Palazzo Ricardi – Florence

This edifice, from its magnificence, deserves the attention of the artist; exciting interest as being the cradle of the Medicean family, with whom all that was elegant and learned in Florence arose, and as presenting a noble specimen of the mixed architecture, which appeared in the earlier periods of the revival of the arts.

Palazzo Ricardi was erected after a design of Michelezzo, in the year 1481, by Cosmo, styled Pater Patrice, and was the residence of the Medici till the year 1540, when it was abandoned for the Palazzo Vecchio.

As you enter Via Larga, you behold the front of this fine building, a grand and imposing mass, in a long extended perspective of six hundred and sixty feet. The base, or first stage of the building, rising to the height of thirty feet, is of the Doric order, with a narrow rude cornice, which assimilates well with the massiveness of the whole, and marks its termination.

The second stage, or Piano nobile, is composed of a finer, or more polished rustic; the windows are arched, and divided in the middle by a small Gothic column, with a Corinthian capital, so that it may be styled the Corinthian disposed in the Gothic order. The third floor resembles the second, having the same arched windows, and mixed architecture, terminated by a bold projecting cornice, giving character and grandeur to the whole edifice. In the original architecture of this palace, the base, rising to thirty feet, presented one unbroken space, entire as a Cyclopian wall, varied only by the projection of the vast and rudely-chiseled stones of which it was composed; the whole bearing an aspect more resembling that of an impregnable fortress, than a princely abode.

This vast space at a later period assumed its present form, being opened with large windows by Michael Angelo. This artist was attached to the Greek architecture; and, except when called upon to improve some of the great and rude works of the earlier periods, rarely condescended to mix the Greek and Tuscan. He de-lighted in the purest and most simple forms of the Grecian orders, laying flat pilasters on the fronts of his buildings, and these generally Doric. He never gave in to the gorgeous style, as may be seen in his staircase and hall for the Laurentian Library, crowded, but simple in all its characters; as also in the palace which he built in this city; one of the most simple and chaste de-signs I have ever seen, for the town residence of a noble-man.

Palazzo Strozzi is a noble edifice of three stories, bearing the gradations in the rustic, similar to those of the Grecian style; namely, strong and coarse rustic work be-low, finer and more delicate in the second story, polished in the third, and the whole surmounted by a noble cornice.

Palazzo Pitti, now styled Palazzo Reale, designed by Brunelleschi, was originally intended for the residence of a private individual; owing its origin to a principle which had a conspicuous influence on the minds of the Florentines, namely, the desire of commanding respect by the bulk and splendour of their residence. We find the Strozzi avowedly erecting an edifice, the vastness of which should carry down their name with honour to their posterity; and Lucca Pitti, urged by a similar feeling, (though of more immediate fulfilment,) raising Palazzo Pitti, that he might outshine the Medici, the objects of his hatred and rivalship. Many circumstances combined to give celebrity to this palace; the popularity enjoyed at its first commencement, by the projector, was such, that artists and workmen claimed no reward for their services, except that of being styled his friends and partizans; the distinguished name of the chief artist; and lastly, its enormous bulk. But setting aside such impressions, as may owe their source to enthusiasm or prejudice, I should describe Palazzo Pitti as a vast, rude, and shapeless pile; possessing no beauty from proportion, nor distinguished by any peculiarity of character in architecture. The rustic, which gives strength, form, and colour to a base, is in this building carried over the whole front, producing one dull and uniform aspect. The gate is ordinary, and little conspicuous in this solid heavy mass unvaried by any projection, except a gallery of coarse architecture, which runs along the second floor. The third differs in nothing from the others; nor is it even relieved by the bold cornice, which gives character to so many of the palaces of this city.

The cortile, or colonnade, gracefully branching out from each side of the palace, was erected at a later period by Animannato, and is executed in the finest style, and in the noblest proportions, being equally distinguished for grandeur and elegance. The base presents a splendid colonnade of magnificent dimensions, with Ionic columns and semicolumns. The second floor is composed of Doric semicolumns, supporting arches, finely drawn, and well executed, over square windows. The third is of the composite order, rich, yet simple. The forms of the whole are varied, classical, and fine; with the exception of the columns, which pass through a sort of jutting square stones, like those of the barriers of Paris. The object of this construction was to produce an assimilation of character with the rustic work of the palace; but it was surely a wretched invention.

In the Quaratesi Palace we find a fine specimen of the composite Tuscan, combining with the grandest character of this order, a well-assimilated portion of the Grecian character. The structure is one hundred feet in length; the doorway high, and finely arched, composed of the coarsest, although not the largest form of rustic work. The first floor is thirty-six feet from the ground; the second (styled Piano nobile) rises to sixteen feet above this; and the third has the same dimensions. The windows, nine feet in front, are very magnificent; each is divided in the centre by a slender Corinthian column, supporting a wide-spread arch, which is surmounted by beautifully wrought and wreathed festoons of vine leaves. The cortile is also of good architecture, having composed columns, with rich and curious capitals.

The Palazzo Fossambroni, in Canto Dei Pazzi, offers a conspicuous specimen of the affiance of the Greek and Tuscan style; the lofty and magnificent facade of this edifice being nobly supported by the weight and gravity of the Tuscan base. It has, however, little relation to the Tuscan, except in grandeur of proportion. The forms are square, the front being one hundred and fifty feet in length, and the same in depth. A superb door-piece, arched within, is guarded on each side by huge Doric semicolumns; the balconies are supported by soffits; and the windows, which are magnificent, present a perfect specimen of superb Corinthian architecture. They are finely squared, and grandly ornamented by groups of fabled monsters, which project with a singular boldness of effect from above, being linked or bound together with husks and leaves, in a style of inconceivable richness. Cigoli was the architect of one front; Buontalenti of the other. This palace formerly belonged to the Pazzi.

The Palazzo Saristini, in Piazza Santa Croce, facing the great church, is one of the most elegant palaces in Florence, and an exquisite specimen of ancient architecture, more Grecian than Tuscan. The base is of rustic work, with fine arcades, arched windows, Ionic columns, projecting roof, and elegant cornice.

The Ironi Palace, with its main gate thirty feet in height, and its great balconies, enriched above by the ornaments of the Greek school, is another example of the result of this combination.

The Palazzo Ucconi, in Piazza Santa Annunziata, affords a beautiful character of improved Tuscan. The base rustic, with a plain balustrade, marking off the first part of the building; the second floor Tuscan; the third Corinthian, which is rather too high for the proportions of the other two; but, with this exception, the whole is fine; and only wants extent of front (being no more than fifty feet) to be grand as well as beautiful.

The Palazzo Paolo Medici is an elegant building; the windows and door-pieces in modern architecture, very rich, and yet most simple, and well worth drawing, as specimens of the Corinthian order.

I have already said that Florence was a city of palaces, and insensibly, in pursuit of my favourite study, I have been led to enumerate a number, encroaching upon the limits to which I have endeavoured to restrict my-self The interior of many of these palaces presents not only fine architecture, but also many valuable works of art; but nothing of that character of splendour, richness, and brilliancy, which prevailed at the earlier period, when the master, with his partizans and followers, had but one interest, and made, as it were, one family.