Santo Spirito – Florence

The architecture of this church is Grecian, and of the finest Corinthian order, and esteemed one of Brunelleschi’s greatest works. But in this edifice, where I expected to be most charmed, I am most displeased with the effect of Grecian architecture in churches. It is appropriate to public edifices, palaces, temples, mausoleums, —to almost any buildings, except churches. I cannot reconcile the tameness, the flatness, the long unadorned sides, and square household windows, with my ideas of solemn and sacred grandeur.

We find in this church the much admired group of our Saviour and the Virgin, by Cecco Bigio, in imitation of Buonarotti’s celebrated work on the same subject, now in the Vatican. It is a piece of great merit, and, in point of anatomy, one of the finest things I have yet seen. The whole figure is finely laid out, and admirably balanced; the proportions are beautiful, the chest broad, and the ribs, loins, and pectoral muscles, most skilfully marked.

THE CHURCH OF ST MARK.–This edifice is in a very different style, less grand, but more beautiful, and well worthy of being carefully visited, not only on account of the works of art to be found there, but also from the splendid and much-admired chapel, styled St Antonino, executed after a design of John of Bologna, which, for architecture, statuary, and painting, is truly superb. In one of the oratories of this .chapel, there are two exquisite pictures by Naldini. 1st, the Resurrection of Lazarus; 2d, the Vision of Ezekiel ” of the valley of bones,” a subject grand and imaginative beyond conception, and finely treated.

SANTO ROMANO CHIESA DUCALE. In this church we find the celebrated picture of Fra. Bartholomeo, styled Misericordia. Our Saviour is represented with an out-stretched hand, holding a scroll; the Virgin stands a little lower, and angels sustain a canopy over them, the fore-ground being filled by different groups. The composition is good, and the colouring rich; but the out-line is harsh, and the figures as stiff and mechanical as those of Giotto. But the celebrity of this work has arisen from the portrait of an old woman, of sixty or seventy years of age, which is treated in the finest manner, the features strongly marked, with a keenness of expression inconceivable. There is also here a companion to this piece, painted by the same artist, which has been much admired by West; but it seems to me to possess so little merit, that I am almost persuaded that this great master must have written his critique on report. The Almighty is figured under the form of an old man seated in the heavens, and surrounded by innumerable cherubs; two of the fingers of the right hand are raised, the left holds a book, on one page of which Alpha is in-scribed, on the other Omega; below stand St Mary, Catherine, and Mary Magdalene; the ground is of a pale hue, mingling in the extreme line with the blue of the horizon, illumined by a ray of sunshine. The effect of this is most beautiful, and with the landscape, composes all that is precious in the picture. The figure representing the Almighty is stiff; and totally without grandeur; while the same character of hardness in outline, distinguishable in his first piece, is also to be found in this.