CENACOLO OF RAFFAELLE, AND TAPESTRIES
THE only remaining specimens of pictorial art to be noticed are the Tabernacles at the corners of the old streets and alleys, which once formed a conspicuous feature in Florence, a fresco by Raffaelle in the Via Faenza, and the collection of tapestries.
Many of these tabernacles were painted by the best masters, and enclosed in frames of. marble carved with much elegance. The best have been removed to the galleries, and though a few good pictures are still left in their original positions, they are hardly to be distinguished behind the glass, thickly engrained with dust.
Some of the most important are as follows:
The Cinque Lampade in the Via degli Alfani, already mentioned.
Charitable Persons bestowing Alms on Prisoners, by Fabrizio Boschi (15701642), in the Via Ghibellina, formerly Via del Palagio, at the corner of the Bargello.
The Virgin and Joseph adoring the Child, by Bernardo Poccetti (1548-1612), opposite the Church of San Procolo.
Christ bestowing Alms on Prisoners, by Giovanni di San Giovanni (15901636), in the Via Ghibellina, formerly the Via del Palagio, where was once the prison of the Stinche.
In the Via de’ Tintori, at the corner of the wall opposite the Church of San Giuseppe, is a Tabernacle, by Jacopo da Casentino, who lived in the fourteenth century, which has, however, been much repainted.
Beyond the Porta Santa Croce, in the Via Nazionale Aretina, is a Madonna, by Domenico Veneziano (d. 1461).
The Madonna and Child appearing to a Cardinal and children by Alessandro Gherardini (16551723), is in the Via de’ Malcontenti, near the Pia Casa di Lavoro di Montedomini.
Between the Via San Piero Maggiore and the Via dell’ Agnolo, near the market of San Piero Maggiore, is an Annunciation, by Giovanni Balducci (d. 1600).
In the Piazza di San Martino, near the Institution for the Poveri Vergognosi, a fresco represents the good Bishop Antonino distributing alms, by Cosimo Ulivelli (16251704).
A tabernacle at the corner of the Via Larga (now Via Cavour) and the Piazza di San Marco, a good deal repainted, is by Gherardo, a celebrated miniature-painter of the sixteenth century.
In the Via Chiara, between the Via Nazionale and the Via Sant’ Antonino, are two tabernaclesone by Gianozzo Manetti, of a Holy Family, and the other a Crucifixion, with the Virgin and St. John, the Magdalene kneeling in the background, by Bernardo Poccetti.
In the Via della Ruota, between the Via San Gallo and the Via Catarina, is the Marriage of St. Catharine, by Domenico Puligo (14921527) ; the Virgin is standing with her Son in her arms, who is giving the ring to St. Catharine, and San Piero Martire is beside them.
The Martyrdom of St. Catharine, near San Bonifazio, is by Andrea Ferrucci (14651526).
In the Via Nazionale is the Luca della Robbia already described.
On the house in the Via de’ Ginori, which once belonged” to Taddeo Taddei, the friend of Raffaelle, was a tabernacle by Giovanni Sogliani (14921544), now transferred to the corne of the Via del Bisogno ; it represents the Crucifixion, with the Virgin and St. John below, and weeping angels above.
To the left of the Church of Santa Maria Nuova, Christ is represented with a mother and three children, by Giovanni di San Giovanni (15901636) ; and at the entrance to the cortile there is another tabernacleChrist with the Woman of Samaria, by Alessandro Allori.
At the Canto de’ Carnesecchi, at the angle of the Via Panzani and the Via de’ Banchi, which lead to the old and new piazzas of Santa Maria Novella, is a fresco of the Virgin and Saints, by Domenico Veneziano, (d. 1461) ; this painting was so much admired that it excited the envy of Andrea del Castagno, and is said, though without foundation, to have led to his assassination of Domenico.
Behind the Hospital of San Paolo, near the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, is a Virgin and Child enthroned, with St. Peter and St. .Paul on either side and angels above, by Anton Domenico Bamberini.
The tabernacle at the corner of Santa Maria Novella, at the head of the Via della Scala, is by Francesco Fiorentino, a pupil of Don Lorenzo Monaco, which, though injured, exhibits delicacy in the execution, and is pleasing in colour.’
In the Via Palazzuolo, near the Via del Prato, a fresco representing Christ when a child, walking between His parents, is by Giovanni di San Giovanni.
A Virgin and Child, by Carlo Portelli, is in the Via delle Terme.
South of the Arno, in the Via Maffia, leading from the Via Michelozzi to the Via Fondaccio Santo Spirito, is a Virgin and Child appearing to a Bishop, with two angels seated in front, by Cipriano Sensi.
In the Via della Chiesa a Bishop kneeling, with a Mother and Children, is by Cosimo Ulivelli.
A Holy Family, with St. Roch and other saints, and with a cardinal on his knees, by Filippino Lippi (1457-1504), is in the Via de’ Preti, in the neighbourhood of Santo Spirito.
Two monks glorified, the Saviour above, by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494), is in the Via della Caldaia, near the Via de’ Preti.
A Virgin and Child, with two angels, by Pier Dandini (1646-1712), is in the Piazza Santo Spirito.
At the corner of the Via del Leone and the Piazza Piatellina near the Carmine, is a good painting, possibly by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494). The Madonna with the Child, who raises his finger to bless ; the angel Raphael, with Tobias holding the Fish, on one side ; on the other, a youthful saint in armour ; vases with flowers are behind ; and shields with the crescent moon, probably the Strozzi arms; all set in a beautiful frame, decorated with acanthus leaves and flowers in relief.
The purpose of these tabernacles, to awaken the religious sentiment in the people, belongs to a past age; the devout worshipper is no longer seen in prayer before them, whilst the crowd of indifferent passengers hurry past without even appearing conscious of their existence.
In the Via Faenza not far from the Piazza dell’ Indipendenza is a building, once used for the Etruscan Museum, but now containing casts of modern statues. Here is still preserved the fresco of a Last Supper of great beauty, said to be by Raffaelle Sanzio d’ Urbino (1483-1520). Early in the sixteenth century this building was a convent belonging to the nuns of San Onofrio, but it had long been applied to secular uses, when, in 1840, the proprietor, by trade a coach-builder, wishing to increase the light in this large square room, formerly the refectory of the convent, began whitewashing the walls. In the course of the work, traces of painting appearing beneath the dirt and the former coats of whitening, an artist was summoned to assist in cleansing this away, and a beautiful Cenacolo, or fresco of the Last Supper, was discovered. Raffaelle visited Florence in 1504 and 1505, and is supposed to have been employed by the nuns to decorate the walls of their convent ; the work was naturally assigned to him, and this opinion appeared to be confirmed by the refined beauty of the heads and the careful drawing of the hands, feet, and drapery, to which may be added the period to which the painting certainly belongs, and the inscription of Raffaelle’s name, now indistinctly seen on the border of St. Thomas’s dress. The following description of the fresco, about the time of its discovery, was written by an eminent connoisseur in Art 1 :` The heads generally are pretty well varied, but much on a level, in the stiff; hard style of the early masters ; the countenances wanting in expression, except that of Christ and that of Judas. The Saviour is not divine, but a man acquainted with sorrowmild, benignant, and melancholy. His countenance is very sweet. The head of Judas is full of spirit, but has rather the air of a fierce captain of banditti than of a scoundrel betraying his Master, and selling his faith. The draperies are in general pretty broad, but the remarkably fine master-work is in the painting of the hands and feet ; these are admirable, and the position of the former surprisingly varied. On the hem of the garment of one of the disciples are to be found these characters, or something near itRAF VRB. x MD + V. No man except Raffaelle was ever admitted within these walls.’
Doubts have since arisen as to the authorship of this fresco, and Cavalcaselle attributes it to other pupils of Perugino, stating that it had been painted over, and that `the colour is that of a practised coarse hand, which is neither Raffaelle’s nor Perugino’s.’ It is not, however, impossible that when the fresco, if orignally by Raffaelle, was restored by an inferior hand, the inscription may have been injured in the process, which would account for its present indistinctness. The obscure position of this inscription, which can only be discovered after a close inspection, would not have been selected by an impostor ; and the character of the heads may be compared with other works of Raffaelle at this periodhis Madonna del Gran Duca and the Madonna del Baldacchino, both in the Gallery of the Pitti ; as well as with the portraits of Angelo Doni and his wife Maddalena Strozzi, &c., &c. The head and figure of St. James, with his hands beautifully placed in repose, of St. Thomas, and of St. John, are very Raffaellesque. Around the roombesides original drawings and studies for this fresco, which are likewise attributed to Raffaelleare other drawings, photographs, and engravings, showing the varied yet analogous treatment of the subject by artists of different schools and countries.
The Archaeological museums which were formely contained in this building are now transferred to the Palazzo della Crocetta, Via della Colonna, not far from the Church of the SS. Annunziata, which during the later period of the Grand Ducal Government was used to lodge the guests at Court, when the Pitti Palace was too full to receive them.
The suite of rooms on the upper story of this building, to which access is obtained from a door in the Via Laura, contain an exceedingly valuable collection of Tapestries, specimens of velvet and silk stuffs, as well as some priests’ vestments, embroidered altar-cloths, and a few costumes of the Italian aristocracy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Five small rooms on entering the gallery are surrounded by cases of glazed frames, which contain small specimens of velvet and silken stuffs. The designs and rich colouring of some of these are very beautiful. One small room contains a paliotto, or large altar-cloth of the richest hand-embroidery, dating from 1400, and representing a number of episodes in the life of the Virgin. In a case in the centre of this room are priests’ vestments, also embroidered by the hand, and of the same period. This was brought from the convent of Santa Maria Novella, and represents a number of incidents in the legendary history of the Dominican brethren, exquisitely embroidered in silk and gold.’
A small room is hung with curious borders of Flemish tapestry, representing the history of David and Bathsheba. The tapestries that follow are in rather more spacious rooms.
The art of weaving tapestry was introduced from the East, and spread through Europe at the time of the Crusades ; shortly afterwards the Flemings established factories in several of their cities, and in the fifteenth century brought the art to great perfection. The Italians derive the name arazzi from Arras, in Picardy, the site of one of the principal tapestry manufactories. Wool and hemp were employed, but wool was preferred, because the dyes in this material were considered more permanent. The tapestries in which gold thread and silk were used, were principally those of Venice and Florence, which flourished at a later period. Francis I. of France established a tapestry manufacture at Fontainebleau, where gold and silver thread were introduced, and pieces of larger dimensions were woven instead of sewing together small pieces. He also invited Francis Primaticcio of Bologna to France, to make the designs. The Gobelin tapestry was not established before the reign of Louis XIV. The word Gobelin was taken from the name of a dyer, who owned the land where the factory was established.
We trace the commencement of tapestries in Italy to the fifteenth century, when a number of weavers from Flanders crossed the Alps, either driven from their country on account of their religious or political scruples, or attracted by the sums offered by some of the cities and princes of Italy. Establishments for weaving tapestry were planted at Ferrara, Venice, Mantua, Sienna, and Bologna, and towards the end of the fifteenth century a certain Giovanni di Giovanni, a Fleming, made some tapestry for the cathedral of Florence. When Cosimo I. became Grand Duke of Tuscany he bestowed much pains in promoting the arts and manufactures of his country, and he determined to establish a manufactory for tapestry in Florence that should excel all other establishments of the same kind in Italy ; in 1546, therefore, he induced two Flemings, Nicholas Karcher and Jean Van der Roost, to come to Florence and take the direction of the establishment. He also established dyeing works, and engaged Van der Roost to impart the secret of dyeing in every kind of colour. The establishment was placed first in the Via Cocomero, now Via Ricasoli, and in the Via dei Servi, and was later transferred to the Via degli Arazzieri, on this account so named. The painters chiefly employed for the cartoons were Agnolo Bronzino (1502-1572) ; Francesco Salviati (1510-1563) ; Jacopo da Pontormo (14941557) ; and Francesco Ubertini, also called Il Bachiaco (1494-1557); who were succeeded by Jean Strada (1523-1605) ; Alessandro Allori (1535-1607) ; and Bernardo Poccetti (1548-1612).
The tapestry manufacture was somewhat neglected during the reign of Ferdinand I., whose interest was divided between this and the pietra-dura manufactory ; and it received still less support during the short reign of Cosimo II. When Ferdinand II. ascended the throne he resolved to revive the manufacture, and invited Pierre Fevère from Paris, whose tapestries so closely resemble oil paintings as to deceive the spectator ; a quality infringing on another art, and therefore not desirable in woven materials. From this time the manufacture continued to flourish, until the death of Gian Gastone de’ Medici, when the Regency for Francis of Lorraine decided that the establishment should be closed.
Five successive rooms in this gallery are hung with Florentine tapestries, worked in the seventeenth century after cartoons by the artists already mentioned. They are exceedingly rich, woven in gold and silver thread, with a mixture of silk and wool. The borders of several, in arabesques and many devices, are remarkable for variety of design and great beauty and harmony of colour. Three consecutive rooms are hung with tapestries of Flemish work, dating from the sixteenth century, and representing scenes from the feasts which were held on occasion of the marriage of Henry II. of France with Catharine de’ Medici. The colours are in excellent preservation ; they are besides interesting historically, as well as for the costumes of the period, but the author of the designs is unknown.
Six Gobelin tapestries, the History of Esther and Mordecai, were executed by the celebrated Jean Audran (1667-1756), after cartoons of Jean François de Troye (1679-1752).1 In the compartment where Esther is crowned by Ahasuerus she is represented standing, bending in front of the monarch, and extremely graceful.
The `Young Gardeners,’ a series of five tapestries, are also of Gobelin manufacture, and were executed early in the eighteenth century ; they are exceedingly bright, and adapted to decorate the walls of a villa.
The episodes from the life of Cæsar are Flemish tapestries with the mark of the manufactory at Brussels. Starting for the Chase, is also Flemish, and was woven in the sixteenth century.
The Tapestries from paintings by Michael Angelo and Raffaelle in a small room are of Florentine manufacture. A Vase of Flowers in this room is of Gobelin tapestry, and very lovely.
There are a great many other Tapestries of Scriptural and other subjects, which it is impossible to specify. Most of these have their date, and the names of the artificer and designer of the cartoon are inscribed below. One series of Florentine tapestries, woven in the seventeenth century, represents the story of David and Bathsheba, another David and Abigail, all of which are fine specimens of the art.
The walls of a narrow gallery are hung with some of the largest pieces of tapestry, which it is to be regretted cannot be viewed from a sufficient distance. Several fine Gobelin tapestries are on these walls, with designs taken from Pagan subjects. Four Scriptural subjects, representing the Creation of Eve, Adam and Eve driven from Paradise, &c., are by a Fleming, and date from early in the sixteenth century.
One of the last rooms in the collection is devoted to tapes-tries for Portières, or door curtains, having the arms of the Medici at different periods.