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Palaces Of The Renaissance In Florence

( Originally Published 1915 )



One of the most notable products of the entire Renaissance was its palaces. They took on a different form in the beautiful chateaux of France, or in the Louvre, than in Florence. But Florence produced some of the finest and most remarkable palaces, as one should expect, knowing it to be the home-city of the Medici. And since we are still in Florence let us see what they are like.

To begin with, in the principal piazza, or square, is the Palazzo Vecchio. Now, as in the old days, it is the city hall, whose tall tower with overhanging top is almost as much a part of the landscape as the great Duomo itself.

Another famous building in Florence is the Pitti Palace which, with the wonderful Boboli Gardens at its back. makes one of the world's most sumptuous palaces. What treasures it contains in its masterpieces of painting! It is on " the other side of the Arno," but is connected by a covered gallery, which is the top-story of that famous bridge, the Ponte Vecchio," with another great palace across the river Arno, the Uffizi Palace, also a treasure-house of painting and sculpture.

The Pitti is very massive, some of its rough stones being twenty feet long. It has been called the most famous of all modern palaces. It dates from Brunelleschi himself, though he did not finish it. The method of leaving the whole or most of the outer face of the big blocks of stone just as rough as when it came out of the quarry produced one of the finest effects known in architecture. In the Pitti the lower stones had the roughest masonry which made it look stronger than the other stories. As it had to support the upper stories this was fitting, and we see the same thing in very many of the great buildings of today. When you see them, think of Brunelleschi.

The Bargello palace, whose beautiful courtyard has been painted by a thousand artists, is another of Florence's gems of architecture. Nearly all the Florentine palaces were built around a courtyard. Most of these palaces were built for defense as well as for residence, and that is why they are so massive. We may still see the lamps of iron, and the rings where the men of old thrust their torches, or to which they tied their horses. Today these examples of intricate iron-work appear to be as good as ever.

As general features of these palaces, we may note the rich cornices and the ever present Renaissance style of doorway and of window. The second story, higher and grander than the others, was called the piano no bile, or noble story. In this story were the loftiest and grandest rooms.

In looking at the pictures of palaces, consider in what ways, and how, they conform to the principles given on page 11 Much of their beauty you will find to be in the columns and features borrowed from the old Romans, and in the manner they are distributed over the facades.

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