Antique Miniature Painting: Medici Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
Florence is one of the most incredible cities in all the world, historically and archtiecturally. Completed in 1302 by Arnolfo di Cambio, the palazzo retains its medieval appearance although much of the interior was remodeled for Duke Cosimo I when he moved into the palace in 1540, transferring the ruling family from its old residence near San Lorenzo (now known as the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, on via Cavour). It became known as Palazzo Vecchio when Cosimo transferred his court to Palazzo Pitti. During the brief period that Florence was the capital of Italy (1865-71), it housed the Parliament and Foreign Ministry. Of all the history of Florence, much of the most interesting of it took place in and around the Piazza Signorio (Old Plaza or Square), and one of the most famed and important dynesties in history rose to power within the building shown in our miniature painting. The Palazzo Vecchio, or 'Old Palace' is a 13th to 15th century architectural icon, housing the Medici family (Cossimo, et al) and extending out of which is the Uffizzi Gallery, on to the Ponte Vecchio (by enclosed raised walkway for Cossimo Medici's safe passage. The historical significance of this place, this square, this time is unparalleled in the history of art, science, and literature, and is the heart and soul of the Renaissance - within walking distance of this spot, the most fascinating period and people of the Renaissance played out their stories, made their art and impact on the world. There in the foreground is a plaque commemorating the spot on which Savonorola, the debauched priest whose excessive maniacal religious fervor gave itself over to the Bonfire of the Vanities. It is fitting, then, that some mid-19th century Grand Tour traveler would have commissioned this small painting, or found it in a pedlar's stall there in the square, perhaps, and brought it home as their souvenir of this amazing city. It is the only miniature of the scene in Florence I've ever seen or owned, and collectors know how rare it is to find architectural miniatures, as well, so it was thrilling for me to find this, and to offer it here. Painted entirely by hand, of course, in guache or aquarelle on very thin natural wafer (typical of the era and genre), and protected all this time by its original frame and convex cover glass, all of which survive in fine form. This painting shows Vasari's 1500s rennovation, the corner of the Uffizzi, the sculpture terrace and the Fountain of Neptune, and, were you able to see it, the exact spot where Savonorola burned at the stake for his crimes against art and culture. Well worth preserving!
Very good to excellent condition, no chips or cracks in the thin natural wafer wafer, no loss to the painted surface, nor to the original convex cover glass that has long protected it. A superb and rare treasure, this. We put it to mid-1800s, but it could be earlier.