider that there are 145 trees: holm oaks, lime trees, umbrella pines, a weeping beech providing shade just a short distance from the outdoor restaurant, a sequoia, a giant cedar and a gingko biloba. It is no surprise, therefore, that the garden enjoys the protection of the ‘Sovrintendenza fiorentina ai beni ambientali’. The second garden, that of the Conventino, is separated from the main garden by a wall and covers an area of over three and a half acres. This is the Italian-style garden, abounding in flowers, bordered partly by the Conventino itself and embellished by a large niche dating from 1740, decorated in the style of a grotto, an ideal area for guests who wish to enjoy a relaxing walk in the midst of lush greenery and the silence of the “unveiled” garden.
v Entrance to the Conventino from the garden.
Previous pages: v Aerial view of Palazzo Della Gherardesca and the park. v Palazzo Della Gherardesca, view of the south facade.
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Previous pages: v View of the park, the swimming-pool area and the spa.
v The small neoclassical temple in the garden, 19th C. v Autumn in the park.
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Previous pages: v View of the swimming pool under snow.
v View of the Italian-style garden of the Conventino under snow.
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v Concert in the park.
v View overlooking the Italian-style garden
v Preparations for a banquet in the park.
of the Conventino.
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v Gala event in the park.
v The summer terrace of the ‘Il Palagio’
v Christmas dinner in the ballroom
of the ‘piano nobile’.
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v Wedding in the park.
v A gastronomic event.
v Wedding banquet in the park.
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The Italian-style garden, the Conventino and the Spa As already mentioned, the garden of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca acts as a binding element, joining together the other structures of the building complex. For lovers of relaxation, for example, the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze has a Spa with nine treatment rooms at ground level, a swimming-pool with a terrace – 19 metres in length, in addition to 3 Jacuzzi hydromassage pools – and one other private room for just two people reserved for guests who want absolute privacy. The health centre also has a fitness area, whose running and presentation are taken care of by an ad hoc manager who, together with a Florentine biologist, has obtained the exclusive services of the prestigious Officina ProfumoFarmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Thus, modern alchemists have succeeded in creating unique products for face and body care, including an unusual treatment with Chianti fragrances. An attractive option, for those who wish to follow their swim with an aperitif, is to arrange for a poolside restaurant to be set up: this is the “Al fresco”, a structure covered by the natural canopy of tree foliage in which to enjoy a further moment of relaxation in what is becoming established as a “home” at the disposal not only of guests but also of the Florentine people. Last but not least, fine food. And not only because a Four Seasons hotel cannot be without a restaurant of the highest standard. If dining out is one of the fundamental experiences of a stay in Florence, then “Il Palagio” in Palazzo Della Gherardesca is a guarantee of quality, a restaurant capable of serving 60 people inside in addition to 40 on the outer terrace. The restaurant, also open to Florentines, is run by executive chef Vito Mollica, former Michelin star in the Four Seasons hotel of Prague. He tells us what is created inside his domain, which is at the same time a kitchen and a forge of culinary innovation. “I try to offer hotel guests a Tuscan cuisine which is closely related to the territory and its seasonal products, but which is also an expression of traditional Italian savoir faire and that extreme care over raw materials that is a manifestation of it. In short, we have to put our “signature” on the dishes we make, but always respecting the local patrimony. Classic recipes of country cooking are therefore revisited and transformed with a touch of high pro-
v A centuries-old cedar of Lebanon and the gymnasium, made in what was once the stables.
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fessionality. Guests expect from a meal here something that lends vitality to the place they have chosen to come to, that gives them a sensorial experience capable of completing their stay. In other words, they want a taste of the territory”. As for the wine cellar, there’s plenty here for all palates. The winery adjoining the restaurant – the ideal place for tastings – contains over 400 labels selected from the best of the Italian and international wine production. Not far away, in the main hall of Palazzo Della Gherardesca, is the bar. Here the real luxury experience is a Bellini cocktail, prepared according to the most authentic tradition: dry sparkling wine with freshly peeled liquidized white peaches. Thus, far from wanting to present the hotel as an inaccessible haven, the very best in Florentine hospitality though essentially out of the reach of the city’s inhabitants, the Four Seasons at once embraced the philosophy of involvement and inclusion towards Florence and its people. Over the last few months the building has hosted important public events: the Monnalisa parade during the Pitti Immagine Bimbo fashion show; the inauguration of the Mimmo Rotella art exhibition; as well as the presentation of magazines like Firenze Magazine. In this context of the broadening of its horizons, we might mention the regular laying on of Sunday brunch, open to the public inside the central body of the hotel between September and June. In a word, the Florentines’ new “home” is now open.
v Garden Suite, the Italian-style garden
Previous pages: v The Conventino and Italian-style garden.
of the Conventino.
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v Garden Suite, bedroom.
v Garden Suite, view from the garden at dusk.
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Previous pages: v The spa and the swimming pool. v Interior of the spa.
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v Massage with the essential oils of the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. v Relaxation room with a view overlooking the garden after the massage.
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v The gymnasium, formerly the old stables, immersed in the green of the park.
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v View overlooking the swimming pool and park from the spa. v Lobby of the Conventino, sculpture.
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v Cappella del Conventino, today the Salone delle Feste, 19th C. v Presidential Suite, Conventino, fresco detail.
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v Sala Magnolia, Conventino, with view overlooking the Italian-style garden. Following pages: v Presidential Suite, Conventino, bedroom with polychrome coffered ceiling, 19th C. v Presidential Suite, Conventino, living room with frescoed ceiling, 19th C. v Staff of the Hotel Four Seasons Firenze.
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Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca through the centuries Gianluca Tenti v
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«You were born in the muck of a mill and so are utterly worthy of a mill». It was with these words that Agnolo Poliziano dismissed Bartolomeo Scala, one of the most important figures of the pre-principate Medicean era and yet one of the least well-known in Florentine history.
Allegiance and low profile Bartolomeo Scala was born on 17 May 1430 and came to Florence when little more than a youth. He studied poetry, oratory and above all law. He completed his education in Milan and on returning to Florence in 1455 realized his ambition of winning the favour of the Medici family, within whose sphere of influence he was destined to remain. The miller’s son who left Colle Val d’Elsa and entered the “court” of the most important family in Tuscany, revealed himself to be a shrewd administrator, playing a key role in the administration of power, made up of relations with notables in the city and its territories, of secrets and the management of events during that period, of a sense of moderation and diplomacy. After working as chancellor to Pier Francesco dei Medici, he made himself known in Florence v
and in 1459 became chancellor of the Capitani di Parte Guelfa. In 1468 he married Maddalena Benci
Giuseppe Allegrini, Portrait
and three years later obtained the privilege of Florentine citizenship (30 years in fiscal offices were
of Bartolomeo Scala, from the Series of portraits of illustrious Tuscan men, III, Florence 1770. v
usually necessary, although for him 14 were enough). From that time on he was eligible to hold titles reserved for Florentines, starting with that of Prior (1473), but also external positions of prestige such as “counsellor and secretary” to Ferrante d’Aragona (1467), the King of France (1468) and the Duke
of Milan (1469). All offices that were handsomely recompensed. But the most important position occupied by Bartolomeo Scala was the title of Chancellor of the Republic which he held uninterruptedly from 1465 until his death in 1497, staying therefore at the side of Lorenzo the Magnificent and living through the tumultuous period of the Pazzi conspiracy and the death of Savonarola. To Bartolomeo Scala we owe the origin not only of the extraordinary property that today houses a luxury hotel, but above all the creation and development of what historians have described as the quartiere laurenziano. This was revealed in its entirety, ten years ago, in a volume edited by Anna Bellinazzi1 which started with an interesting discovery: the Book of Accounts,2 drawn up on behalf of Bartolomeo Scala during the construction (between 1474 and 1477) of what was wrongly described as a palazzo and what was in actual fact originally a domus. Skilled in administrative affairs, Bartolomeo Scala worked in the service of the Medici from 1457. Initially as secretary of affairs to Pier Francesco, the nephew of Cosimo the Elder to whom Scala owed the beginnings of his relationship with the dynasty, and subsequently slowly climbing the ladder which led to the real decisional centre. Too
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v Book of Accounts of Bartolomeo Scala 1474-1477, Archivio Albizi, Poggio a Remole, Florence. v Agnolo Poliziano in a detail of the Angel Appearing to Zacharias by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Tornabuoni Chapel. Santa Maria Novella, Florence . v
shrewd to make a wrong move, Scala immediately understood that the Florence of influential families would accept him only if he was “humble”. And maintaining what today would be called a low profile, the man from Colle acted in such a way as to set up a small fortune that nonetheless enabled him not to have to pay too many taxes. When Scala decided to buy a house, he made a revolutionary choice as regards the location: in the suburban garden, just inside the city walls, where the Porta a’ Pinti opened the city of Florence to the north. In an area of fields and religious places, in the countryside though not too far from Santissima Annunziata, a “compulsory” stop for religious delegations coming from the north. For financial reasons, undoubtedly, but above all because the city of palaces – the bustling business city, quarrelsome and jealous before it was noble – would never have accepted him, as Poliziano’s disparaging comment clearly suggests. Thanks to Scala’s move, the people of San Pier Maggiore saw their status raised: where once there were only gardens and rural land, craftsmen, artists and notables began to live and work.
Bartolomeo’s house Bartolomeo Scala bought the first nucleus of his large property in Borgo Pinti on 22 January 1473, just one month before being elected to the Signoria. In a document of the Florentine Land Registry we read that he bought «a house to live
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v Jacopo Pontormo, Portrait of Cosimo the Elder, Uffizi Gallery, Florence. v Giorgio Vasari, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Uffizi Gallery, Florence. v
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in, with gardens in the parish of San Pier Maggiore, near the Porta a Pinti ... the place I built and where I spent my life».3 Scala did not pay much for the house: a life-rent of 108 lire yearly for Monna Piera, the widow of Francesco di Tuccio Della Volpaia, and only at the time of her death did he undertake to pay 500 florins to the Ospedale degli Innocenti, which owned it. This was not all: in the course of time he enlarged his property, ensuring that he bought various other neighbouring plots of land. In point of fact Scala’s “geographical” choice inaugurated the Laurentian quarter where, in the course of time, all official representatives and functionaries would reside. Marsilio Ficino was a guest in the house. In a short space of time the building would combine elegance and practicality and, like all the rest, it had been obtained gradatim,4 that is, gradually, as the motto under Scala’s coat-of-arms reads and about which Poliziano ironized: «In Scalam». In a similarly gradual way, over the years Scala’s property grew both in size and quality. The earliest interventions were on the original nucleus, the reconstruction of the roof, the doors, the windows and the floors. And it is certain that an initial phase of works ended in 1474, one year after his moving in (from which one would surmise that the works were not that extensive). In 1475 he requested and obtained permission to build a chapel, at that time an unusual thing, not just as a choice, but above all as an achievement. He subsequently devoted his energies to the gardens, the orchard and the vineyard, which he constantly improved.
Sangallo or not? Here we come to a mystery surrounding the precise attribution of the project for the palace in Borgo Pinti. Bartolomeo Scala had assimilated a taste for beauty from his conversations with Cosimo the Elder and for years it was believed that for the realization of the building he had hired the services of the best architect “on the market”, Giuliano da Sangallo. There are however no unequivocal references to the artist and, as Franco Borsi has indicated5, the attribution of the project for the palace to Sangallo «is simply not convincing». Firstly, because at the time of building the latter would have been too young; secondly, because it would have been unwise for Scala to approach Lorenzo the Magnificent’s favourite architect; thirdly, if the latter had recommended him to Scala there would today be at least some document testifying to it. Therefore the hypothesis that the project for Palazzo Scala is to be attributed to Giuliano da Sangallo remains entirely to be proven. In conclusion, the Chancellor did not choose an architect of undoubted renown, as was believed for years, but simply hired the best workers that could be found. It is known however that for the building of his house Scala spent more than half of his salary over a period of three years: his office in fact anticipated a retribution of 300 florins a year and on the house he spent 500.
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The curious thing – which characterized the early centuries of the building’s history – is that the oldest part, during the various changes of ownership, was never paid for its effective value. Following the death of Bartolomeo Scala the palace passed to his direct heirs, then to Cardinal Alessandro de’ Medici who became Pope Leo XI though remained on the papal throne for only 26 days, then to the Della Gherardesca family who exploited the potential of the gardens and carried out restorations. Bartolomeo Scala asked for and was granted permission to construct within the edifice a chapel with a Greek-cross plan. The building of a private place of worship, as Vanna Arrighi has indicated6, was quite unusual for a private dwelling, although it does give us an idea of the power Scala already possessed after 10 years of chancellorship, a position that had enabled him to accumulate a large fortune while remaining below the threshold of high taxation.
With “Il Magnifico”, always The vicissitudes relating to the construction of his house – which Francesca Klein has described as «one of the earliest and most conspicuous examples of personal promotion that took place in the Florentine government establishment during the Republican period»7 – were inevitably interwoven with political events in the city – the Pazzi conspiracy, the assassination of Giuliano de’ Medici in the cathedral and the wounding of Lorenzo the Magnificent. During the crisis which followed this bloody episode Scala’s authority suffered a temporary decline, though his loyalty to the Medici family guaranteed his role of primary importance in the fortunes of Lorenzo’s power. During the plague epidemic of January 1479, Florence’s political leaders placed their trust in Scala, virtually leaving him alone in the city to receive and send letters which would otherwise have remained unanswered. It was at this time – after the crisis following the conspiracy perpetrated in Santa Maria del Fiore and the full recovery of political power – that Scala decided to concentrate on the embellishment of his palace and the courtyard, choosing valid builders and stucco-workers (who did not belong to the Florentine tradition), with an austere style, that is, adapting his personal style to that of the house. Reliefs were executed for the palace’s inner courtyard, the oldest one, still visible today, whose illustration forms part of the themes dealt with by Cristina Acidini in the present volume. As the same author had occasion to write ten years ago, «in the twelve reliefs, harsh and imbued with mystery, Bartolomeo Scala intended to give figurative form to concepts alluding to the intimate flow of his private thoughts, or convictions, or experiences or plans».8 The reliefs, the work of Bertoldo di Giovanni (an artist linked to Lorenzo who had trained at the school of Donatello, works by whom are today conserved at the
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v Bertoldo di Giovanni, detail of the relief of Amor, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence. v
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Bargello and at the Louvre), were taken from the first collection of Scala’s Latin Apologues, short compositions through which, using satirical and mythological themes with a crude and direct style, the author intended to impart his teachings. The rough fascination which emanates from them, after the recent restoration, marries with the many emblematic figures: from the child “protected” by Poverty while both look toward Mercury, to the figure of Apollo in whom the features of Lorenzo the Magnificent are recognizable. In 1480, when Scala had already settled permanently in the house in Borgo Pinti together with his wife, his five daughters and a large number of servants, Giuliano was born, the only male and sole heir of all his father’s properties.
The inheritance When Bartolomeo Scala died in 1497 the property passed to his son Giuliano. At that time the definitive aspect of the estate between Borgo Pinti and Via Cafaggio (now Via Gino Capponi) consisted of the domus that he himself had built and a considerable area of cultivated land, gardens and nurseries, in addition to various houses in Borgo Pinti that had been rented out to family relatives or servants. Giuliano Scala sold various external properties, some thirteen lots of the property adjacent to what would be Via del Mandorlo (now Via Giuseppe Giusti), obtaining in return over one thousand scudi that were legally declared... He then made out two wills, the second of which indicated preference to his son Lorenzo instead of Bartolomeo. Lorenzo never married, thus leaving as sole heir his other brother, Giulio, with a bequest in favour of his mother Francesca. To Bartolomeo there remained minor portions, destined to flow, through his daughters who were nuns, into the patrimony of the monastery of San Clemente. In view of Giulio’s uncertainties, it was his mother who later requested the appointment of a curator to manage the inheritance. At the time of his death in 1585 Giulio had no direct heirs. In a draft of his will he had indicated as sole heir the Ospedale degli Innocenti (the original owner of the property). However he later nominated as heirs his nieces Giulia Eletta, Maria Francesca and Contessa, the daughters of his deceased brother Bartolomeo. The three women, nuns at the monastery of San Clemente in Via San Gallo, were nevertheless obliged to sell for six thousand florins the Palazzo di Pinti with adjoining garden and other properties to Cardinal Alessandro de’ Medici, at that time archbishop of Florence. The high prelate had two years to assert this pre-emption and sixteen years to pay back the debt, just as the will of Giulio Scala had clearly indicated that selling the property to Jacopo Salviati or to any other member of the same family was strictly forbidden.
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From the Scala family to the Medici Alessandro de’ Medici lived in Rome for about fifteen years, where he was grand-ducal ambassador and head of the Florentine church which he administered at a distance. In 1585 he had been back in Florence for little more than a year, and just one month after Giulio’s death the future Pope executed the contract. For five years Alessandro lived in the house in Borgo Pinti, carrying out interventions of structural restoration, even though he never stayed there for long periods in view of the numerous journeys he was obliged to make to Rome. It was during this period that the building was improved and the property enlarged through the purchase of a neighbouring piece of land from the Wool Guild. It was at this time that the cardinal’s chapel was built, with a square ground-plan and with access from the courtyard, decorated with frescoes in the late-Mannerist style, still visible and still resplendent. Dating from
1586 are the decorative interventions in the courtyard, with angels bearing Medicean and cardinal’s
Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of
devices painted by Agostino Ciampelli, coats-of-arms and other grotesque paintings that have become
Gloria Militaris and Agostino Ciampelli, winged putti with
visible again after the recent restoration. Since Alessandro was often away from Florence, his sister
Medicean emblems painted
Costanza moved into the domus. In 1522, when still a young woman, Costanza had married Count
of Palazzo Scala-Della
above the arches, inner courtyard Gherardesca, Florence.
Ugo della Gherardesca, a member of the branch of the counts of Montescudaio, who owned propv
erties at Bolgheri, Donoratico and Castagneto. It was this marriage that gave the Della Gherardesca family a foothold in the restricted circle of the Tuscan court. It was Count Ugo, linked by personal interests to Cardinal Alessandro de’ Medici (his brother-in-law), who made investments and engaged in speculations from Florence to Rome, including betting on the forecasts of papal election and nomination. This was not all. The Medici cardinal helped his sister to “marry off” her daughters, pairing them up with the young scions of eminent Roman families. Costanza, however, became a widow in 1589 and, thanks to her brother, was chosen as the “governess” of Cosimo II, the first-born son of Ferdinando I de’ Medici, grand-duke of Tuscany. Alessandro de’ Medici, the proprietor of the domus, was a protagonist of no secondary importance in the history of Florence. His personal fortune was influenced by his acquaintance with Ippolito Aldobrandini, who would later become Pope Clement VIII. During this period the Florentine cardinal received a “pension” of one thousand scudi yearly from the diocese of Melfi and obtained control over San Galgano. At the same time grand-duke Ferdinand granted him a substantial loan from the Monte di Pietà of Florence with which he purchased livestock from the Badia and thus earned a yearly income of four thousand scudi. Exploiting to the full his diplomatic skills, when still a cardinal he became a mediator between France and Spain, “bartering” a new union by shifting Tuscany’s alliance in favour of France. He was later elected to the papal throne as Pope Leo XI.
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v Santi di Tito, Costanza de’ Medici and Cosimo II, Private collection. v Portrait of Pope Leo XI (Alessandro di Ottaviano de’ Medici), Private collection. v
From the Medici to the Della Gherardesca family Unfortunately Alesssandro’s papacy was extremely short-lived – from the 1st to the 27th of April 1605 – although the legacy confirmed the passage of the property which had been of the Scala family to his sister Costanza de’ Medici. There is one detail however that remains particularly unclear. A few days before his death, the Pope left the Florentine domus to his nephew Alessandro, a member of the Ottaviani branch of the Medici family, who from the next pope, Paul V, obtained legal recognition of the authenticity of the will in his favour, thus claiming the ownership of Borgo Pinti. Costanza however gave legal battle. To be compensated, the domus required the payment of six thousand scudi that had been indicated in the previous will between Scala and Alessandro de’ Medici. The cardinal had already paid in some funds, though he had not succeeded in clearing the debt. This fact, as was only predictable, did not spare Alessandro the risk of seeing the property end up in the hands of Costanza and the Della Gherardesca family in any case, an event which materialized in 1607, the year of Costanza’s death. But Alessandro also died. And the dispute was thus inherited by his successors, with the Ottaviani branch of the Medici family who, by paying off the amount due, entered into
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v Pope Leo XI consigning the plan of Palazzo Scala to Costanza deâ€™ Medici, Private collection. v
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possession of other lots, but not of the Florentine house. Later it was Costanza’s son, Simone della Gherardesca who moved into the house that would become, from that time on, the family’s Florentine residence. It was in fact his son Ugo who built new wings around the fifteenth-century nucleus, thus elevating it to the status of palazzo. His successors, up until 1729 (with the will of Giulio Cesare della Gherardesca), would continue the work of enlargement also in the garden (for which the most substantial interventions are documented from between 1694 and 1698), in
Florence second only to Boboli in size.
The Porta a’ Pinti before its
In the course of the eighteenth century the palace was extensively modified and extended by the architect Giovan Battista Foggini, who built the windows on the ground floor and created the
demolition, seen from present-day Piazzale Donatello, Florence. v
gate on Borgo Pinti decorated by a terrace in the upper part (according to some sources Antonio Maria Ferri also worked on it). Alterations inside the palace were also considerable, to the extent that only the courtyard retained its original structure, although changes were made to the decorations to adapt it to more modern tastes. Noteworthy during this period the execution of numerous frescoes – some indicating all the properties of the Della Gherardesca family – family coats-of-arms and a fine ceramic floor of the eighteenth-century Neapolitan school signed by «Ignazio Chiaiese». As can be read in a publication of 1942, the palace passed to the Della Gherardesca family who enriched it «with various paintings and decorations including the gallery on the first floor and the ball room with frescoes of the early eighteenth century».9 The property was always indicated as a base for the harmony and unity of the family, at least until 1877, when serious financial problems «forced Ugolino [della Gherardesca] to give up the management of his affairs and entrust the administration of all his property to a “surveillance committee”».10 Over the next six years things got worse, and eventually Ugolino’s heirs were forced to sell the palace and garden of Borgo Pinti, as well as a series of luxury ornaments and furniture belonging to the palace.
A. Bellinazzi, op. cit., p. 10.
sul palazzo di Bartolomeo Scala a Firenze, Firenze 1998.
Ivi, p. 14.
Ivi, p. 121. Ivi, p. 91. Il Palazzo della Gherardesca (ed. SMI), Firenze 1942, p. 6.
A. Bellinazzi (ed.), La casa del cancelliere. Documenti e studi Archivio Albizi, Poggio a Remole, Firenze, Libro di conti di Bar-
tolomeo Scala 1474-1477.
Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Catasto 1015, c. 260r.
A. Brown, Bartolomeo Scala (1430-1497). Cancelliere di Firenze.
L’umanista nello Stato, Firenze 1990, p. 158.
U. della Gherardesca, I della Gherardesca. Dai Longobardi alle
soglie del Duemila, Pisa 1995, p. 192.
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The unfulfilled dream of Ismail Pasha Marco Ferri v
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In the history of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca in Florence, a history marked by numerous changes of ownership,
Ismail Pasha, former khedive of
the brief period in which it belonged to the former viceroy of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, deserves a mention. Unfortunately
Egypt, photograph from the Archive
most of the publications dedicated to the centuries-long existence of the building and its grounds, seem to ignore the
of the Institute for International Political Studies, Milan.
episode, which in reality has various interesting implications.
Born in Cairo on 30 December 1830, the son of Ibrahim Pasha, Ismail had studied in Paris (obtaining a diploma
Page from La Nazione dated
at the military school) and had become khedive of Egypt (i.e. viceroy) on 18 January 1863, succeeding his uncle Said
3 October 1934 with reference to the purchase of the palace
Pasha. He was responsible, among other things, for the construction of the Suez Canal which was opened in 1869 and
by Ismail Pasha.
the commissioning of Aida from Giuseppe Verdi, which went on stage at the Opera Theatre in Cairo on 24 December v
1871, six weeks before appearing at the Scala in Milan. However, after sixteen and a half years in power, Ismail Pasha had been forced to resign: «[…] on 26 June 1879 Ismail Pasha abdicated from the sovereignty of Egypt, Nubia, Sudan, Kordofan and Darfur in favour of his first-born son, the presently reigning Mohamed Tewfik Pasha».1
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This had happened as a result of the disastrous condition of the Egyptian economy following a grand project of public works and social and administrative reforms. After his abdication, and up until his death (on 2 March 1895 in Constantinople), Ismail lived in permanent exile and Italy was one of the countries in which he was able to take up residence. In the summer of 1879 he left Cairo with his court and made the journey from Alexandria to Naples. The Egyptian prince’s stay in Campania was summed up in a book written at the end of the 1920s: «Ismail Pasha, the deposed Khedive of Egypt, the prince of a Thousand and One Nights, came with his court and his small harem to settle in Naples, at the ‘Favorita’. The prince was a squanderer who knew nothing of arith-
metics. Over a period of some thirteen years he had accumulated debts amounting to ninety-five 19th-century decoration
million lire. A multitude of greedy speculators and adventurers got rich at his expense. It seemed
in the dining-room of the Royal Suite, Palazzo
that Ismail sunk his hands into the inexhaustible and phantasmagorical treasures of Ali Baba. He
Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence
was not a handsome man. Rather short, and somewhat corpulent, he had a small black beard and
bright shifting eyes. He was accustomed to being responded to with readiness and obedience. The slightest disappointment made him furious and violent. When he was in a bad mood it was best to avoid him. He arrived in Naples on board the yacht Mahrussa, and went to live at Villa Roccabella at Posillipo, work at the Favorita having not yet been finished. He remained in Naples for six years. A number of extremely colourful legends grew up around the life that the oriental prince conducted at the Favorita. The women of the harem, naturally, were the most beautiful that God had ever created. He had them summoned by the thousand. Every day was a drama of jealousy, a tragedy of love and blood. The windows of the royal house were covered with iron grilles, like those of a monastery. This was enough to kindle the imaginations of the southern Italians. The truth is that the famous odalisks were but three, each of which had four or five waiting ladies-in-waiting and each of these, in turn, were served by four or five slaves. They dressed in the European style. They went by open carriage to the famous afternoon promenade in Via Caracciolo, attended performances at the San Carlo theatre and, at times, went to lunch at the Gran Caffè d’Europa. Ismail left Naples in 1885».2 To be precise, Villa Favorita di Resìna (present-day Ercolano, in the province of Naples), is a Vesuvian residence built in the eighteenth century, today owned by the State (Ministry of Justice). During his stay there, Ismail Pasha had various rooms on the ground floor decorated in the Turkish style.
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Presumably the residence at the foot of Vesuvius was considered inadequate for his noble lineage, and Ismail Pasha decided to move elsewhere with his harem. The choice he made was Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca. The heirs of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca were in no condition to be able to maintain such an important property together with all its adjoining structures. Ever since 1850, in fact, there had been a slow economic decline of the family which in only twenty-four years had led them to mortgage their assets to the sum of 220,851.87 lire.3 A large sum of money for the time. Thus the Court of Florence on 28 September 1883 issued a provision which, «due to the vast amount of mortgage and unsecured debts burdening the estate of the deceased»4, authorized the heirs of Count Ugolino – that is, Giulia Giuntini the widow of the senator Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, guardian and legal administrator of her under-age son Count Walfrido della Gherardesca, and her daughters Emilia and Maria – to sell their properties in Florence. On the same court deed was the name of the agent of the operation – Andrea Bartolini Carrega – as well as the buyer of the assets – the former khedive of Egypt, Ismail Pasha – and the price the latter had to pay: 60 thousand lire for the personal property and 870 thousand lire for the real estate. As regards the latter there is the clear indication of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, described as an “aristocratic palace”. The authorization of the Florence Tribunal was followed by the deed of sale which was stipulated in the presence of the notary Pietro Capei on 3 December 1883. The Egyptian prince was absent for the notarial deed, for on 17 August of the same year, in Paris, he had undersigned a power of attorney in favour of Count Annibale Maffei di Boglio. The presence of the name of the buyer of the estate of the Della Gherardesca family on the deed of the Tribunal of Florence of September 1883 – that is, Ismail Pasha – thus confirms that the prince’s intention to buy the property was significantly prior to the stipulation of the deed of purchase, though documentary evidence establishing the origin of the decision is missing. As previously mentioned, there are very few sources which document the news of the sale of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca to Ismail Pasha. Among those in existence is a text written in 1995 by the great-grandson of Ugolino della Gherardesca, who had the same name, and that of the early 1970s written by Leonardo Ginori Lisci. In the former we read: «When indeed, in 1882, Count Ugolino died, the guardians, to whom my grandfather (Walfrido, author’s note) was entrusted, could not but accept the gravity of the family’s financial situation and, in order to allay it sell to His Highness Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, the palace and garden of Borgo Pinti for the sum of 800 thousand lire and 60 thousand lire for some personal property and luxury furnishings left in the palace».5
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In actual fact, as is clear from the notarial deed of sale of the estate of the Della Gherardesca family, the price for which all the property was sold was 930 thousand lire and not 860 thousand lire as reported by Count Ugolino in his book. From the book of Ginori Lisci, however, there is one more item of information: «At the succession of Count Ugolino the heirs sold the centuries-old family property to Ismail Pasha, former viceroy of Egypt, although he kept it for only a short time since he failed to obtain authorization to move his large harem there».6 There is clear mention here of authorization, yet there is no reference to who was supposed to grant it. The episode is clarified vaguely in an article published many years earlier in the daily newspaper, La Nazione, signed by the Osservatore Fiorentino: «We note .... that in 1880 [Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, author’s note] passed from the Della Gherardesca family to Ismail Pasha, the former khedive of Egypt. This prince, having failed to obtain from the Italian Government permission to move his harem there from Egypt, got rid of it after a short time and it was subsequently purchased by the Southern Railways Company».7 According to this source – which is after all innacurate since the year of the passage of the palace from the Della Gherardesca family to the Egyptian prince is clearly wrong – it was the Italian Government which expressly prohibited Ismail Pasha from using the aristocratic palace, after its purchase, as the seat for his well-populated harem. Alas, neither in the Florentine archives nor in the statutory archives of the various ministries have documents been found confirming a clear Italian governmental intervention in the affair. It may be hypothesized that in order to prevent the move of Ismail Pasha and his harem from Resìna to Florence the Florentine Prefecture intervened, but even in this case no document has been found to corroborate the fact.8 Following this episode the Florentine residence and adjoining grounds, after just twenty months, once again changed ownership: on 8 August 1885 the official deed of transfer was signed which sanctioned the transfer of the properties from Ismail Pasha to the Società Anonima Italiana per le Strade Ferrate Meridionali, which set up its headquarters there until 1940, when it passed into the hands of the Società Immobiliare della Metallurgica Italiana.9 As we learn from the notarial deed of the notary Pellegrino Niccoli,x the twelve units comprising the property (ten houses, the palace and various plots of land) were sold all together – «lock, stock and barrel» as was said then – at the price of 885 thousand lire. Between December 1883 and September 1884, the Egyptian prince had paid the instalments for the palace, the movables and the garden for a total of 930 thousand lire; in the summer of 1885 he sold it back for 885 thousand lire. In practice he lost 45 thousand lire in the operation.
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v View of a hall in a period photograph of Palazzo ScalaDella Gherardesca, Florence. v
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The actual sale had taken place, with a simple contract, on 24 June 1885, subsequently registered on 10 July of the same year. The deed was signed on 8 August 1885 in the presence of the notary, Niccoli, and two witnesses, one for the buyer (the «Signor Commendatore Secondo del fu Signor Giovanni Borgnini» for the Società Anonima Italiana per le Strade Ferrate Meridionali) and the legal representative of the seller, Ismail Pasha. The latter, in fact, was not present for this notarial deed either, having delegated his lawyer Washington Rigoletti on 16 July 1885. In the text of the notarial deed of 1885 we learn the reasons which had prompted the persons responsible for the Società Anonima Italiana per le Strade Ferrate Meridionali to negotiate with Ismail Pasha the purchase of the palace and the park where he had in effect never taken up residence: «… needing to expand its offices in the city of Florence, where its headquarters were situated, it purchased a building in Florence from the count of Mirafiori […] and later the Company must have come to the conclusion that the buildings belonging to His Highness Ismail Pasha, and owned by him in Florence, were seen to be more suitable for accommodating the aforementioned offices, and it negotiated the purchase of them with the representative of His Highness, Ismail Pasha». With this act, therefore, the former khedive of Egypt in exile ended that relationship with Florence which in fact had never started, and with it his dream was dashed forever. How might the atmosphere have been inside Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca if Ismail Pasha had succeeded in transferring to the banks of the Arno his harem thronged with young women of an extraordinary allure, we also learn from various records of facts that took place both in Naples and in Brianza. During his stay at Villa Favorita di Resìna, Ismail Pasha spent a short period of time at Villa Cramer, an aristocratic residence at Tassera, part of the comune of Alserio on the shores of Lake Como. This took place during a period of time between the end of 1879 and 1883. It seems that the decision to spend a little time in Lombardy sprang from his desire to visit people he had got to know in Egypt, during the period of his reign, and with whom he had remained in contact. At Tassera the Egyptian prince was a guest at the house of Cavalier Francesco Basevi, a great lover of horses who had made his fortune in Egypt and with whom he had a close friendship. Ismail had taken with him a part of his ‘court’ of seductive young women and, rather as had happened at Resìna, in his honour various furnishings in the Turkish style had been put up inside the villa. Even a small temple in the garden, according to the designs, must have been built in the Moorish style: it was anticipated, in fact, that a Turkish flag be raised on top of it.
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Ismail Pasha’s “passage” is also documented in a book that recounts «A century of Milanese history through the illustrious guests of its most celebrated hotel», the Gran Hotel et de Milan.11 His name appears in a long list of «important people who have stayed» in the famous hotel together with those of innumerable heads of state and members of royal families. The long exile of the Egyptian prince and his mysterious court in Campania had on the other hand got the ex sovereign of Egypt into the news for an episode that really did take place. A young Circassian woman in the harem of Ismail Pasha managed to escape with a bold young Parthenopean, causing a diplomatic incident between the prince, the Italian government and, naturally, the Church. Even the Savoy family intervened in defence of the young woman. As it happened the former khedive came off the worst and for the former slave-girl the doors were opened to a life of freedom.12 This story so empassioned public opinion that some years later a rumour circulated that the romantic flight of the young Circassian had taken place at Tassera, and not in Naples. This story was clearly the fruit of pure fantasy.13 Despite the purchase of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, and excluding various short periods spent in Lombardy, Ismail Pasha stayed in Campania until 1885, the year he moved to the Bosphorus. He retired in fact to Constantinople where, following his death in 1895, he was buried in Cairo.
It is worth pointing out that the records of the Ordinary Affairs
of the Florentine Prefecture, conserved at the State Archive of Flo-
F. Dell’Erba, Napoli. Un quarto di secolo, Napoli 1929, pp. 221-
rence, are extremely fragmentary due to the flood of 1966, just as
222. The sojourn of Ismail Pasha in Naples has been recounted
the records of the Gabinetto di Prefettura, which collected docu-
more recently in an article: cf. R. RAIMONDO, Il Miglio d’Oro: Fan-
mentation relating to affairs of particular delicacy, were entirely
tasticherie popolari sulla vita del principe Kedivè d’Egitto, ospite della
lost in the fire of 1946.
Villa, in “La Torre”, no. 9, 14 June 1969, p. 4.
Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Notarile Postunitario, 6384, file 529.
Il palazzo della Gherardesca. Cenno storico artistico, edited by the
Società Metallurgica Italiana, Firenze 1942, p. 7.
Some information concerning the notarial deed we also find at the
Agenzia del Territorio di Firenze (Register for transcriptions 149,
3441, pp. 1-14. Some information concerning the notarial deed we
also find at the Agenzia del Territorio di Firenze (Register for tran-
F.L. Santi, L’Egitto sotto il governo di Ismail Pascià, Milano 1988,
Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Notarile Postunitario, 6044, file
scriptions 162, no. 139, cc. 101-102).
U. della Gherardesca, I della Gherardesca. Dai Longobardi alle
G. and D. Bertazzoni, A. Mancino (ed.), Grand Hotel et de Milan,
soglie del Duemila, Pisa 1995, p. 192.
L. Ginori Lisci, I palazzi di Firenze nella storia e nell’arte, vol. 1,
A. Bassi, Herbenses historiae: note sulle vicende della città dalle
Firenze 1972, p. 535.
sue origini al ‘900, Erba1981, pp. 123-125.
Il giardino della Gherardesca, in “La Nazione”, 3 October 1934, p. 8.
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The rooms of economic power Cesare Peruzzi v
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In the aftermath of the thwarted designs of Ismail Pasha – the former viceroy of Egypt who had purchased Palazzo Della Gherardesca, including its contents and garden to make it into his Italian residence, complete with harem – the property of Borgo Pinti became the scene of important frequentations and strategic alliances that left an enduring mark on the Italian economy in the 20th century. In 1885 the complex was sold by Pasha to Count Pietro Bastogi, former finance minister in the Cavour government and founder of the Banca Toscana di Credito in 1862, the same year Bastogi had also founded the Southern Railways Company, of which he himself was president. At the time the building was bought, in 1885, the Company administered the railway network from Ancona to Otranto, as well as the Calabrian and Sicilian branches; in that same year, a state convention also granted control over the lines of Lombardy, Emilia and the Veneto, this amounting to a total of 4379 km of railway. Palazzo Della Gherardesca became the company’s head office. But it was the year 1939 that marked a real turning-point in the history of the property, which nonetheless had never ceased playing a role as a centralizer of power.At this time the property was bought by the Orlando
v View from the garden of one of the facades of
family, which owned it for more than sixty years. Luigi Orlando was the president and limited majority shareholder of an economic empire based on specialized copper products and sustained by financial
Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
associations interwoven with what Eugenio Scalfari and Giuseppe Turani have called “the noble wing
of Italian capitalism”.1 Following a meticulous restoration of the building, Orlando established here the head offices of Generali Industrie Metallurgiche (GIM) and Società Metallurgica Italiana (SMI). The Sicilian Orlando family, which had played an important role in the Risorgimento and contributed financially to Garibaldi’s expedition of the Thousand, moved initially to Genoa and then to Tuscany, passing from naval activity to metalworking. The founder of the family, Luigi, was born in Palermo in 1814 and at an early age started working in the mechanical workshop of his father Giuseppe. In 1902 his grandson, also named Luigi, bought SMI, one of the oldest industrial companies in the country, founded in 1886. With the industrial plants of Campo Tizzoro (Pistoia) and Fornaci di Barga (Lucca) SMI became a cornerstone of the Italian productive system and was decisive in the course of the Great War. The group, which in the meantime had moved from Livorno to Florence, had also entered into the business of electrical energy (with Centrale and Valdarno) and through a share in Bastogi also made inroads in the railways sector. It was in fact from Bastogi that the Orlando family bought Palazzo Della Gherardesca in 1939, and it was here – at a crucial time for the fortunes of the country then entering the Second World War, allied with Germany – that in the following year the company’s headquarters were established.
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In the second half of the 20th century the Orlando family, now an important exponent of the entrepreneurial bourgeoisie, managed its affairs from Borgo Pinti, going through the nationalization of electrical energy and struggling to maintain the stability of various companies: Pirelli (of which it became the major shareholder in the 1980s), Montedison and Corriere della Sera, at the side of long-standing allies such as Mediobanca, Pirelli, Lucchini and Pesenti etc. with whom it also shared a commitment in the control of GIM and SMI, the holdings of the Florentine group now concentrated in the copper industry. It was inevitable, of course, that during those years Palazzo Della Gherardesca was frequented by people who either represented these companies or had economic or family connections with them. Enrico Cuccia, in the second part of the 20th century the padre-padrone of Mediobanca and “high priest” of Italian private finance, when seeing the building for the first time immediately asked to visit the park and confided to the person accompanying him that those timeless plants and flowers − enclosed by ancient walls in the historical centre of a modern and rather chaotic Florence − seemed to him to emanate an esoteric aura, similar to that of the
gardens of the Abbey of Chiaravalle, outside Milan.
Room with stuccoes of the Southern Railways
In the same period of time the palace in Borgo Pinti was often frequented by Leopoldo Pirelli,
Company, now the bathroom of one of the hotel suites, on
head of the second most important industrial group in the country, leader in the production of pneu-
the first floor of Palazzo ScalaDella Gherardesca, Florence.
matics and cables. Here he participated in the board meetings and assemblies of GIM and SMI, be-
longing to Luigi Orlando, who to him was a friend. Marco Tronchetti Provera, whose first marriage was to Cecilia, the daughter of Pirelli, had a similarly assiduous, though perhaps not quite so intimate, relationship with the Orlando family and their Florentine residence. Among the industrial dynasties who accompanied the fortunes of the Tuscan group, sharing the secrets of the rooms of Borgo Pinti − in some cases for several generations − there are also the Lucchini and Pesenti families, leaders in the steel and construction industries: both the parents, Luigi and Carlo, and the sons, Giuseppe and Giampiero. Together with them Alberto Pecci of the textiles sector, Carlo De Benedetti whose core businesses were computers and telephones, and Giovanni and Umberto Agnelli at the head of IFI, IFIL and Fiat, who, although never having direct appointments in the companies of the Orlando family, always maintained close contact with it. The high level of such frequentation could not but open the doors of Palazzo Della Gherardesca to the exponents of the world economy. In 1984 the meeting of the “Ford European Advisory Council” was organized here in the presence of Henry Ford II and Umberto Agnelli. The grand banquet that crowned the occasion consecrated the headquarters of GIM
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and SMI as the salotto buono not only of Italian but also of international industry. Luigi Orlando − the great-grandson and namesake of the founder, who was enamoured of Florence − undoubtedly gave a multinational dimension to the family empire, buying up activities in France, Germany, England, Spain and China. However, shortly before dying, in 2001, constrained by a financial crisis caused partly by the expansionist policies of the previous years, he decided to sell, among other things, Palazzo Della Gherardesca. GIM and SMI were incorporated respectively by Intek owned by Vincenzo Manes, and the KME group, which was also controlled by Intek. The presidency continued to be in the hands of a member of the Orlando family, Salvatore the son of Luigi, and the Milanese branch of the family is also still pres-
ent in the company’s capital, but the new boss was now Manes.
Panels bearing symbols of the Southern Railways
If it is true that buildings, like people, have a destiny, that of Palazzo Della Gherardesca is characterized by its rela-
tionship with economic power, and its incorporation into the properties of the Orlando Group, between 1939 and 2001,
is certainly a reflection of it. In those years strategic assets were guarded, sheltered by the discreet and protective walls of Room with stuccoes
Borgo Pinti: a slice of the national electrical industry; control of the Pirelli Group; shares decisive for the governance of
of the Southern Railways Company, now the corridor
Montedison (chemical, pharmaceutical and insurance sectors) and Gemina (Rizzoli-Corriere della Sera); in addition, nat-
and bathroom of a suite on the first floor of Palazzo Scala-
urally, to the nerve centre of the largest European industrial empire in specialized copper products that still represents 30%
Della Gherardesca, Florence.
of the market, with 3.5 billion euros in proceeds and seven thousand employees in 2007.
Palazzo Della Gherardesca − today owned by RDM (Fingen Group) of the brothers Corrado and Marcello Fratini − has recently been converted into a luxury hotel run by the American Four Seasons chain. But even in spite of this, the transition from ‘rooms of economic power’ to luxury hotel suites is certainly not going to change the fact that the building will continue to be frequented by important people, for in its new role the Palazzo will continue to accommodate leading figures in the world of international economy and finance.
E. Scalfari, G. Turani, Razza padrona, Milano 1974.
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Architecture and Art v
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Five centuries of history Vincenzo Vaccaro v
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Bartolomeo Scala, the humanist and right-hand man of Lorenzo the Magnificent, chose for the building of his
Detail of the 18th-century
palace an outlying area of the city, near to the fourteenth-century city walls, where there were farmed lands and gar-
floor in painted maiolica,
dens.1 It was a place, more rural than urban, where both small and large convents were situated. The purchase of
loggia on the first floor of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
the property dates from 1472 and it consisted of «a large house with a garden next to the walls». Given Scala’s fa-
miliarity with Lorenzo, for the construction he was able to hire the services of the most highly regarded architect
The signature of the maiolica
in Florence at the end of the Quattrocento, Giuliano da Sangallo, who at that particular time was building the villa
worker “Ignazio Chiaiese”, the
of Poggio a Caiano and a short time after would build Palazzo Gondi, in what is now Piazza San Firenze, a splen-
artist/craftsman who executed the splendid floor of the 18th-century Neapolitan school.
did example of a Renaissance private residence. In 1488, in the same area, in Via Laura, Sangallo designed a large
residence for Lorenzo the Magnificent that was never actually built. The building work was executed quickly, given the fact that at the time of Bartolomeo’s death in 1497 the palace, which was inherited by his daughters and son, was finished and had for some time been inhabited by its owner. The surviving part of the original building, as much in its structure as in its decoration, is represented by the magnificent square courtyard, arranged on two levels, emphasized by the rhythm of arches which are reminiscent of the Roman triumphal arches annotated by Sangallo in the notebook of his first journey to Rome and which he would repeat, with a different rhythm, in the outer loggia of the villa of Poggio.2
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The upper level, now closed off, was originally an open loggia. Sanpaolesi, who restored the courtyard in the 1940s, had occasion to point out the constructional similarities between this and Poggio a Caiano, thus confirming the
Geometric plan of the city of Florence (1843) by Federico
attribution to Sangallo formerly expressed by Marchini.3
Along with other rooms on the ground floor, a small chapel with a square plan has also survived virtually intact.
It is surmounted by a semi-spherical cupola built with lacunaria over pendentives, in the classical style, decorated by mannerist artists of the late sixteenth century. The decorative structures are dealt with in more detail in another essay of the present volume; here, due to its specific relevance to the building of the palace, we will mention the decoration with grotesques of a minor staircase where workers are represented, a curious detail of life on a construction site. From the heirs of Bartolomeo Scala the palace passed to the sisters of the convent of San Clemente, who in 1585 sold it to Cardinal Alessandro deâ€™ Medici who would later become pope with the name Leo XI. Alessandro commissioned a number of grotesque decorations with cardinalâ€™s coats-of-arms, the rearrangement of certain rooms and the definition of the main facade overlooking Borgo Pinti, this being characterized by a smooth surface punctuated by large windows on two levels, interrupted in the centre by a large portal surmounted by a terrace, according to a scheme in use in Florence which recalls the style of Ludovico Cigoli. Most of the seventeenth-century transformations regarded the decorative structures. After the death of Alessandro in 1605 the palace passed to the Della Gherardesca family, through the Mediciâ€™s sister, the widow of Count Ugo. In the course of the eighteenth century Counts Ugo and Cesare della Gherardesca commissioned the enlargement of the palace to the architect Antonio Ferri, who redesigned the main road front and the new parts overlooking the garden to the south, inserting, as in Palazzo Capponi at the back, a loggia on several levels to balance the relationship between the closed rooms of the old construction and the garden itself. The floor in the loggia of the piano nobile, made by the Neapolitan ceramist Ignazio Chiaiese, dates from the same period. On the inside a new staircase was built that was more practical than the previous ones which yet maintained their function in time: the one towards Borgo Pinti was preserved, while on the opposite side a new staircase was made in grand style following the demolition of the existing one. The above-mentioned garden, to the south of the palace, was the only one in existence, since the rest of the land toward the houses of present-day Via Gino Capponi and towards the road along the walls was laid out as a vineyard and the boundary with the adjoining lands was occupied by a ragnaia. The extent of the work executed in the course of the eighteenth century is clearly apparent from a comparison
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between two maps of the city of Florence: that of Ferdinando Ruggeri dating from 1731 and that of Francesco Mag-
nelli and Cosimo Zocchi dating from 1783.4 In the former the second courtyard is missing, and the garden, between
â€˜Pianta della Catenaâ€™ (1471-1482) by Lorenzo Rosselli, detail.
the south facade and the houses on Via del Mandorlo (todayâ€™s Via Giuseppe Giusti), appears larger since the projectv
ing structure with superimposed loggias had not yet been built. In the latter, which represents the state of the property at the end of the century, we see the second courtyard dividing the service quarters and, on the opposite side, the garden of reduced size laid out with paths around a central flower-bed. In the first twenty years of the nineteenth century Count Guido Alberto maintained the formal geometrical plan of the garden, overlooked by the loggias of the south facade, but transformed into a park, according to the romantic taste of the time, all the open land formerly used for horticulture and as vineyards. The garden was embellished with small constructions: the Corinthian casino for the merry-go-round, a small Ionic temple and a Kaffeehaus. The design was the work of Giuseppe Cacialli and the proprietor himself who participated directly in the operations of enrichment and modernization of his residence. The layout of the new park in a romantic style is represented in the Florence city
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map that was drawn up by Fantozzi in 1843.5 A few years later, during the demolition of the city walls to create space
Plan of Florence (1783)
for the ring-road, the garden was partly restructured with the addition of small mounds made with the rubble from the
by Francesco Magnelli and Cosimo Zocchi, detail.
demolition. With the multiplication of large-scale works to make Florence into the capital of the unified state Count
Ugolino della Gherardesca hired Poggi to make various transformations to the complex. The first intervention made between 1859 and 1860 consisted of the reconstruction and extension of the rented houses on Via del Mandorlo and in the division of the palace in order to hire out a part of it. The result of this project was that Count Ugolino entrusted Poggi with restoring and improving that part of the palace used by the Della Gherardesca family. The loggia of the ground floor surrounding the courtyard was thus completed, with the building of the vault with panels in polychrome stucco in imitation of the lacunaria present in an adjacent fifteenth-century room, and the decoration for the staircase leading to the first floor was studied. The land registry plans of 1873 document â€“ in addition to the demolition of the walls and the cutting of a corner of the property to facilitate the link between Borgo Pinti and the new Viale Principe Amedeo (now Viale Matteotti) â€“ the new constructions replacing old dwellings that had been demolished to allow the
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widened intersection of the two roads.6 Poggi himself furnished the designs for this project, which comprised the construction of various buildings of an elevated tone, similar in architectural character, separated by a monumental entrance gate that provided access to the Della Gherardesca garden from the main road, thus obtaining the twofold advantage of raising the propertyâ€™s prestige and increasing its productivity through the renting out of the new apartments.7 Following the death of Count Ugolino in 1882, the palace was sold to Ismail Pasha, the viceroy of Egypt who, after failing to obtain authorization to move his harem there, sold it to the Southern Railways Company which used it as a management headquarters for the Adriatic Railways. Evidence of work carried out for the buildingâ€™s use as offices in that period is the decoration of a room on the first floor. The earliest declaration by the State of the historic and artistic interest of the building came in the early decades of the twentieth century, with law 364 of 20 June 1909, documented by a conservation decree notified to the Railways Company on 26 June 1919. In 1940 the property passed to the Italian Metallurgical Company which used the building as the administrative centre for its activities. In 1941, with a transcription note at the Registry of Mortgages and
v Entrance to Palazzo Scaladella Gherardesca, from
Charges in conformity with law 1089 of 1 June 1939, the garden was also included as a place of historical and artistic interest.
present-day Borgo Pinti, period photograph.
In the following years the building was restored by the architects Raffaello Brizzi and Piero Sanpaolesi. Conserved in the archives of the Monuments and Fine Arts Service are the projects and
the correspondence that was exchanged between the proprietors and the Ministry for the carrying out of restorations, one of which involved the building of a glass roof above Sangalloâ€™s courtyard. It is worth mentioning that although the complex was private property, up until 1960 the gate giving access from Viale Matteotti was kept open in the morning to allow the garden to be used by the children of the neighbourhood who went there accompanied by parents or relatives. The present owner of the complex has also incorporated another area, with a palazzetto and a large garden, now adjoining that of the Della Gherardesca property, which in the early sixteenth century belonged to the Wool Guild.8 Here the Guild built some houses which in 1633 were all given to Baron Filippo del Nero. In the eighteenth century these houses were converted by the Del Nero family into a pleasure house, subsequently enlarged and embellished inside with decorations and with the construction in the large garden of a grotta set against the wall marking the boundary with the Della Gherardesca garden. The work was carried out between 1755 and 1762 by the architect Agostino For-
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3 v 1-3-4. Drawings by Giuseppe Poggi, plans for the junction with the main road and elevations of the new entrance to the garden. v 2. Land registry plan of the Del Nero villino. v Entrance gate of the garden of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, from the present Piazzale Donatello, period photograph. 4
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v Church built in 1907 on designs by Luigi Bellincioni, in an area once occupied by stables. v
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tini. On the death of the last heir of the Del Nero family, the villino was inherited by his wife Ottavia Guadagni Del Nero and in 1823 by her daughter Enrichetta Torrigiani Peruzzi. In 1834 the Torrigiani family sold to Count Ruspoli, who had rented the building in the preceding years, «villino, garden and adjoining buildings». Around this time the buildings are mentioned in the Guide of Federico Fantozzi as the «palace of the Peruzzi nobles situated in Via San Sebastiano at no. 6294, also called Villino because annexed to it is a very elegant and spacious garden».9 In 1901 the «palace with garden, nursery, stables, storerooms and outhouses» was by Camillo Ruspoli sold to Maria Stintzy and by the latter rented to the French nuns of Maria Riparatrice. In 1906 the nuns obtained permission to demolish the «stables, saddlery and other adjacent buildings» in order to construct a larger church to replace the old chapel that had been built inside the palace. A structure separated from the main body of the building by a courtyard and a lemon-house situated in front of the garden were therefore destroyed. The new church, built to designs by the architect Luigi Bellincioni, and inaugurated on 3 September 1907, by reason of the great attention to detail stands as an interesting example of the neoGothic style which for long characterized the Florentine cultural scene. This portion of the complex was placed under State protection, initially in 1952 with a decree pertaining to the application of law 1497 of 29 June 1939 on the protection of natural treasures, then again in 1991 with a declaration of considerable interest in accordance with law 1089. 1
On the history of the palace see A. Bellinazzi (ed.), La casa del
a way to reduce his palace in order to rent out a part of it to well-
Cancelliere. Documenti e studi sul Palazzo di Bartolomeo Scala a
to-do families; and this objective was entirely achieved. The sec-
Firenze, Firenze 1998.
ond commission concerned the way of conveniently decorating
M. Bucci, R. Bencini, Palazzi di Firenze, Firenze 1973, pp. 47–55;
various parts of the same palace reserved for his family’s resi-
F. Quinterio, La costruzione del palazzo in A. Bellinazzi (ed.), cit,
dence, taking into account the type of decoration that had orig-
inally been used. The third commission was that relating to the
G. Marchini, Giuliano da Sangallo, Firenze 1942, pp. 88-89; P.
reduction of the small dwellings that the Comune was taking away
Sanpaolesi, La casa fiorentina di Bartolommeo Scala, in Studien
from him along the old walls for the formation of Viale Principe
zur toskanischen Kunst. Festschrift fur L. H. Heydenreich, München
Amedeo, for which the Soprintendenza had already established
1964, pp. 275-88.
with the Proprietor and his Assessor the relative indemnities. This
latter commission involved not only the reduction, but extended
A. Mori, G. Boffito, Firenze nelle vedute e piante. Studio storico
topografico cartografico, Firenze 1926.
to the considerable enlargement of the structures, thus creating
A. Mori, G. Boffito, cit.
comfortable lodgings for citizens and foreigners. Help with these
Archivio Soprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici ed il Paesag-
latter projects was provided by my assistant, Ing. Passeri, who
gio per le province di Firenze, Pistoia e Prato, cartella pos. A 225,
carried out the work excellently”.
plans attached to the historical report of M. Forlani (1995).
G. Poggi, Disegni di fabbriche eseguite per commissione dei Par-
gio per le province di Firenze, Pistoia e Prato, cartella pos. A. 967.
ticolari, Firenze 1886-1887, vol. II: “Count Ugolino della Gher-
Report for the declaration of considerable interest (31 December
ardesca honoured me with various commissions from 1860. The
first was to study the reduction and extension of various dwellings
in Via del Mandorlo in order to improve the tenants’ quarters, and
ica della città e contorni di Firenze, Firenze 1842.
Archivio Soprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici ed il Paesag-
F. Fantozzi, Nuova guida ovvero descrizione storico artistica crit-
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Expressions of artistic achievement Brunella Teodori v
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Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca in Borgo Pinti, mentioned in the city’s oldest guides,1 houses an artistic patrimony of prime importance documenting all the centuries of its existence, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth, and constitutes a significant record of the lives and tastes of the people and families who at various times owned it. The “Palagetto” was situated on the extensive lands that were bought in 1473, by Bartolomeo Scala, from the Ospedale degli Innocenti between the Porta a’ Pinti and the Posterla dei Servi, an area then occupied only by gardens, farmlands and small convents. An influential man of the court of Lorenzo the Magnificent, a diplomat and chancellor of the republic, Scala, who came originally from Colle Val d’Elsa, entrusted the building’s construction to Giuliano da Sangallo, the most important architect active in the latter part of the century, who in the same period was building the villa of Poggio a Caiano for Lorenzo the Magnificent.2 The early nucleus was however incorporated into the sixteenthcentury construction, following the passage of the property from the Scala family to the Medici in 1585, in the person of Cardinal Alessandro, who later ascended the papal throne with the name Leo XI.3 The building was later enlarged and transformed by the building interventions of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries while in the possession of the Della Gherardesca family, from 1606. At the end of the nineteenth century the building was bought by the Southern Railways Company, and then by the Italian Metallurgical Company in 1940. Evidence of these historical passages is visible stratigraphically in many rooms and areas of the palace, where the oldest decorations survive together with interventions carried out in later centuries, often on the same walls and within the same decorations, according to a concept of continuity in the use of spaces and linked to everyday life and to the personal taste of the owner. Both the Scala, Medici and Della Gherardesca families availed themselves of artists who were the most highly reputed and well known in the cultural circles they belonged to; the palace thus came
v View of the inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della
to reflect the most representative artistic tendencies of their times. The courtyard is the heart of the Renaissance fabric and is the very image of its first owner. It is
Gherardesca, Florence, period photograph.
arranged on two levels, which, during the period it was owned by Scala, should be imagined with the
upper floor as an open loggia and the courtyard itself dominated by the twelve large reliefs by Bertoldo inspired by the Apologues of Bartolomeo Scala, a programmatic record of life and philosophy executed in the 1480s.4 Below the reliefs, and in almost miniaturistic proportions compared to them, unravels a delightful little frieze painted in monochrome on a black background with cherubs represented in both serious and playful attitudes. The courtyard facades and the large panels are divided regularly by pilaster strips made of white stucco which, at the level of the painted frieze, have masks made in the same material, today stripped of the various grey colourings dating from the
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last restorations to reveal the original underlying surface. Bertoldoâ€™s reliefs must also have been covered with white stucco, although they are presently altered in appearance by at least two layers of grey-green repainting, the result of eighteenthand nineteenth-century restorations which, in expressing the taste of the time, were supposed to simulate the colour of bronze, fragmentary layers but adhering well to the originally white surfaces whose residual fragments were identified in the course of the conservational restoration and are now documented by scientific analyses.5 The presently dominant reddish-brown colour, together with the greyish green of the pan-
v Agostino Ciampelli, details of the winged putti with Medicean emblems, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-
els, is produced by the material it is made of: cocciopesto covered with stucco on which was originally
Della Gherardesca, Florence.
present a light-coloured lime finish with two white paint layers pigmented with ceruse.
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The painted frieze and masks are an addition of the Medicean period, documented by the Medici coat-ofarms surmounted by a cardinalâ€™s hat, during which the original architectural order and proportions of the courtyard were modified in favour of a decorative enrichment, with the closing off of the upper loggia and the insertion of a series of framed windows in the late Mannerist style, painted in imitation of pietra serena. The remaining surfaces of the walled-up sections, around the windows, were decorated with vases, various birds and grotesques. The grotesques, however, appear to be a nineteenth-century reconstruction on new plaster underneath the windows, those on the corner walls extensively repainted with a period restoration, and the monstrous corner figures at the level of the fifteenth-century panels the result of yet another restoration (or new insertion).
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v Birds and vases painted around the windows, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence. v
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In the pendentives between the ground floor arches winged putti were depicted with Medicean and cardinal’s emblems, which in the original parts reveal the lively and refreshing style of the painter Agostino Ciampelli, to whom they have been attributed. They also show signs of many restorations from the same periods as the renovations above them, presumably due to heavy losses of paint resulting from their outdoor exposure.6 The high quality of the sixteenth-century decorations suggests the presence of artists active in the Medicean court and at Palazzo Vecchio, close to Allori and Stradano.7 It is not unlikely, however, that Ciampelli – a painter who carried out his early activity in the sphere of the Medicean court close to Alessandro, who also used him in Rome on large ecclesiastical construction sites – may have executed the fine naturalistic decoration above the windows, having himself painted the frieze with «birds, fish, stones and shells» along the skirting-board of the Tribune of the Uffizi, which was later destroyed.8 The taste for period restoration also extends to the rooms behind the loggia, where the late nineteenth-century restorer Poggi executed the vaults, whose vividly coloured octagonal lacunaria take up the motif of the heliotrope, the symbol of Bartolomeo Scala,9 which is present instead in the original fifteenth-century version in other rooms on the ground floor. The chapel, which gives onto the courtyard, is of considerable interest for the fifteenth-century structure and for the subsequent late sixteenth-century decoration commissioned by Alessandro de’
v Polychrome stucco decorations, ceiling of a room on the ground floor of Palazzo Scala-Della
Medici. For its construction Scala obtained a special authorization from the archbishop of Florence
in 1475, since the building was not a princely palace but rather a private residence, even though owned
by a high functionary of the court.10 In this way, however, he revealed his personal adherence to humanistic dictates, such as those advocated in the Albertian Treatises which prescribed new rules for the building of a Renaissance residence, for example the choosing of a pleasant and secluded place, with a chapel and a garden.11 In the chapel dedicated to the Virgin, divided into two parts and frescoed throughout with various inscriptions, there are: in the first part, panels containing representations relating to original sin and the forefathers, inside a lavish decorative partition with grotesques and with mother-of-pearl wings; in the second part are the four Evangelists inside roundels and an angelic dance amid clouds with cherubs and the dove of the Holy Spirit in the centre. The frescoes in the two parts have different stylistic features. It is not unlikely that in the chapel too, an emblematic place in the palace used for the personal worship of the Medici family, Ciampelli may have worked together with Giovanni Balducci, whose name is mentioned in various sources.12 Both painters were active in Rome on construction sites linked to the cardinal where they worked in close collaboration.
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v Chapel, vault of the second room with the angelic dance and roundels with the Evangelists. Palazzo ScalaDella Gherardesca, Florence. v
v Following pages:
Chapel, view of the vault of the second room with
Vault with the angelic dance amid clouds with cherubs
the angelic dance and roundels of the Evangelists.
and the dove of the Holy Spirit in the centre, roundels
Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
with the four Evangelists, second room of the private chapel of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
v v Chapel, vault of the first room with representations relating to original sin and, above the
Vault with representations relating to original sin,
entrance door, two putti holding a scroll.
first room of the private chapel of Palazzo Scala-
Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
Della Gherardesca, Florence.
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The hand of Ciampelli appears to be recognizable in the two putti holding a scroll above the
‘Studiolo’ with vault with heliotropes, Della Gherardesca coats-of-arms and on the walls representations of the virtues, ground floor of Palazzo Scala-
entrance door and possibly also in the angels of the small cupola which are reminiscent of the more stately and magniloquent ones of the Roman basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.13 As has rightly been pointed out,14 Agostino Ciampelli and Giovanni Balducci – one the pupil
Della Gherardesca, Florence.
of Santi di Tito, the other of Giovanbattista Naldini – represent the generation that came after that of
Vasari and Stradano, who also painted two panels for the chapel as has been testified by Baldinucci,15
Lunette of the ‘studiolo’,
and the introduction in the palace of a “reformed” art, with its even and exemplary narration that was
ground floor of Palazzo ScalaDella Gherardesca, Florence.
educational in intent, far from the crowded and complex compositions of early Mannerism and more
consonant with the character and role of the house’s owner. Another interesting decoration executed some time later – dating from the period of Costanza de’ Medici, the widow of Ugo della Gherardesca, to whom the palace passed after the death of Alessandro – is that of another room on the ground floor, possibly a study, with a fifteenth-century structure as confirmed by the vault with sunflowers in stuccowork. At the sides however are emblems of the Della Gherardesca family, on the lunettes stories of the discovery of the body of San Guido and, on the walls, grotesques with allegorical figures sym-
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bolizing virtues. The room is situated on the same side of the courtyard as another room that still contains a fifteenthcentury ceiling with heliotropes. Also worth mentioning is the presence, in another room giving onto the courtyard, of a Medici coat-of-arms with papal insignia, evidence of Alessandro’s interest in his palace even during the very short period of his papacy, which lasted less than a month, not enough time for him to make any further interventions. Of the original fifteenth- and sixteenth-century construction – apart from some decorations on the vault of a staircase not subsequently transformed, where there also appears an interesting scene of a construction site, nothing else remains visible. Following the passing of the property to the Della Gherardesca family, decorations in the palace were adapted to the glorious events and times of that dynasty. The upper floor has a more complex layout which is a result of the subsequent extensions that were made above all in the 18th century. Surviving from the 17th century are decorations in the corridor on the first floor along the courtyard, with coats-of-arms relating to the Della Gherardesca properties at Donoratico and in the Maremma, and the most noteworthy fresco, the Blindness of the human mind being enlightened
v Medici coat-of-arms with papal insignia, dating from the period of Alessandro de’ Medici (pope Leo XI), ceiling of a room on the ground floor of Palazzo Scala-
by Truth, by Baldassarre Franceschini known as Volterrano. Mentioned by Baldinucci and exe-
Della Gherardesca, Florence.
cuted in the 1660s, the painting is visible on the vault of a small room with perspective architec-
ture and Chinese wallpapers applied in the 19th century. With Volterrano the palace was embellished with that profane and allegorical decoration that the painter had already executed in Palazzo Guadagni and Palazzo Niccolini and «the interpretation of the baroque as a languor of the senses, a dynamic conflict between two figures personifying different impulses and concepts».16 His art must have been very much admired by the family if, as emerges from seventeenth-century inventories, there were other paintings by him in the building along with «a large book of about four hundred drawings».17 In the course of the eighteenth century the gallery and staircase were built (1713-15) on the orders of Count Ugo di Guido, on designs by Antonio Maria Ferri and the intervention of the stuccoworker Alessandro Geri, and later, after the death of Ferri, other interventions were made by the stuccoworker Giovanni Martino Portogalli. Other works were executed during the periods 1744-45 and 1758-61; the most important were commissioned by Cardinal Giuseppe Maria.18 In the side along the courtyard, on the upper floor, in addition to the painted gallery bearing an inscription with the date 1717, we may also mention the great hall with stuccos, six oval-shaped above-the-door decorations in monochrome and frescoed scenes with inscriptions celebrating the fourteenth-century glories of the family, where in the first
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half of the century Giovan Domenico Ferretti painted The Marriage of Count Guelfo with Elena of Hohenstaufen, Mauro Soderini painted The Calling of Gaddo della Gherardesca to the Command of Pisa in 1330 and Vincenzo Meucci painted the Foundation of the Port of Bonifacio in Sardinia.19 These painters worked in close collaboration for both public and private commissions, and were among the most reputable fresco painters of the eighteenth century, their work being present in numerous Florentine buildings. They introduced baroque splendour and magniloquent historical painting glorifying the dynasty in the Florentine residence of the Della Gherardesca family.20 From the very same period is another gallery in the loggia on the garden side, painted with a large quadratura and allegorical scenes praising the virtues of the family, the work of a remarkable painter belonging to the same cultural sphere as those just mentioned. This part of the palace also has a splendid pave-
ment in maiolica signed by Ignazio Chiaiese. Vault of the service staircase,
On another side are two rooms decorated with baroque quadrature, that is, illusionistic wall
ground floor of Palazzo ScalaDella Gherardesca, Florence.
paintings, a genre particularly in vogue between the seventeenth and the nineteenth century, one of v
which, the room of the caryatids, has recently been brought back to light.
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On the opposite side are various rooms newly decorated in the nineteenth century with episodes linked to the history of the family, including two rooms that document the final passage of ownership at the end of the century to the Southern Railways Company: a room covered with tiny decorations in white stucco with gilded edges and the symbols of the company (a hammer above an anvil and two cogs on the walls and, alternatively, a hammer and anvil and cog inside octagonal lacunaria on the vault) and another with the vault painted with the Glory of George Stephenson, the British engineer known as the father of railways who designed the fa-
v Baldassarre Franceschini called Volterrano, Blindness
mous steam locomotive used to transport coal from the mines.21 In the early decades of the nineteenth century, at a time of great transformation in the garden
of the human mind being enlightened by Truth,
at the hands of Count Guido Alberto, we should mention the work of Antonio Marini, who in the
Volterrano Suite, Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
neoclassical style painted and signed the vault of the small Doric temple designed by Giuseppe Cacialli and restored the courtyard in 1841.22 After 1870 the count and Giuseppe Poggi were responsible for
large-scale extensions and reconstruction on the side of the property adjacent to the main road, and
Allegorical scenes dedicated to the Della Gherardesca family, ceiling of a first floor room of
some interventions of period â€œrestorationâ€? such as the execution of the vaults with polychrome lacunaria in the loggia around the courtyard.23 Two stone tablets on the new facade facing the main road
Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca,
document these nineteenth-century interventions in the garden and the building complex generally.
In the twentieth century, following the transfer of the property to the Italian Metallurgical
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v Vault of the Gallery on the first floor of Palazzo ScalaDella Gherardesca, Florence v 18th-century paintings with stories of the Della Gherardesca family, room on the first floor of Palazzo ScalaDella Gherardesca, Florence. v
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Company, there was a restoration of the building complex in 1940-42 and in the garden after the war.
As regards the rich patrimony of art works and furnishings that the Della Gherardesca family had
19th-century paintings with stories
collected over the centuries – documented by seventeenth-century inventories, which record, among other things, paintings by Stradano, Matteo Rosselli, Guido Reni and Volterrano, fourteen statuettes
of the Della Gherardesca family, rooms on the first floor of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
in terracotta which embellished the niches of the inner loggia of the courtyard, and two globes by
Coronelli – mention must necessarily be made of its dissipation at an auction in the 1960s. The present owners – who have joined to Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca the building formerly owned by Del Nero, recently in the possession of the nuns di Santa Maria Riparatrice – have in both cases started the necessary conservational interventions on the decorative structures. These interventions have in some cases led to new acquisitions through the discovery of paintings concealed under plaster and have in any case contributed to elevating the status and increasing the value of a private complex with a rich history, still unknown to most people, that is an important part of the Santa Croce quarter and of the city in general.
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M. Bocchi, G. Cinelli, Le bellezze della città di Firenze, dove a pieno
1981, 25, pp. 122-126.
di pittura, di scultura, di sacri templi, di palazzi, i più notabili artifizi,
e più preziosi si contengono, Firenze 1677, p. 483; for a summary of
colari, II, Firenze 1886-1887.
the bibliographical sources on the palace see section n°258 in C.
F. Quinterio, cit., in A. Bellinazzi (ed.), cit., p. 59.
Paolini, Case e palazzi nel quartiere di Santa Croce a Firenze, Firenze
L.B. Alberti, De re aedificatoria, Firenze 1485.
2008, pp. 168-170.
F. Fantozzi, Pianta geometrica della città di Firenze, Firenze 1843,
On the history of the palace see, among others, L. Ginori Lisci, I
which says of the palace “…it was lavishly embellished with paint-
palazzi di Firenze nella storia e nell’arte, Firenze 1972, I, pp. 529-536;
ings by Giovanni Balducci and decorated with a beautiful chapel full
M. Bucci, R. Bencini, Palazzi di Firenze, Firenze 1973, III, pp. 47-55;
of splendid panels by Giovanni Stradano and superb ornaments”.
A. Bellinazzi (ed.), La casa del cancelliere. Documenti e studi sul
Balducci is referred to for a part of the paintings of the chapel
palazzo di Bartolomeo Scala, Firenze 1998, and in particular on the
(cupola) by C. Acidini, cit., in A. Bellinazzi (ed.), cit., p. 100, who
architectural history, F. Quinterio, La costruzione del palazzo, pp. 59-
for the vault recalls the style of Girolamo Macchietti. On the artistic
90, in the same volume.
patronage of Alessandro de’ Medici, see C. Acidini Luchinat, Il cardi-
G. Poggi, Disegni di fabbriche eseguite per commissione dei Parti-
On Alessandro de’ Medici, later Pope Leo XI, son of Ottaviano, a mem-
nale Alessandro de’ Medici e le arti: qualche considerazione,
ber of a secondary branch of the family, and Francesca Salviati, nephew
“Paragone”, 529-531-533 (1994), pp. 134-140. On Giovanni Bal-
of Pope Leo X, appointed by his cousin Cosimo I ambassador to Pope
ducci, who in 1594 left Florence for Rome together with Agostino
Pius V, bishop of Pistoia, in 1574 nominated archbishop of Florence and
Ciampelli in the retinue of Cardinal Alessandro, see also the entry Bal-
in 1583 cardinal, the year in which he took effective possession of the
ducci, Giovanni, in La pittura in Italia. Il Cinquecento, Milano 1992,
Florentine seat, see the multimedia file in Wikipedia: http://www.cat-
II, p. 634.
a Roma. Committenza e riforma pittorica da Gregorio XIII a Clemente
C. Acidini, Di Bertoldo e d’altri artisti, in A. Bellinazzi (ed.), cit., pp.
On the presence of the Florentines in Rome see A. Zuccari, I toscani
91-120 and the essay in the present volume.
VIII, in Storia delle arti in Toscana. Il Cinquecento, Firenze 2000, pp.
137-188 and in particular for Ciampelli and Balducci pp. 157-160.
Stratigraphical analyses using a polarized optical microscope on
samples of colour taken from bas-reliefs and mural paintings in the
C. Acidini, cit., in A. Bellinazzi (ed.), cit., p. 100.
courtyard of Palazzo della Gherardesca, executed by Marcello Spamp-
For Stradano and Baldinucci see note 7; F. Fantozzi, Nuova guida
inato for Pennellotto Restauri s.r.l. (18-6-2007), deposited at the
ovvero descrizione storico artistica critica della città e contorni di
Soprintendenza PSAE di Firenze, Prato, Pistoia.
Firenze, Firenze 1842, p. 290.
C. Acidini, cit., in A. Bellinazzi (ed.), cit., pp. 99-100.
M. Bucci, R. Bencini, cit., pp. 52-52; D. van Sasse Ysselt, Il cardi-
fiorentino. Arte a Firenze da Ferdinando I a Cosimo III. Biografie,
M. Gregori, Il Volterrano (Baldassarre Franceschini) in Il Seicento
nale Alessandro de’ Medici committente dello Stradano, “Mitteilungen
Firenze 1987, pp. 188-193, quotation on p. 191.
des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz”, XXIV (1980), 1, pp.
L. Ginori Lisci, cit., I, p. 534; M. Gregori, cit., p. 193 which reports
203-235; D. van Sasse Ysselt, Tre disegni dello Stradano per la deco-
Gaburri’s quotation regarding the drawings.
razione della Cappella del Palazzo della Gherardesca a Firenze, “Mit-
L. Ginori Lisci, cit., I, p. 534; M. Bucci, R. Bencini, cit., pp. 53-54
teilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz”, XXV, 1981,
F. Quinterio, cit., in A. Bellinazzi (ed.), p. 80.
pp. 380-382. In these contributions he is attributed with the deco-
rations of the chapel and other ground-floor rooms on the basis of
barocca, Firenze 1974, p. 96.
the quotation by Baldinucci, who in reality mentions two paintings
on wood in the chapel, now in a private collection in Lucca (F. Bald-
Domenico; Meucci, Vincenzo; Soderini, Mauro, in La Pittura in Italia.
L. Ginori Lisci, cit., I, p. 534; M. Mosco, Itinerario di Firenze On the three painters see the individual entries Ferretti, Giovan
inucci, Notizie de’ professori del disegno da Cimabue in qua…, Firenze
Il Settecento, Milano 1990, pp. 793-794.
1681-1728, P. Barocchi edition, Firenze 1974, II, pp. 595-596). This
On George Stephenson see the multimedia file in Wikipedia:
fact is also taken up in the entry Stradano or Strada, Giovanni/Jan
van derStraet, known as, in La pittura in Italia. Il Cinquecento, Mi-
lano 1992, II, pp. 847-848. The reference is contested in C. Acidini,
bellished with bas-reliefs in terracotta representing allegories and
cit., in A. Bellinazzi (ed.), cit. p. 100 and 103 note 53.
mythological subjects, and the various frescoes and grotesques of an
unknown painter, which were cleaned and restored in the Septem-
D. Heikamp, Zur Geschichte der Uffizien-Tribuna und der Kun-
F. Fantozzi, cit., 1842, p. 290: “The courtyard of the palace is em-
stschrankein Florenz und Deutschland, in “Zeitschrift fur Kunst-
ber of 1841 by the painter Antonio Marini”.
geschichte”, XXVI (1963), p. 245; S. Prosperi Valenti Rodinò,
Ciampelli, Agostino, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Roma
G. Poggi, cit. L. Ginori Lisci, cit., I, pp. 533-534.
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Bas-reliefs and apologues Cristina Acidini Luchinat v
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Enclosed within the heart of Palazzo Scala near the old Porta a’ Pinti, a porticoed courtyard with lavishly decorated and painted facades shows on its four sides a frieze of bas-reliefs that constitutes one of the most fascinating and mysterious works of art of the Florentine Renaissance.1 We know who commissioned the frieze: Bartolomeo Scala, one of the most interesting figures of late fifteenth-century Florence, a man who from humble origins, a miller’s son from Colle Val d’Elsa, worked his way through study up to political office and great prestige, culminating in his holding of the title of Gonfalonier in 1486. Such prodigious social and economic progress was summed up by the man himself in his personal motto: gradatim, gradually, or rather “one step at a time”, symbolized by the ladder that was his emblem.2 The frieze certainly dates back to after 1473, the year in which Scala began to purchase houses and land in the rural area just inside the city’s northern walls. An early phase of the palace’s construction ended in the spring of 1474, a second in 1476; it may have been during the initial phase that the layout of the square courtyard took place, with an order of arches resting on columns decorated with pilaster strips on the ground floor, the intermediate space of the frieze, and an architraved upper loggia supported by pilaster strips that was later closed off. The architecture of the courtyard, comprising the barrel vaults of the interior of the portico, evokes the majesty of ancient Rome, which
in that century was revived in the words and work of Leon Battista Alberti.3 The dating of the frieze Bertoldo di Giovanni,
is uncertain, although we are in possession of highly probable chronological references. The work
detail of the relief of Mitas (Magnanimitas)
was certainly done after 1474, and it may be surmised that it was executed between 1481and1485.
from Apologue LIIII by Bartolomeo Scala,
The subjects of the frieze may correspond to the “moral themes” which Alberti had recom-
inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca,
mended in his De re aedificatoria, written twenty years earlier and by this time well known in archi-
tectural circles. The veneration of antiquity typical of the mature Florentine Quattrocento was also a v
source of inspiration for the technique of the panels, executed in stucco in imitation of Roman imperial age reliefs: the surfaces must originally have been a warm white colour, resembling marble, and only later was there applied the bronze-coloured paint with gilded highlights that we see today. The documents make no mention of the artist who executed the frieze. In the past the name of Giuliano da Sangallo was proposed. But the style, harsh and lyrical in the expressive movements of the figures and in their plain and impetuous modelling, appears to be more typical of Bertoldo di Giovanni, a leading figure in Florentine sculpture of the late Quattrocento, a sculptor associated formerly with Donatello, of whom he was an assistant, and latterly with Michelangelo, of whom he was, with others, a master. Together with Bartolomeo Scala, Bertoldo enjoyed the protection of the Medici family, which from the 1530s dominated the Florentine political and economic scene. Between 1457 and 1459 Scala was secretary to Pierfrancesco
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de’ Medici, the nephew of Cosimo the Elder and cousin of Piero the Gouty and Giovanni, living in his house in Via Larga. He was also in close relations with the later generation of Medici, Lorenzo the Magnificent and the younger second cousins Lorenzo and Giovanni di Pierfrancesco. It would be Scala’s task to mediate in the dispute between Lorenzo and the sons of Pierfrancesco when the latter, damaged by Lorenzo’s management of common assets to his own advantage, asked for and obtained a conspicuous indemnity: with two lodi, or legal sentences, it was the chancellor who established which possessions should be allocated, as compensation for the economic damage suffered by the two young men.4 As for Bertoldo, Donatello’s assistant in the late bronze reliefs for the pulpits in the church of San Lorenzo, it is known that he also lived in Cosimo’s palace in Via Larga, that he tutored the young artists assembled by Lorenzo in the Garden of San Marco in the study of antiquity and in sculpture, and that he died in the villa of Poggio a Caiano that was still under construction. It was to him that Lorenzo commissioned four bronze medals, LVCTVS PVBLICVS/SALVS PVBLICA, commemorating the death of Giuliano and the salvation of Lorenzo in the Pazzi conspiracy of 1478.5 The frieze was therefore conceived and completed in the context of that association between Bartolomeo Scala and the two branches of the Medici family, a circumstance that was certainly favourable to the entire building enterprise of the palace in Borgo Pinti and to the political ascendancy of its owner. The frieze is composed of twelve panels, three on each side of the courtyard. The subjects are unusual; no iconographical precedents, either ancient or Renaissance, are known about, nor are there any subsequent copies or derivations. In the history of Italian sculpture the reliefs occupy an isolated and very special place, since they drew origin, as has been convincingly demonstrated,6 from concepts closely linked to the literary activity of the person who commissioned them. Ten of them are in fact illustrations of Latin Apologues, chosen from a numerous collection composed by Scala, who was a humanist and writer as well as a political figure. An apologue is a short story, usually of an allegorical type, with explicit pedagogical, moral or philosophical significance. Its characters are men and women or personifications of abstract concepts. Originating in Latin language and culture, the apologue was revived by the humanists of the Quattrocento and enjoyed relative fortune up until the 17th century as a way of expressing moral concepts. Two manuscript collections of Scala’s Apologues are known of, one datable to 1481, the other to 1488-92.7 The subjects of the reliefs are taken from the first collection, which would suggest a dating some time between 1481 and about 1488. The link between the figured scenes and the Apologues is made possible by the Latin titles inscribed in the stone in capital letters, one for each scene. It is singular that in six (adjacent to each other) of the twelve reliefs the title is written in elegant letters within rectangular tablets in clear, finely carved relief; “Mitas” is written in one tablet, though with letters of modest craftsmanship; in the other five (also adjacent to each other)
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the title is written with poorly carved lettering in indistinct spaces left free in the centre of the compositions. We have no information about the order of the stories. They are shown in a sequence that lends itself to autobiographical interpretation relating to the personal life of the man who commissioned the cycle: Negligentia, Ebrietas, Praelium, Regnum, Amor, Mitas (or Magnanimitas), Iurgium, Quies, Victoria, Tempestas, Imperatoria, Gloria militaris. The group with poorly crafted inscriptions comes first, that with well-made letters second, with “Mitas” in the middle. Negligentia. In Apologue XXXVI Negligence generates a throng of children, among them Poverty, who implores Mercury for assistance. The god tells her to leave her family and follow him. We can identify the children of Negligence and Slumber (the couple in the centre) beneath a looming dragon. On the left the kneeling Poverty beseeches Mercury while a child clutches at her arm; the child’s arm is enveloped by a tree stump and its hand is squashed to the ground. Above is a temple bearing the ladder emblem. The child can be interpreted as autobiographical: Scala, after spending his childhood in poverty, frees himself from the wretched condition of his roots and devotes himself to negotia, to public affairs, of which Mercury is patron. An allegorical image codified in the late 16th century describes “Poverty in one who has skill” as a figure with one hand weighed down by a chain and stone, and the other raised up by a pair of wings.8 Ebrietas. This relief has no corresponding apologue. The scene represents sixteen centaurs fighting with animals. The composition is extremely agitated at the centre, where two centaurs throw a cow into a cauldron, and a pig that manages to escape. Other centaurs sieze beasts and pieces of meat and two of them dismember a lion above a basin that collects its blood. The inebriation of the title seems to allude not so much to wine as to violence, despite the fact that four of the centaurs have equine bodies adorned with garlands, typical of Bacchic scenes. It is worth mentioning that Noah used the blood of animals, including that of lions, to fertilize the earth of his vines. Praelium. This relief appears to be inspired by Scala’s Apologue XL, Bellum, which tells the story of Prey. When Prey complains to Injustice about the treatment he receives from the soldiers, he is invited by the centurion not to be surprised about usages generated by Prey himself. The scene is a tumultuous skirmish of horsemen and footsoldiers, both armed and naked, where the only motionless figures on the left and right could be respectively Prey and Centurion. In the rest of the relief men and horses are entangled in an unending movement of stretched, overturned and contorted bodies, their forms writhing in a sort of spatial and perspective anarchy: large and small figures alternate with no heed to proportions. The explosive violence of the riotous turmoil is such that many parts in relief go beyond the edges of the panel. Regnum. Apologue LXXVI narrates that the lion, having convoked the quadrupeds, incites them to revolt against man: in the great battle that ensues, Kingdom takes the side of virtue. In the right part of the relief is the meeting called
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v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Negligentia from Apologue XXXVI by Bartolomeo
v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Ebrietas, inner courtyard of Palazzo
Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Praelium probably from Apologue XL by
v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Regnum from Apologue LXXVI by Bartolomeo
Bartolomeo Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
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v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Amor from Apologue LXXXIII by Bartolomeo
v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Mitas (Magnanimitas) from Apologue LIIII by
Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
Bartolomeo Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Iurgium from Apologue XL by Bartolomeo
v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Quies from Apologue XLVIII by Bartolomeo
Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
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by the lion, while on the left is the battle whose outcome is uncertain. In the relief there is a distinct contrast between the relative peace of the animal assembly and the explosive force of the combat between men and beasts, just as is rich and varied the modelling of the sculpture: the heads of the bull and lion and their robust legs jut out, while the animals in the background are modelled in a “stiacciato” style reminiscent of Donatello. Amor. From Apologue LXXXIII: an unfortunate lover instituted proceedings against Cupid, accusing him of insolent and immodest conduct for having tied him to a maiden almost to the point of making him a prisoner. Venus ably defended her son before the judges, but the latter condemned him to being beaten by Negotium, Engagement in public life. Cupid escaped the punishment by flying away, and was from then on the enemy of Engagement. In the scene we can identify the two judges and the young accuser, the frightened Cupid and Engagement lashing him; Venus must be the woman in the middle in the act of speaking, though she is certainly no beauty. The role of the two soldiers and the dishevelled old woman defending Cupid, possibly Repentance or Correction, remains a mystery. Mitas (Magnanimitas). In Apologue LIIII Scala narrates that the bull, brought down by the lion, saw a hare hiding between the paws of the lion, and sought to save himself in the same way, but was killed at the end of a hard-fought struggle. The hunter, who had observed from a tree, thought that it was better to be a weak suppliant rather than a proud adversary. The composition is arranged on two levels with the two episodes clearly separated, the saving of the hare and the killing of the bull, with the hunter present in both: on the left while observing, and on the right as he withdraws, leading away an enormous dog that remains in the foreground. Iurgium. In Apologue XL the sinister Belligerence, with fangs and a snake’s tongue, found no hospitality. Talassio received him and had him preside over the nuptial bed, on the condition that if he abandoned it he would wander without refuge forever. The disenchanted moral of the short tale is evident: Belligerence, in order not to lose his comfortable refuge, would never leave the couple. The relief has few points in common with the Apologue, though the presence of Belligerence is unequivocal, the first on the left with the long snake’s tongue. It is believed that his interlocutor, with his strong rough features, Talassio, is a portrait of Scala. In the rest of the scene a frenzied dance of satyrs and maenads takes place, which might represent the festivities for the marriage of the reclining couple on the right. Quies. Apologue XLVIII deals with the complicated theme of Tranquillity as something desired but which, once acquired, is impossible to keep. In this scene four men on the right kneel down to interrogate the oracle, the small Delphian Sibyl with the python at her feet. Another five look to the left and a sixth man kneels at the feet of Apollo in person, who leans against a rock from which a laurel tree is growing. In the features of the naked god we recognize the portrait of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the eyes deep-set, the nose flattened at the tip, and a protruding jaw. The nearby
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laurel (laurus) alludes to his name. The glorification of Lorenzo in the role of Apollo, the radiant musical god invoked as the guarantor of an ungraspable and long sought-after Tranquillity, is a homage made by the master of the house to the family that had been so instrumental in his fortune. Victoria. According to Apologue XXIX when Victory asked to enter the city triumphantly, Envy objected that she must first imprison avarice, restrain greed, keep lecherousness at bay and turn away with horror from cruelty and from the blood of innocent allies. The victor, therefore, was thus vanquished. In the panel Victory proceeds on the triumphal chariot but is small, physically attacked by the elderly and emaciated Envy, and closely followed by four ominous personifications, probably remembered Vices. This particularly bitter Apologue may allude to the attacks suffered by Scala in the course of a career that was marked by a series of â€˜victoriesâ€™ or successes. Tempestas. Apologue VIII. A gardener, a farmer, a shepherd and a sailor, unhappy with the weather, asked for the help of their protectors: Priapus, Segetia, Flora, Pomona, Pales and Salacia. Juno through Iris, goddess of the rainbow, warned them not to hope for too much: but in spite of this Priapus and Flora went before Jove. The god advised them to bear with the caprices of the weather, for they were governed by his wife. The scene is extremely animated, with the postulants on the right beseeching the gods and Priapus and Flora kneeling in front of Jove, while behind him is Juno in the act of admonishing and the rainbow with the face of Iris crossing the sky. The meaning of the Apologue seems to be in the harsh, realistic considerations typical of this literary genre, in this case how impossible it is to prevent or attenuate the adverse consequences of fortune which, like the weather, is uninfluenced by even the highest authority. Imperatoria. Apologue XXX narrates that two armies were about to confront each other when their generals, Marte Gradivo and Bellona Pallade, negotiated a truce. The first condition was that Pallade would from then on live as a guest of Marte. The figurative transposition accentuates the contrast between the armies, that of Marte composed of soldiers armed for war, that of Pallade composed of persuasive orators. Again, behind the story is a cynical moral: not only are the learned obliged to come to terms with the belligerent, but they are also forced to live as their hostages. Gloria Militaris. Apologue XXIV. During a victory, many wanted to climb on to the chariot in search of glory. Strength and Courage came forward, showing arms and wounds, then the military arts, the dangers, the illusions, the incidents of war and Fate; but Counsel from above loudly proclaimed that the victory was his. The sculpted transposition of this short story is extremely lively and expressive. Counsel could be the nude seated at the front, while the chariot is small and far away. Crowded onto the chariot are large, bulky personifications, including a Hercules with his
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v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Victoria from Apologue XXIX by Bartolomeo
v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Tempestas from Apologue VIII by Bartolomeo
Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
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v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Imperatoria from Apologue XXX by Bartolomeo
v Bertoldo di Giovanni, relief of Gloria Militaris from Apologue XXIV by Bartolomeo
Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence.
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club (for Strength): the woman at the back tosses small naked figures, possibly effigies of the vanquished, toward a swarming crowd, represented as a sea of heads and hands. In this case too the allegory has a note of unpleasantness. Counsel, the real maker of victory, is forced to share his triumph with other less meritorious companions, who, in the words of a saying and a way of behaving in use even today, have no hesitation in jumping onto the victor’s chariot. The correspondence between the texts of Scala’s Apologues and the reliefs is a unique example of the direct participation of the patron commissioning the work in the artistic decisions. The very nature of the literary genre of the apologue implies that the narration touches on moral themes, in this case themes relating to the convictions and experience of the master of the house. In much the same way Lorenzo the Magnificent would express his own vision of the destiny of the human soul in the light of neo-Platonic philosophy at the end of the 1480s and certainly prior to 1492, with a series of reliefs on the pediment of his villa at Poggio a Caiano. The Apologues chosen for the figured stories lend themselves not only to communicating an ironic disillusionment with human behaviour, but also to suggesting in allegorical terms a way through private and public life,
and which might well reflect the life of the chancellor from the time of his humble childhood to that of
Bertoldo di Giovanni, detail of the relief of
his hard-won success. An autobiographical interpretation is therefore proposed, which although still a hy-
Quies from Apologue XLVIII
pothesis remains nonetheless convincing.
by Bartolomeo Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Firenze.
In the first relief, Negligentia, we see Scala as a child, who, born into a humble family and brought up in poverty, chooses to break away from his miserable condition and free himself from it through
culture and hard work. It is the proud assertion of the self-made man, the miller’s son from Colle Val d’Elsa, whose achievements through study and commitment would soon be recognized. “Non s’ha questi a chiamar nobile, e degno / ch’acquistò robba, honor, virtute, e ‘ngegno?”.9 The cycle continues with Ebrietas, the inebriation of the senses; Praelium, the violence of combat; Regnum, the struggle for power; Amor, the conflict between love and commitment to public life. Magnanimitas suggests the consciousness, achieved with maturity, of the advantage of being protected by strong powers, rather than challenging them – a declaration of service to the Republic, or perhaps, the admission of a calculated collaboration with the Medici. It is significant that Scala elaborated an image of himself as subordinate to a higher power by choosing as a personal emblem the heliotrope, a flower which turns towards the sun and therefore implies dependence on a superior source of life. Heliotropic decorations recur throughout the palace. Iurgium comments on the discord of conjugal life with ironic resignation. Quies is a homage to Lorenzo the Magnificent, the patron and guarantor of a hard-working and peaceful life “in the shade of the laurel”, in which there is opportunity for culture and intellectual otium. But the tranquillity attained lasts but a moment, for in Vic-
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v Bertoldo di Giovanni, detail of the relief of Praelium probably from Apologue XL by Bartolomeo Scala, inner courtyard of Palazzo ScalaDella Gherardesca, Florence. v
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toria the victor is expropriated of his triumph by envious rivals. Tempestas acknowledges the existence of a power greater than those constituted, the fickle and uncontrollable power of Fortune. Imperatoria asserts that culture is at the mercy of the force of arms. Gloria militaris, lastly (taking up the theme from Victoria), shows the man of good judgement ignored, forced to share his success with a band of overbearing profiteers. The sculptor Bertoldo – chosen with the approval of the Medici family – transposed this series of situations and sentiments into a cycle of discontinuous and convulsive reliefs in which is conveyed a sense of that fine line dividing harmony from dissonance, and the precision of the design and the proportions from subjective and fantastic judgement. The volumetric connections between one relief and another at times flow evenly, at others are strained and interrupted: the compositions express an alternation of density and rarefication, stillness and dynamism, order and disorder. In spite of the savage atmosphere, the reliefs contain an astonishing number of refined references to figurative facts both ancient and modern. From Roman sarcophagi, and in particular from the sarcophagus of the Battle in the Camposanto of Pisa, came various types of inspiration: the entanglement of human bodies and animals in the fighting scenes, but also the flattening of the modelled figures and the stylization of the forms that are rendered in a rough and summary fashion. This can be seen in the stiff elongated limbs of various bodies in the Scala reliefs, in the hands made up of straight cylindrical fingers aligned in parallel. The well-constructed male nudes – such as those in Praelium, the hunter seen from behind in Magnanimitas, the satyr in Iurgium and the so-called Counsel in Victoria – reveals further attention to ancient statuary, clearly distinguishable also in the forceful construction of the horses and bulls. Other sarcophagi (in the villa of Poggio a Caiano, possibly in Rome) and other Roman and Etruscan reliefs may have provided more inspiration: the tightly coiled hair of a woman on the chariot of Victoria draws for example on the wig of Giulia Domna, the wife of Septimius Severus. The study of ancient glyptics is of no lesser importance, in fact various figures appear to be taken from gems and cameos at that time belonging to the collections of the Medici family. Specific motifs are also taken from the sculptures and reliefs of Donatello and Luca della Robbia, nor can one exclude the artist’s recourse to engravings by Mantegna and possibly Pollaiolo. An intriguing similarity links one figure in particular to the painting of Botticelli: this is the goddess Flora, kneeling before Jove in Tempestas, with her scallop-edged robe that reminds us of the light garment of Flora (the smiling woman scattering cut flowers) in the allegorical painting known as Primavera in the Uffizi Gallery. Since both artists were in the service of the Medici , it is more than likely that Bertoldo drew inspiration for his goddess from Botticelli’s splendid model which might already have been visible, and not vice versa. The dating of the Pri-
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mavera is not at all certain, although personally I believe it to be after Botticelli’s return from Rome in 1480; it was, therefore, at the time Bertoldo conceived and sculpted the frieze, a very contemporary painting. Brimming with citations that were certainly not lost on Scala and his friends, the reliefs were also a meltingpot of compositional inventions from which other artists would later draw inspiration. The intertwining of human and equine bodies in Ebrietas was not without consequence for the young Michelangelo, at the time he sculpted the Battle of Centaurs of Casa Buonarroti in about 1491-92. The ferocious skirmish of horses and horsemen in Praelium anticipated the furious Fight for the standard in the Battle of Anghiari by Leonardo da Vinci of 1503-04. For long closed to public viewing, Bertoldo’s frieze has not been as studied or appreciated as it has deserved to be. The relation between the literary content suggested by Scala, organized in such a way that the development is autobiographical, and the refined sculptural transposition, has no equal in the Florentine Renaissance. The programme is imbued with a harsh, pragmatic philosophy, an incubator of ideas that the future secretary to the Chancellery, Niccolò Macchiavelli, would later develop in his treatises: a philosophy that finds expression in a style that is direct to the point of being brutal, such indeed as to almost overwhelm the elegance of its rich and numerous citations. With the opening of the palace to international guests, this extraordinary cycle of reliefs may finally occupy the place it deserves in Florentine Renaissance art, and become part of that heritage of images increasingly widely shared by today’s society.
C. Acidini Luchinat, Di Bertoldo e d’altri artisti, in A. Bellinazzi
artist, in S.J. Campbell (ed.), Artistic exchange and cultural trans-
(ed.), La casa del cancelliere: documenti e studi sul palazzo di Bar-
lation in the Italian Renaissance city, Cambridge University Press
tolomeo Scala a Firenze, Firenze 1998, pp. 91-120.
2004, pp. 96-133, which however pays no attention to the Scala
(ed.), La casa del cancelliere: documenti e studi sul palazzo di Bar-
tolomeo Scala a Firenze, Firenze 1998, pp. 121-132.
sculpture, “Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes”,
Cf. F. Klein, Il luogo dello Scala in via di Pinti, in A. Bellinazzi
On the building phases of Palazzo Scala and on its architectural
A. Parronchi, The language of humanism and the language of
27.1964, pp. 108-136.
characteristics see the essay by F. Quinterio, La costruzione del
palazzo, in A. Bellinazzi (ed.), La casa del cancelliere. Documenti
Leon Battista Alberti, Bartolomeo Scala, Leonardo Da Vinci,
e studi sul palazzo di Bartolomeo Scala a Firenze, Firenze 1998.
Bernardino Baldi (translation, introduction and notes by David
Marsh Tempe), Ariz., Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance
On the basis of the “lodo Scala”, drawn up in 1485 and revised
For the dating I keep to Renaissance fables: Aesopic prose by
in ’86 and in ‘88, Pierfrancesco’s sons had numerous properties
1603), sub vocem.
A fundamental work on Bertoldo is J.D. Draper, Bertoldo di Gio-
C. Ripa, Iconologia, Roma 1593 (1st illustrated edition, Roma
vanni: sculptor of the Medici household; critical reappraisal and cat-
alogue raisonné, Columbia/Mo. University of Missouri Press, 1992.
the reduction into octaves of the Reali di Francia by Andrea da
More recently L. Syson, Bertoldo di Giovanni, republican court
Thus Cristoforo Fiorentino known as Altissimo (1480-1514) in
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The Della Gherardesca garden Giorgio Galletti v
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The Della Gherardesca garden, one of the largest inside the circuit of the Florentine ring-road, conserves the appearance it assumed after the intervention of Giuseppe Poggi in the 1870s, a re-elaboration of the great English-style garden begun by Count Guido Alberto della Gherardesca in the second decade of the same century. However, the real origins of the garden date to the end of the 15th century, when Bartolomeo Scala established his residence near the Porta Pinti following his purchase of lands formerly belonging to the church after they had been freed by papal concession. In the declaration of the assets of Bartolomeo Scala in 1480 there is mention of “una casa per mia abitazione chon ortj … un poderuzzo chon casetta da lavoratore allato alla mia casa di pinti verso il canto a monteloro comperato da frati di cestello … un poderuzzo in detto luogo presso le mura dove o fatto el vivaio el monte e fossoni e via e pratello e la loggia e studio …”.21 Scala’s property already had a structure that would remain unchanged in the following centuries, despite extensions and modifications: an area used as a garden, belonging to the house, and an agricultural area with productive characteristics. Already present is the mound obtained from the excavation of the nursery, confirmed
v The country basin, in a photograph of the
by the description of the Dominican monk and essayist Agostino del Riccio (ca. 1580), who also mentions a ‘ghiacciaia’, or deposit for ice.2 Del Riccio offers up an image of the garden with aspects of for-
second half of the 19th century, Archivio della Gherardesca,
mal research, evinced by the presence of “box espaliers” and “box spheres” located in the secret garden.
The definitive layout of the trapezoidal-shaped area of land situated in the corner between the walls and v
the Via del Mandorlo (today’s Via Giuseppe Giusti) was reached in 1585, however, following the purchase by Cardinal Alessandro de’ Medici, who incorporated various plots of land previously sold by Scala with others that he bought from neighbouring property-owners. With these annexations the property assumed the surface-area that would remain more or less unaltered up to the present day. Dating from this period is the ‘ragnaia’ planted between two walls, visible, along the northern boundary, in Buonsignori’s map of Florence of 1583. Alessandro de’ Medici, who became pope with the name of Leo XI, died in 1605, leaving the house and the Pinti lands to his sister Costanza, the widow of Ugo della Gherardesca. The tripartite division of the garden created by Scala was still in existence in 1673, as we read in the contract between Count Ugo and the gardener Michele Pillori: “Il Giardino grande a vigna …altro giardino anti il palazzo et Orto detto Ortaccio”.3 As with most classical Tuscan gardens, an ornamental area is identifiable, probably used as a flower garden, a vegetable garden used by the servants, which is evident from the use of the somewhat dismissive term “ortaccio”, and an agricultural area with productive characteristics. In 1698 the garden was equipped with a “large room for vases”, a description often used to describe an area for the storage of citrus plants in vases. This large room can be identified as the building called Serra Fredda in the 19th century, given its south-facing location that would have
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v Topographical plan of the City of Florence (1584) by Stefano Buonsignori, detail of the area of the garden of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence. v Geometrical plan of the City of Florence (1843) by Federico Fantozzi, detail of the garden of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence. v
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been ideal for citrus plants.4 The water of the 15th-century nursery can no longer have been sufficient for irrigation, since in 1704 the Della Gherardesca family obtained permission to draw on surplus water (sharing it half and half with the Capponi family) coming from the Giardino dei Semplici.5 The acquisition of this right led to the building of a lost niche-fountain called the prospetto, a work distinguished by mosaic-work in “yellow chips, white chips, white grout and marble dust” made by Martino Portogalli.6 But even this water supply proved insufficient, for in 1709 access was also granted to the surplus water of Duke Salviati whose garden was situated on the opposite side of Borgo Pinti.7 A trace of this concession is the present circular basin in the formal garden in front of the building’s loggiato, although the present one is attributed to Pietro Porcinai, who relaid the garden in the 1940s.8 The construction of a ‘gamberaia’, again for productive purposes, dates from between 1746 and 1759. At that time the Della Gherardesca garden was still a combination of ornamental collectionism and productivity. Grown in it were “Seville oranges, citrons, orange-blossom trees, Maltese oranges, Naples lemon-trees, Arabian jasmines [Jasminum sambac, the famous jasmine of the Grand duke, author’s note.], jasmines, roses, “viole” [possibly carnations, which in the 18th century were called vivuoli, author’s note], aromatic herbs, almond and peach trees, vines of Salamanna and Regina grapes, apple, pear, plum and apricot trees, raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries …”.9 With the spread of the landscape garden to Florence – which happened much later than in England and northern Europe – the Della Gherardesca garden underwent a radical transformation on the orders of Count Guido Alberto (1780-1854). The vast agricultural area to the north of the palace was turned into a park. The most substantial work dates from after 1809, since Guido Alberto wanted to compensate the farmer Domenico Bufalini for the loss of agricultural produce caused by the works just started on the English-style garden.10 Numerous payments are documented for the supply of gravel, earth and plants. Cypress trees, weeping willows (Salix babilonica), Catalpa, amelias (Melia azedarac), firs, horse-chestnuts, pomegranates, Acer negundo, acacias, jasmines, junipers and rattan canes are documented between 1807 and 1810.11 A grotto was constructed with stones from Fiesole.12 The grotto is perhaps to be identified as the one still standing built with large sandstone blocks, situated in the eastern area of the park. In 1810 the small Ionic temple dedicated to Apollo was built, attributed to Giuseppe Cacialli.13 The lake was completed in 1812 and the earth removed to create it was used to make an island. Recently the ink drawing by Giuseppe Gherardi was published where the small temple can be seen on the shore of the lake behind a screen of Lombardy poplars; to the left, behind a small boat is a sort of bank that could be the island.14 There is another image of the island in the map of the city of Florence of 1842 made by Federico Fantozzi, in which it is clear that the lake had a serpentine shape, curving round with an inlet in the direction
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of the palace.15 Fantozzi mentions that Guido Alberto della Gherardesca had ennobled the garden “with grottos, lawns
and woods; with a Corinthian casino for merry-go-rounds; with a monopteral Ionic temple; with a Kaffeehaus and a
The Ionic Tepidarium in a photograph of the second half of
Doric temple; all excellent works by Giuseppe Cacialli …”, noting that in 1837 the count also added an “Ionic tepidar-
the 19th century, Archivio della Gherardesca, Florence.
ium of his own design” and a marble statue in memory of his father, sculpted by Ottaviano Giovannozzi. The precise lo-
cation of the Doric temple with merry-go-rounds is not at all clear; it does not appear in the map of 1842 nor in the one,
The area of the orchid greenhouse;
also by Fantozzi, of 1843, where for that matter even the lake is not represented.16 This second map shows the paths that
in the background the perimeter
wind their way over a second mound in the north-eastern area of the property. The merry-go-rounds could be identi-
wall with battlemented turrets, in a photograph of the second half of
fied as the two circular elements situated in the elliptical space near the Porta Pinti, though it is difficult to advance hy-
the 19th century, Archivio della Gherardesca, Florence.
potheses about the precise location of the Doric temple. The Kaffeehaus, still standing, near the boundary with the Del
Nero garden, was decorated with three bas-reliefs representing dancers and various Labours of Hercules.
The most important and just about definitive transformation of the garden took place with the intervention of
the greater Mound with the tunnel at its base
Giuseppe Poggi. In 1869, after the expropriation of the corner between Viale Principe Amedeo (today’s Viale Giacomo
in a photograph of the second
Matteotti) and Borgo Pinti, which involved the loss of the old access from Via Lungo le Mura, Poggi designed a monu-
half of the 19th century, Archivio della Gherardesca,
mental entrance flanked by two buildings for tenant farmers which was constructed between 1870 and 1873.17 On this
occasion the garden was in part redesigned. The Doric temple and the merry-go-rounds disappeared and a stairway was
built leading to the greater mound, in which fragments coming from the small Doric temple were re-used. The entrance
View of the garden after
from Viale Principe Amedeo was laid out with a small clearing around a fountain, from which branch off the avenue in
front of the palace and the steps that lead up to the winding paths of the mound, whose size and height were increased
with the use of material coming from the demolition of the walls. At the base of the mound a tunnel was created which traversed its entire diameter. The tunnel, in all probability, must have had the function of a classical cryptoporticus. As can be seen in the photographs of the Della Gherardesca archive, it was originally open, lacking the present-day door, and therefore must have been an integral part of the paths of the park.18 The archive photographs present a totally new vision of the park: the entire enclosure along the walls to the east (today’s Viale Matteotti) had been transformed into a sort of neo-medieval defense wall lined with battlemented towers. The wall was replaced with an iron gate whose aim, as Poggi writes, was to emphasize the Della Gherardesca garden to those passing by along the new road.19 The photographs also show a now mature garden with large specimens of cedars, beds planted with flowers or with yuccas and agaves; already present is a large Fagus pendula, to be identified as the majestic tree on the lawn immediately to the north of the palace. In the course of the 19th century and above all with Count
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v View of the park in a photograph of the second half of the 19th century, with the Kaffeehaus in the background, Archivio della Gherardesca, Florence. v
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Ugolino, the Della Gherardesca garden became one of the most important in Florence for the production of ornamental plants thanks to the activity of the gardener Raffaello Mercatelli.20 In 1882 a stufa was built for the orchids; this can be identified as the greenhouse facing the jointly-owned building along Viale Principe Amedeo. On the death of Count Ugolino, in 1882, the heirs sold the palace and the garden to Ismail Pasha, the former viceroy of Egypt. The latter then sold the complex to the Southern Railways Company, which in turn sold, in 1940, to the Italian Metallurgical Company. The arrangement of the garden was entrusted to Pietro Porcinai, who worked on it between 1940 and 1942. Matteini writes that Porcinai “made a series of proposals that were called variously: restoration, layout variations, transformation of the garden. They involved the joining up of some bordering flower beds and the modification of the hedges around the circular basin situated on the far side, but were realized only in part”.21 In actual fact Porcinai is to be attributed with the total rebuilding of the circular basin near the entrance to the garden from Borgo Pinti, as can be seen clearly from the drawings in the archive of the great landscapist. He is also credited with the spindle-shaped piazzetta aligned with the entrance from Piazzale Donatello, which in the plans from the period of the Southern Railways Company was irregular in shape. Porcinai also designed a spacious lawn at the foot of the larger mound. He restructured the paths of the lesser mound with the insertion of hedges of Crataegus monogyna and Buxus sempervirens and the arrangement of a circular terrace at the top. Here he also designed a rock garden that was supposed to have been provided with an unusual stone bench in the shape of a divan.22 In the period of the Italian Metallurgical Company the garden was very carefully tended. The only area that suffered an evident decline was the large lawn between Piazzale Donatello and the palace which was turned into a car park surfaced with asphalt, while the spindle-shaped piazzetta designed by Porcinai was extensively modified.
THE GARDEN OF THE FORMER ISTITUTO MARIA RIPARATRICE, PREVIOUSLY BELONGING TO THE DEL NERO VILLINO In the 16th century the Wool Guild owned a vast garden “with worker’s house” annexed to houses of its property along Via Salvestrina (later Via San Sebastiano, today’s Via Gino Capponi).24 In the plan of the Capitani di Parte of ca. 1690 we see the terraced houses of the Wool Guild and a large quadripartite garden with an elliptical space in the middle. This land, which had been given to Baron Filippo Del Nero in 1633, was bought with “the two houses behind SS. Annunziata” by his heirs in 1703. An inventory of the Della Gherardesca archive shows the state of the property in 1704. The large garden is still divided into four parts, though without the central elliptical space, by two tree-lined avenues; added to it is another portion adjacent to the wall bordering the Della Gherardesca property and yet another between the Della
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v Pietro Porcinai, project for the irrigation system of the Della Gherardesca garden; the drawing is based on a plan preceding the works undertaken in 1940, Archivio Porcinai, Fiesole. v Pietro Porcinai, project for the restoration of the Della Gherardesca garden (ca. 1940), Archivio Porcinai, Fiesole. v
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Gherardesca and the terraced houses of the Wool Guild. The drawing shows, and indicates with a caption, the “aviary of the Della Gherardesca counts”. On the left (north) is a mound set against Via Delle Mura, on whose summit is a flat area used as a belvedere (“pianetto del monte”). Belonging to the Del Nero property are two terraced houses to which a small formal garden is annexed. The entrance from Via Salvestrina is called the “garden gate”, to the left of which are “the gardener’s house”, the “room for the vases” and a small citrus garden. In 1751 the rented terraced houses had already been transformed into a “casino di delizia” by the Del Nero family. A short time later Luigi di Cerbone Del Nero decided to enlarge the casino by purchasing two houses from “Representatives of the Dyers’ Guild”. The restructuring work must have been well underway in 1757, when Luigi Del Nero asked for authorization from the Della Gherardesca family to build a grotto, or prospettiva, facing the entrance of the aforementioned casino. The prospettiva must have been set against the boundary wall built by the Della Gherardesca family in 1749. Having obtained the necessary permission, the Del Nero family built the large prospetto decorated with mosaic-work in many different stones that survives to this day. The structure was visually set off by a quadripartite garden divided into flower-beds, visible in the inventory of 1704. Following the death of Cerbone Del Nero all assets passed to his wife Ottavia Guadagni, who died in 1823, leaving as an heir her brother Pietro Guadagni, who had taken on the surname Torrigiani. The casino was subsequently donated to Enrichetta Torrigiani who married Vincenzo Peruzzi. v
In the plan of the city of Florence made by Federico Fantozzi in 1842 the garden still ap-
Pietro Porcinai, project for the
pears to be divided by straight pathways, in a shape that resembles that of the inventory of 1704,
laying out of the garden near the entrance from Borgo Pinti, Archivio Porcinai, Fiesole. v
while in the plan by Fantozzi of 1843 the garden is transformed in the landscape style with an intricate system of curving paths.24 One may surmise that the transformation was the work of Vincenzo Peruzzi. Fantozzi clearly represents the mound set against the walls with little paths leading
Pietro Porcinai, project for the
to the circular belvedere at the top. The property then passed to the Ruspoli princes and in the early
entrance from Piazzale Donatello, Archivio Porcinai, Fiesole.
20th century to the nuns of the Istituto di Maria Riparatrice. Following the institute’s move to new
premises, the garden was abandoned completely.
RESTORATION WORK IN THE TWO GARDENS The restoration project of the Della Gherardesca and Del Nero gardens needed to strike a balance between requirements of conservation on the one hand and the exigencies which the site’s new use as a hotel involved on the other. While the Della Gherardesca garden had survived in a good state of maintenance, the same could not be said about the other garden adja-
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cent to it, which at the beginning of work had completely run wild. It is also worth mentioning that both would form part
of the same hotel grounds and therefore they have been joined by various connections obtained in the wall dividing them.
Previous pages: Views of the garden after restoration.
As regards the Della Gherardesca Garden the most difficult operation was the insertion of a swimming pool. This
was designed in such a way as to create the least possible disturbance to the general vision of the large historic garden. The location for it was in fact chosen in such a way as to make it invisible from the palace and from various points in the
The plan of the Del Nero garden
park. This achievement was considerably facilitated by the presence of a small clump of holm-oaks and a large yew tree,
Della Gherardesca papers,
in an inventory of 1704, Archivio di Stato di Firenze.
which provided a natural screen. The shape of the pool was designed in a classical way, that is, alla romana: a large recv
tangle with semicircular ends and a border in pietra serena. Even the ochre-coloured bottom creates light green reflecThe 18th-century prospettiva
tions in such a way as to offset any obvious contrast with the large lawns of the garden.
before restoration work.
The need to build underground kitchens provided an opportunity to create a large lawn on top of them. It was
thus possible to revitalize one of the most degraded areas of the garden during the previous ownership, that is an asphalted clearing used as a parking area near the entrance from Piazzale Donatello. The shape of the lawn is based on designs by
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Pietro Porcinai, who had conceived the small clearing in the shape of a spindle at the base of the larger mound, subsequently annulled by the presence of the parking area. The layout of the paths remained more or less unaltered, except for the recovery of some routes that had been lost, but were reconstructable on the basis of the plans of the Southern Railways Company, as well as those of Porcinai. v
As for the rest, the interventions have been purely conservational restorations, from the consolidation of borders and banks, and the cobbled paving laid down by Porcinai, to the circular fountain with the surrounding garden, again
The asphalted area at the entrance from Piazzale Donatello before restoration work.
designed by Porcinai. Many lawns, showing signs of ageing, have been revitalized or re-seeded. Paths have been relaid with
gravel, except for the paving in compacted crushed gravel in front of the palace, necessary to prevent the raising of dust. There have been numerous operations aimed at regenerating shrubs and eliminating unruly plants, compensated
The new lawn that replaces the previous asphalted parking area
by the introduction of new species, like a group of Magnolia x soulangeana, a Cornus florida and a Liriodendron tulip-
near the entrance from Piazzale Donatello.
ifera in the area of the entrance from Piazzale Donatello. The small rock garden at the foot of the smaller mound, also
designed by Porcinai, has also been recreated. New decorative elements in the park, like three 18th-century sculptures in
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the area of the circular basin, benches, vases and pedestals come mostly from the antique market. More complex, on the other hand, is the restoration project of the garden of the Del Nero villino, considering its
View of the park in a photograph of the second
very altered state and given that no design was recognizable. The only useful record is Fantozzi’s map of 1843, in which
half of the 19th century, Archivio della Gherardesca,
two large lawns traversed by curving pathways can be seen parallel to the wall dividing them from the Della Gherardesca
garden. The project anticipates a reconstruction of this system. On the occasion of the conservational restoration of the
18th-century prospettiva, it was considered necessary to emphasize it through the creation of two large rectangular lawns divided by a straight path in line with the garden’s main entrance, which in part takes up the small formal garden visible in the Della Gherardesca inventory. Here too there are plans to introduce ornamental trees and shrubs, like Cornus florida, magnolias, kolkwitzia, camelias, roses and hydrangeas.
Document quoted by D. Cinti, Giardini & Giardini. Il verde storico
porzione di 1 a 4500 / levata dal vero e corredata di storiche an-
Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Firenze, Targioni Tozzetti, 56; A.
F. Fantozzi, Pianta geometrica della città di Firenze alla pro-
Del Riccio, Agricoltura Sperimentale, I, 1595-56, cc. 64r-v, in D.
notazioni dall’architetto Federigo Fantozzi, Firenze 1843.
Cinti, cit., p.129.
D. Cinti, cit, p.130.
G. Poggi, Ricordi della vita e documenti d’arte, Firenze 1909, Permission for the reproduction of the photographs has been
kindly granted by Gaddo della Gherardesca.
ticolari, Firenze 1886-87, vol. II, tavv. 57-58.
See further on in the text.
D. Cinti, cit., p. 309, n. 30.
dilettanti a Firenze, in Marcellino e Giuseppe Roda, un viaggio
Archivio di Stato, Firenze, Archivio Della Gherardesca, 325,
G. Poggi, Disegni di fabbriche eseguite per commissione di parG. Galletti, T. Grifoni, I Ragionieri, una famiglia di botanici
nella cultura del giardino e del paesaggio, Congress records
fascicolo 35 “1807 to 1812: appunti di spese fatte nel Podere
(Castello di Racconigi 22-24 September 2005), being printed.
presso il Palazzo di Pinti per ridurlo a Giardino Inglese per
M. Matteini, Pietro Porcinai: architetto del giardino e del pae-
mezzo del D.e Ranieri Giusteschi, e di denari ricevuti dal nobile
saggio, Milano 1991, p. 40.
signor Conte Guido della Gherardesca per questo ed altri
documentation of the work carried out by Porcinai in the Della
Ivi, first insertion, 28 October 1809.
Gherardesca garden. I thank Paola and Anna Porcinai for hav-
Ivi, second insertion (1 September 1809 – August 1810).
ing allowed me to consult it.
C. Cresti, L. Zangheri, Architetti ed Ingegneri nella Toscana
Archivio Porcinai, Firenze. In this archive there is exhaustive
The information contained in this brief essay is drawn preva-
dell’Ottocento, Firenze 1978, ad vocem Cacialli.
lently from the excellently documented work by D. Cinti, cit,
D. Cinti, cit., p.131, fig. 111.
pp. 141 e 310.
F. Fantozzi, Nuova guida, ovvero Descrizione storico-artistico-
critica della città e contorni di Firenze / compilata da Federico
Fantozzi, Firenze 1842.
nel centro di Firenze, Milano 1997, p. 129 and p. 308, no. 3.
F. Fantozzi, cit. 1843.
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Commission and restoration Marzia Locorotondo Andrea Noferi v
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The commission The task of restoring the complex of Palazzo Della Gherardesca to make The Four Seasons Hotel in Florence, as well as being the cause of professional gratification for the importance and prestige of the intervention, from the earliest stages aroused enormous enthusiasm in all of us. However, doubts and preoccupations immediately emerged about the extent of the project, the complexity of the restorations and the appropriateness of undertaking such an important process of transformation to create a hotel of that level.
Confronting the task Getting acquainted with Palazzo Della Gherardesca was done with the utmost discretion, almost on tiptoe and in a sort of religious silence. The project group had access to the historical seat of the Italian Metallurgical Company only at certain times, was accompanied by trusted personnel and for a very limited amount of time. The visits, essential for v
the carrying out of verifications in view of the initial project hypotheses, often ended up producing
Coat-of-arms of Bartolomeo
unsettling psychological effects, over and beyond the way in which they took place, since the realiza-
Scala in pietra serena on the facade of the palace.
tion of modifying the long-established equilibriums of places so full of meaning and rich in history clearly began to emerge. Little by little, inspection after inspection, an intimate rapport was established
with those spaces that spoke so many languages, that were linked to functions of different historical periods and that recounted a whole variety of historical vicissitudes. Nevertheless, the conviction that the restoration and conservation of a property of such vast proportions and elevated historical and monumental value was only possible with a careful and respectful intervention of functional recovery was decisive in overcoming the moments of initial difficulty.
The office As soon as almost the entire complex was made available, it was decided to set up a project office in situ. A fixed group of technicians was formed whose function was to coordinate the various project sections up to the completion of the executive plan. The project developed spontaneously thanks to the intimacy that grew up with the place, day after day revealing its secrets, showing its hidden potential and unimaginable situations, and suggesting planning solutions that would have been almost unthinkable were it not for the implementation of this working method. In the slow, constant and progressive process of the projectâ€™s development, a role of prime importance was played by professional figures al-
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ready previously dedicated to the care and maintenance of the complex. Representing the historical memory of the
places, they were a fundamental point of reference in the search for the most appropriate technical solutions. In the same
Room of the Globes on the first floor of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca
way the constant presence of the Building Firm in support of the planning activity made it possible to carry out im-
in a photo before restoration (white and black) and during restoration
mediately all the necessary preliminary surveys and inspections.
The loss Room decorated with Chinese
Shortly after the completion of the initial phase of the project, in March 2003, the sudden and premature death of
wallpapers, hung in the 19th century, first floor of Palazzo Scala-
Roberto Magris, co-holder of the assignment, left in all of us an enormous sense of loss, on the professional level but
Della Gherardesca, Florence.
above all on the human one. In the multitude of difficulties that every team work involves, his contribution as an ar-
chitect and profound connoisseur of operative methods and techniques in the American hotel sector were of constant
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v FUNCTIONAL SCHEME - KEY A - Palazzo Della Gherardesca B - Bar/Restaurant C - Former Istituto di Suor Maria Riparatrice D - Meeting area E - Spa/Fitness centre F - Administration G - Services H - Technical facilities I - Goods entrance 1- Main entrance from Borgo Pinti 2- Meeting area entrance from Via Capponi 3- Staff entrance from Piazzale Donatello 4- Service entrance from Viale Matteotti 5- Service entrance from Via Giusti v
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assistance to all concerned. His absence compelled a rethinking of the work organization and a rede-
finition of roles and responsibilities, care being taken however to adhere to the guidelines and con-
A restorer at work on the frescoes of the inner courtyard
cepts that had been shared with him from the very outset. Once the project group had got over this sad moment, it resumed work with the enthusiasm, determination and professional passion that Magris had succeeded in transmitting to whoever worked at his side.
of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca, Florence. v Inspection during restoration work on the inner courtyard of Palazzo Scala-
Della Gherardesca, Florence.
The project envisaged a single hotel structure comprising:
- Palazzo Della Gherardesca (former Palazzo di Bartolomeo Scala). - the garden of Palazzo Della Gherardesca and outbuildings. - the former Istituto Suore di Maria Riparatrice (ex Villino Del Nero) with the Del Nero park. - portions of buildings with access from Via Giusti and Viale Matteotti.
The total surface area involved in the operation amounted to about 22,400 sq.m, in addition to 43,600 sq.m of 232
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v Palazzo ScalaDella Gherardesca, the sequence of facades on Borgo Pinti v
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grounds. The complex described is for the most part listed according to laws 42/2004 and, previously, laws 490/1999:
thus the interventions carried out all fall into the category pertaining to conservational restoration and reconstruction.
Views, before and after restoration, of the area near the Arco del Poggi,
All the buildings of the complex that were subjected to intervention have their own distinct structure and architectural
Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca,
characterization. A choice was made to conserve the various characteristics of every single building such as to ensure a v
vision of the city as an addition of historicized elements. This criterion was adopted as much for the reorganization of
Views, before and after restoration,
the interiors as for the restoration of the facades along the road and those overlooking the park. From the very begin-
of the south corner room on the
ning it was known who the final user was, what quality level of facilities was required, what difficulties were involved in
first floor of Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca
adopting technical solutions to reach the high standards imposed while at the same time conserving the buildings by v
applying restorational criteria that were approved by the Monuments and Fine Arts Service. The interesting and highly
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useful results of historical and archival research proved to be fundamental in reinterpreting the original architectural
Painting detail, before
structure and in proposing scientifically correct solutions.
and after restoration
Having once understood the spatial sequence of the building units, it was a question of organizing functions and
identifying surface areas in the quantities indispensable for the successful result and sustainability of the operation. Working on the drawing board a general layout of rooms, facilities and distribution areas was set out. It was immediately apparent however that the conservation and safeguard of the monument necessarily implied the finding of areas for facilities and technological installations outside the perimeter of the historical buildings. Palazzo Della Gherardesca and the former Istituto Suore di Maria Riparatrice, linked together by the opening of apertures in the boundary wall presently separating the Della Gherardesca garden from the Del Nero garden, came
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to be considered a unitary complex even though each had its own historical and architectural characteristics.
View of the corner room
The main entrance remained Borgo Pinti no. 99, that is, the main door of Palazzo Della Gherardesca. Inside the
on the Stables Courtyard after restoration work,
palace communal areas and some of the administrative offices were situated on the ground floor, while the rest of the
detail of the vault
building was entirely given over to rooms and suites.
The ground floor of the former Istituto Suore di Maria Riparatrice houses mainly living areas and a hall for banView of the â€˜Room
quets and meetings that uses the deconsecrated church and the rooms adjacent to it. Access to the building is through
of the Caryatidsâ€™ before restoration
the large gate on Via Gino Capponi. The upper floors are occupied by hotel rooms and suites.
The three buildings inside the Della Gherardesca park comprising the complex of the Ionic Tepidarium have been converted into a spa and fitness center. The rooms of Viale Matteotti house various offices and a part of the facilities for the staff, who are able to access the Palazzo through a protected underground corridor. The rooms on the ground floor of the corner building with Via Giusti are occupied by administrative offices. In the vicinity of the new service entrance on Viale Matteotti are technological installations, accessory rooms and other facilities.
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Interventions inside the buildings are generally aimed at: - the elimination of superfluous additions (stairways of recent construction, storerooms, deposits and corridors created by dividing up primary volumes with vaulted structures) - adaptations aimed at the elimination of structural barriers and fireproofing - the building of new portions of underground floors to be used as accessory spaces and facilities, storerooms and deposits, to compensate for the areas lost as a result of the restoration work on the floors above ground. The hotel rooms are very spacious, partly to meet the Four Seasons quality standards and partly due to the need to maintain either the original or the rediscovered spatial characteristics of rooms often embellished with vaulted ceilings and decorated walls dating from various historical periods. The bathrooms are in line with the level of comfort of the hotel category: those prsent in rooms of particular historical and artistic prestige are interpreted as independent volumes and regarded as a special part of the furnishings. About 175 records have been compiled of all the rooms of particular historical value, with a description of floors, doors, decorative structures, an analysis of the state of conservation, and with the restoration interventions accurately identified and described. Another 590 records have been made to analyze the impact of installation plans, indicating for every wall and floor the most appropriate installation procedures and positions. In parallel with the development of the project, under the supervision of the Monuments and Fine Arts Service, a campaign of pictorial inspections was carried out to verify the presence of paintings covered by plaster, tempera and repaintings of successive historical periods.
Palazzo Della Gherardesca To provide the courtyard with the natural light of an outdoor area, a new glass covering has been built above it, replacing the oppressive roof window installed in the 1940s. The recovery of the eave line at the perimeter and the new covering placed at a greater height eliminate the previous effect of a closed room and give a new feeling of spaciousness to the courtyard. The courtyard of the Stables, freed of the presence of a series of added manufactures, has been recovered in its entirety. The facades surrounding it have been restored, the stone decorations crowning the windows consolidated, and the formal differences that characterize them maintained. The previously uncovered courtyard, now air-conditioned and made usable by a transparent pyramidal cover-
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ing, has become the heart of the Hotel, a distribution area and barycentric filter between the Chancellorâ€™s house and the remaining buildings of Palazzo Della Gherardesca, between Borgo deâ€™ Pinti and the large garden. The restaurant is situated in the large room (the original Stables) at the northern end of Palazzo Della Gherardesca; this vast room, with two large central pilasters on which six cross vaults rest, was given back its its original spaciousness by demolishing all superfluous additions. The kitchens are arranged on two levels (ground floors and basement), partly adjacent to the restaurant and partly in a new underground area lying outside the groundplan of the building that receives air from a large courtyard court that also serves as a light well. The underground floor has a naturally strategic role for the operative functionality of the entire hotel structure. The restoration has allowed a rationalization of the labyrinthine circulation system and provided new space for facilities and changing rooms, auxiliary areas and storerooms, technological areas and distribution routes of the various installations. An underground structure outside the groundplan of the building has been built where there was previously an asphalted parking area. Here goods are received and distributed, transported by electrical means which from the garden reach the level of the kitchen by means of a ramp. All the other floors of the palace are occupied by hotel rooms, including the first floor.
The former Istituto Suore di Maria Riparatrice The ground floor is mostly given over to an extensive meeting area obtained from the now deconsecrated church; in the adjacent rooms, on the garden side, are a foyer and reception rooms. The entrance to the meeting area is by the large gate that gives access to the garden. To equip the large area of the church for its conference functions technical solutions were adopted with the utmost respect for the monument. A series of non-coeval manufactures present in the courtyard flanking the church have been replaced by a new staircase leading to the upper floors.
Pictorial restoration Wall and ceiling surfaces with pictorial decorations were the object of meticulous restoration under the supervision of the Monuments and Fine Arts Service. The inspection campaigns carried out allowed the recovery of many frescoes and decorations covered over by plaster at different times. Manual uncoverings using water-based compresses, scalpels and
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scrapers were carried out on an area of 2500 sq m. Following the removal of residues and where necessary the consolView, before and after restoration,
idation of surfaces, colours were fixed with a covering of rice paper or the application of a consolidating product. After
of the gallery on the first floor of the former Istituto Suore di
deplastering and, where necessary, the application of compresses, the surfaces were treated with gentle cleaning and with
a suitable neutralizing product and/or ammonium bicarbonate with the aim of removing any remaining residues. v
Where necessary filling was carried out with slaked lime, sand and mineral aggregates which, after washing and smooth-
View, before and after restoration,
ing, produced a surface that was ready for repainting. This process was carried out in a different way in each case de-
of the church of the former Istituto Suore di Maria Riparatrice.
pending on the state of conservation of the frescoed area. In all cases integrations were made with reversible products
and under the constant supervision of the experts of the Fine Arts Service. The interventions were executed for the most part on the ground floor and first floor of Palazzo Della Gherardesca, in the former church and in a few rooms on the ground and first floor of the former Istituto di Suore.
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Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. The revival of a historical home
Palazzo Scala Della Gherardesca
Palazzo Scala Della Gherardesca Four Seasons Hotel Firenze The revival of a historical home
The revival of a historical home