The Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio overlooks Piazza della Signoria
The Palazzo Vecchio (Italian pronunciation: [paˈlattso ˈvɛkkjo] "Old Palace") is the town hall of Florence, Italy. It overlooks the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo's David statue as well as the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi.
Originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the Signoria of Florence, the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, it was also given several other names: Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori, and Palazzo Ducale, in accordance with the varying use of the palace during its long history. The building acquired its current name when the Medici duke's residence was moved across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti.
In 1299, the commune and people of Florence decided to build a palace, worthy of the city's importance and giving greater security, in times of turbulence, to the magistrates. Arnolfo di Cambio, the architect of the Duomo and the Santa Croce church, began constructing it upon the ruins of Palazzo dei Fanti and Palazzo dell'Esecutore di Giustizia, once owned by the Uberti family. Giovanni Villani (1276–1348) wrote in his Nuova Cronica that the Uberti were "rebels of Florence and Ghibellines", stating that the plaza was built so that the Uberti family homes would never be rebuilt on the same location.
Giovanni Villani wrote that Arnolfo di Cambio incorporated the ancient tower of the Foraboschi family (the tower then known as "La Vacca" or "The Cow") as the substructure of the tower into its facade;this is why the rectangular tower (height 94 m) is not directly centered in the building. This tower contains two small cells, that, at different times, imprisoned Cosimo de' Medici (the Elder) (1435) and Girolamo Savonarola (1498). The tower is named after its designer Torre d'arnoldo.
The solid cubicle shaped building is enhanced by the simple tower with its clock. The large, one-handed clock was originally constructed in 1353 by the Florentine Nicolò Bernardo, but was replaced in 1667 by a replica made by Georg Lederle from the German town of Augsburg (Italians call him Giorgio Lederle of Augusta) and installed by Vincenzo Viviani.
The cubical building is built in solid rusticated stonework, with two rows of two-lighted Gothic windows, each with a trefoil arch. In the 15th century, Michelozzo Michelozzi added decorative bas-reliefs of the cross and the Florentine lily in the spandrels between the trefoils. The building is crowned with projecting crenellated battlement, supported by small arches and corbels. Under the arches are a repeated series of nine painted coats of arms of the Florentine republic. Some of these arches can be used as embrasures (spiombati) for dropping heated liquids or rocks on invaders.
Duke Cosimo I de' Medici moved his official seat from the Medici palazzo in via Larga to the Palazzo della Signoria in May 1540, signalling the security of Medici power in Florence.The name was officially changed after Cosimo removed to Palazzo Pitti, renaming his former palace the Palazzo Vecchio, the "Old Palace", although the adjacent town square, the Piazza della Signoria, still bears the old name. Cosimo commissioned Giorgio Vasari to build an above-ground walkway, the Vasari corridor, from the palace, through the Uffizi, over the Ponte Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti.
Cosimo I also moved the seat of government to the Uffizi. The palace gained new importance as the seat of United Italy's provisional government from 1865–71, at a moment when Florence had become the temporary capital of the kingdom of Italy.
Although most of the Palazzo Vecchio is now a museum, it remains the symbol of local government: since 1872 it has housed the office of the mayor of Florence, and it is the seat of the City Council.
The Tower has three bells, the oldest one was cast in the 13th century.
Engraving of a map depicting the palazzo and square with the corridor, by Stefano Buonsignori, 1584
Painting of the Palazzo and the square in 1498, during the execution of Girolamo Savonarola
Entrance with frontispiece and statues
Above the front entrance door, there is a notable ornamental marble frontispiece, dating from 1528. In the middle, flanked by two gilded lions, is the Monogram of Christ, surrounded by a glory, above the text (in Latin): "Rex Regum et Dominus Dominantium" (translation: "King of Kings and Lord of Lords". This text dates from 1851 and does not replace an earlier text by Savonarola as mentioned in guidebooks. Between 1529 and 1851 they were concealed behind a large shield with the grand-ducal coat of arms.
Michelangelo's David also stood at the entrance from its completion in 1504 to 1873, when it was moved to the Accademia Gallery. A replica erected in 1910 now stands in its place, flanked by Baccio Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus.
The first courtyard was designed in 1453 by Michelozzo. In the lunettes, high around the courtyard, are crests of the church and city guilds. In the center, the porphyry fountain is by Battista del Tadda. The Putto with Dolphin on top of the basin is a copy of the original by Andrea del Verrocchio (1476), now on display on the second floor of the palace. This small statue was originally placed in the garden of the Villa Medici at Careggi. The water, flowing through the nose of the dolphin, is brought here by pipes from the Boboli Gardens.
The frescoes on the walls are vedute of the cities of the Austrian Habsburg monarchy, painted in 1565 by Giorgio Vasari for the wedding celebration of Francesco I de' Medici, the eldest son of Cosimo I de' Medici, to Archduchess Johanna of Austria, sister of the Emperor Maximilian II. Amongst the cities depicted are Graz, Innsbruck, Linz, Vienna, Hall in Tirol, Freiburg im Breisgau and Konstanz. Some were damaged over the course of time.
The harmoniously proportioned columns, at one time smooth, and untouched, were at the same time richly decorated with gilt stuccoes
The barrel vaults are furnished with grotesque decorations.
The second courtyard, also called "The Customs", contains the massive pillars built in 1494 by Cronaca to sustain the great "Salone dei Cinquecento" on the second floor.
The third courtyard was used mainly for offices of the city. Between the first and second courtyard the massive and monumental stairs by Vasari lead up to the "Salone dei Cinquecento".
Salone dei Cinquecento
This most imposing chamber has a length of 52 m (170 ft) and is 23 m (75 ft) broad. It was built in 1494 by Simone del Pollaiolo, on commission of Savonarola who, replacing the Medici after their exile as the spiritual leader of the Republic, wanted it as a seat of the Grand Council (Consiglio Maggiore) consisting of 500 members.
Later the hall was enlarged by Giorgio Vasari so that Grand Duke Cosimo I could hold his court in this chamber. During this transformation famous (but unfinished) works were lost, including the Battle of Cascina by Michelangelo, and the Battle of Anghiari by Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo was commissioned in 1503 to paint one long wall with a battle scene celebrating a famous Florentine victory. He was always trying new methods and materials and decided to mix wax into his pigments. Da Vinci had finished painting part of the wall, but it wasn't drying fast enough, so he brought in braziers stoked with hot coals to try to hurry the process. As others watched in horror, the wax in the fresco melted under the intense heat and the colors ran down the walls to puddle on the floor.
Michelangelo never even got past making the preparatory drawings for the fresco he was supposed to paint on the opposite wall—Pope Julius II called him to Rome to paint the Sistine Chapel, and the master's sketches were destroyed by eager young artists who came to study them and took away scraps. The surviving decorations in this hall were made between 1555 and 1572 by Giorgio Vasari and his helpers, among them Livio Agresti from Forlì. They mark the culmination of mannerism and make this hall the showpiece of the palace.
Salone dei Cinquecento
Genio della Vittoria by Michelangelo, in the central niche at the south
Studiolo of Francesco I
At the end of the hall is situated a small side room without windows. This masterpiece, the Studiolo of Francesco I (a studiolo is a small study) was also designed by Vasari in a manneristic style (1570–1575). The walls and the barrel vault are filled with paintings, stucco and sculptures. (Baroque paintings hide secret cupboards.) Most paintings are by the School of Vasari and represent the four elements : water, fire, earth and air. The portrait of Cosimo I and his wife Eleonora of Toledo was made by Bronzino. The delicate bronze sculptures were made by Giambologna and Bartolomeo Ammanati. Dismantled within decades of its construction, it was re-assembled in the 20th century.
The other rooms on the first floor are the Quartieri monumentali. These rooms, the Residence of the Priors and the Quarters of Leo X, are used by the mayor as offices and reception rooms. They are not accessible to the public.
Ceiling of the Studiolo of Francesco I
Life of Furius Camillus in the Sala dell'Udienza
The Audience Chamber or Hall of Justice used to house the meetings of the six priori (guild masters of the arts). It contains the oldest decorations in the palace.
The carved coffer ceiling, laminated with pure gold, is by Giuliano da Maiano (1470–1476).
On the portal of the Chapel is an inscription in honor of Christ (1529). The door, communicating with the Hall of Lilies, is a marvel. The marble mouldings of this portal were sculpted by the brothers Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano. Its inlaid woodwork (intarsia) was carved by Del Francione. They give us portraits of Dante and Petrarch
The large frescoes on the walls, of a decorative value representing Stories of Furius Camillus, by Francesco Salviati, were made in the middle of the 16th century. Since Salviati had his schooling in the circle around Raphael in Rome, these frescoes are mirrored on Roman models and therefore not typical of Florentine art. Furius Camillus was a Roman general, mentioned in the writings of Plutarchus.
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