A. L. (Antoine Laurent) Castellan.

Letters on Italy : illustrated by engravings online

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Giovanni de Medici encouraged these pursuits by his ex-
ample, but a premature death carried him off". Piero de Me-
dici, the second son of Cosmo, though under adverse circum-
stances, threw some lustre on the arts, and encouraged them
by his liberality.

But it was Lorenzo, called the Magnificent, who opened, in
his garden near the church of St. Mark, that famous school
which had such a powerftil effect on the re-establishment of
the arts. He filled this place with a variety of specimens of
both ancient and modern art ; so that the logge, the alleys, and
the halls, were ornamented with statues, paintings, designs,
cartoons, and models, — the productions of the ablest masters,
as Donatello, Bmnelleschi, Masaccio, Paulo Ucello, Fra Gio
AngeUco, Filippo Lippi, &c. This school was open to all the
young painters, sculptors, and architects.

Gallei^y of Florence. 65

At the same periods the museums Estense and Gonzaga were
estabhshed. Nevertheless, the Medicean collection was still
the most useful and complete. After the death of Lorenzo,
his son, Leo X. extended great encouragement to literature
and the arts ; but the property of his brother Piero became
the prey of his ungrateful fellow citizens. I shall not detail
the disgrace and flight of the latter. — He left behind him the
greatest part of his property. — His palace was sacked, and
three thousand medals of gold and silver, without mentioning
those of brass, which were probably equally curious — the vases
of agate — the beautiful cameos — and a crowd of other curiosi-
ties, were stolen and dispersed.

Notwithstanding this misfortune, a servant of the Medici,
who remained faithful to his trust, preserved, at the peril of
his life, the precious objects which had been confided to his
care. This man was the father of the celebrated Baccio Ban-
dinello. But, at length, forced to fly, he buried the cameos,
the antique figures of bronze, and the other riches -, and this
proof of fidelity did not remain without recompense when his
patrons returned.

After the assassination of Alessandro de Medici by Lorenzo,
one of the same family, the houses both of the victim and
murderer were pillaged. They contained a great number of
Greek and Latin MSS., statues of marble and bronze, and other
valuable articles. The animosity of the people was such, that
these palaces were completely razed ; and the open spot, on
which they formerly stood, was called the Traitors' Street.

Cosmo I. Grand Duke of Tuscany, collected the scattered
relics of this once precious collection, and rapidly augmented
it by commanding a strict search to be made throughout his
territories for the monuments of antiquity, and at the same
time increasing it by the acquisition of many private cabinets.
The success of these researches was considerable. At Arezzo,
the celebrated inscription of Appius Claudius was discovered ;
and a little time afterwards, the Chimera, of bronze, a most
singular and curious object. In the ruins of a temple, a Pallas
of bronze was found, of beautiful workmanship. Cosmo was
rejoiced at these discoveries, and with the fruits of them orna-
mented his cabinet in the Palazzo Vecchio ; but, having pur-
chased the Palazzo Pitti, he made it the place of his abode,
and transferred thither this collection, to which he made in-
cessant additions.

At this time many individuals, desirous of gaining the good
graces of the sovereign, or induced by a disinterested love of
the arts, and desirous of contributing to their progress, enriched
Voyages and Travels, No, 5, Vol, III, K

66 ■ Castellan's Travels in Italy.

the Museum of Florence with many valuable articles, ancient

and modern.

It was this prince Avho first conceived the idea of the Gal-
lery which now contains the Museum Florentinum, and which
has been carried to such a degree of magnificence by his suc-
cessors. This vast edifice owes its origin to a design of uniting
the ancient palace of the Republic to the Palazzo Pitti. Va-
sari executed this beautiful and useful work. The corridor,
which passes over a bridge and through a part of the city,
leading from the old palace to the habitation of the sovereign,
was built in 1564, in the space of five months.

But this gallery became insufficient to contain all the objects
of art whichjncreased so rapidly. The Grand Duke Francis
continued the labours of his predecessor ; and, on the scite of
some of the neighbouring houses, he added to the gallery some
magnificent halls. The ceiling of one of these halls was co-
vered with mother-of-pearl. And yet this cabinet is more or-
namented by the beautiful objects it contains.

The Grand Duke Francis considerably augmented the col-
lection of medals, and added all the antiques he could procure.

In 1552 he received twenty-six marble statues, which had
been in the Vatican ; but which that scrupulous pontiff', Pius V.
dismissed, from a principle of religion j but not wishing them
to be transferred into ecclesiastical hands, he had refused them
to Ferdinando de Medici, on account of his being a cardinal.
Amongst these statues were the seven muses, without the least
traces of any part of the figures having been restored.

The Cardinal Ferdinando, the brother of the Grand Duke,
had got possession at Rome of the villa and gardens of the
Medici. Hei'e a second Museum was established, which was
fated one day to increase the richness of that of Florence. It is
sufficient to mention the Venus de Medici, and the statues of
Niobe and her children, to appreciate the value of this col-
lection. In 1569 the two brothers divided between them the
collection of the bishop of Pavia, consisting of fifty-nine statues.

Cosmo II. who had bad health, did not contribute much to
the embellishment of this gallery. But, in the long reign of
his successor Ferdinando II. many additions were made to it.
The Cardinal Leopold, the brother of Ferdinando, formed a rich
and numerous collection of pictures and sketches, which, to
their beauty, added the merit of antiquity. They extended as
far back as the restoration of the arts and the time of the Greek
painters. The cardinal also possessed a collection of medals,
cameos, &c. Cosmo III. added many pictures to the museum.

The Genius of the house of Medici, ere totally extinguished,
seemed to wish to establish its rights to the gratitude of men

Museum Florentinum. " ^

by some durable monument. Giovanni Gastone, the last scion
of this ilhistrious family, commenced the magnificent descrip-
tion of this g-allery, which is known by the name of the
Museum Florentinum.

The new sovereigns of Tuscany, princes of the house of
Lorraine, contributed to the embellishment and completion of
this admirable collection. In the year 1762, however, it was
on the point of being totally destroyed by a fire, which burst
out with great violence. It lasted many hours, extending its
ravages into the western corridor, and consuming a considerable
part of the building. The fire arose in a chimney which had
been imprudently constructed over the Zogge de Lmizi; and
it was fortunate that the fire commenced at this extremity,
where there were fewer valuable articles than on the other
side; but it was extinguished with the loss of only a few of
these precious objects.

Under the government of the Archduke Pietro Leopoldo, the
legislator and reformer of Tuscany, the Gallery of Florence
assumed a new appearance. The great fault of the gallery was
a want of classification. Under his directions, many more halls
were built, and a new flight of steps to ascend to them ; and
he added to the museum the most precious ornaments of the
other palaces. He likewise sent to Rome for the statues from
the Villa Medicis, and more especially for those of Niobe and
her children. By his exertions every class of objects had their
distinct place, they were found M'ithout trouble, and classed so
as to satisfy all tastes. He was rigorous in his selection, and
admitted nothing that was not worthy of being preserved.
The prince himself Avatched over the execution of his projects,
and animated the workmen by his presence. One knows not
which most to admire, — the grandeur of the enterprize, or the
celerity of the execution. In 1780, in the space of one year,
new buildings were added, and divided into halls ; while, by
this means, the communication was rendered more easy, and
they were ornamented with stuccoes, gilding, paintings, and
marbles; the tapestry and other drapery was renewed; the
statues and pictures were ]:>laced in other situations, cleaned,
or restored; whilst every thing was ranged according to the
system of a library, where every volume has its own separate
and distinct place. And this metamorphosis was executed in
so rapid a manner, that travellers, ere they had completed the
tour of Italy, as they repassed through Florence, thought they
beheld a new gallery, and were full of admiration at a change
which almost appeared magical.

68 Castellan's Travels in Italy,


Festival of May — Arrive at Fiesole — Its History— -Its Antiquities.

L HE traces of winter have disappeared in the space of a few
days, and as if by the power of magic the balmy breath of
Favonius has dissipated the frost, and changed all at once the
aspect of the country ; vegetation shews itself, the sap begins
to rise in the trees, and the ground is covered with spontane-
ous verdure.

It is now time for me to quit the city, and commence my
picturesque excursions — it becomes my pleasure, my care,
and my duty, to assist in the awakening of nature.

I passed the gate of Santa-croce, and the mills and fall of
the Arno, and I wandered sloAvly along the shady banks of the
liver. What a fresh and beautiful situation ! Through the
bowers of fruit-bearing trees and the boughs of lilacs, I per-
ceived the waters sparkling against the banks, or rolling
peaceably amongst the flexible branches of the osiers, which
bent over the current. Farther on, on a hill covered with
vines, rose some elegant casinos, which broke the blue line of
the rocks of Fiesole, crowned with their Tuscan walls, re-
markable for the lofty tower which serves as a belfry for the
cathedral ; nearer me the fields, divided by rows of reeds,
presented an appearance of varied cultivation; I could not
perceive any one at work, and I met none but villagers
clothed in their gayest habits, who seemed more intent on
their pleasures than their rustic labours.

At last I arrived at a farm-house ; a young tree had just
been planted before the door; knots of ribbands and little
fillets of tinsel, were fluttering in the air, suspended from the
branches, and sparkling through the leaves ; every bough
bore some ornament, and a crown of flowers shaded the win-
dow of the house. The air was echoing with the strains of a
serenade, when the casement which served as a door opened,
and three beautiful girls, fresh as the season, and neatly dressed,
laughingly made their appearance to greet their lovers.

This pastoral scene reminded me that it was May-day,
Calendi-maggio, a festal day in the spring of life, and at the
name of which the heart throbs, even amid the coldness of
age. In the gaiety and liveliness of this rustic sport the

Festival of May-day — Fiesole. 69

youth of both sexes form a chain-dance around the May-pole ;
they pursue each other with rapid and well-timed steps,
whilst their relatives prepare a feast in some shady spot.

As soon as they saw me the master of the house advanced,
and with an unembarrassed air invited me to partake of
their rural repast. I hesitated ; my host's youngest daughter
observed me, and separating herself from the group of dancers,
she gave me her hand. It was impossible to resist the sim-
plicity of this action ; I yielded ; she led me towards her
companions, and the chain, in which I now formed a link, was
recommenced with double joy and vivacity.

At the Calendi-maggio, rustic improvisators, dressed in a
fantastic style, recite tales and legends for the amusement of
their audience — I heard the history of Ferragosto ; the songs,
which are composed on this occasion, are called Maggeolate ;
and the tree, whose branches, adorned as I have mentioned,
overshadow the windows of the young maidens, is called
maio. The festival, which is only preserved in the country,
has given place in town, to concerts, dances, and entertain-
ments, which last several days. There are numberless mag-
giolate, composed by a crowd of authors, and even by Lo-
renzo the Magnificent.

As I proceeded I j^erceived before me the city of Fiesole,
situated on the table-land of the mountain, and between the
two swellings of the hills ; I saw its public square, its ancient
cathedral, the more modern buildings of the archiepisco-
pal palace and the Academy ; lower down a road, the wind-
ings of which follow the bend of the hill, leads along the
rocks which supported the ancient Etruscan fortress, where
we now. behold the church, the convent, and the vast garden
of the monks of the order of St. Francis.

On the side opposite the plain of Florence the gazer's eye
rests on the deep but elevated pass, through which the boiling
waters of the Mugnone forces its way through a channel of
rock and marble ; the rapid declivity causes no apprehension
of danger, for its force spends itself on its own steep banks :
evergreen woods clothe these mountains, which join the
chain of the Apennine Alps, which display in the distance
their summits capped with snow.

The most interesting prospects is that which includes the
principal remains of Fiesole. This view appeared to me so
beautiful, that, wishing to give my entertainers a proof of my
gratitude for their kindness, I resolved to adorn the room with
paintings in distemper, of ivhich this view formed the most
conspicuous part. There may seem a little vanity in mention-
ing this fact in my letters, but I possessed so few occasions of

70 Castellan's Travels in Italy.

exercising ray pencil on a large scale, that this was really an
epoch in my pictorial career.

On the hills of Fiesole I^ beheld the beautiful skies of Italy
in all their purity, and there I experienced the plenitude of
those sweet and vivid emotions, which the artist enjoys when
youth and inspiration, and the desire of fame are his.

Mention is made, by the ancient authors, of Fiesole, but its
niins afford no means of judging of Avhat it formerly was —
temples, palaces, theatres are all swept away ; even the tombs
are violated ; the inscriptions, the monuments of art, have
been all destroyed or carried away, and even the traces of its
former glory are eclipsed.

The origin of Fiesole is involved in the inextricable mazes
of ancient fable ; but its Avails display, notwithstanding so
many assaults, a style of building of the most remote antiquity,
and seem to prove the prodigious force of the men who con-
structed them ; the walls are not composed of ordinary and
evenly wrought stones, but of immense masses of rock, irre-
gularly shaped, and artfully placed one upon another : in
short, the solidity of these erections, and the elevated scite
which they occupy, seem like the work of the elder race of
mankind terrified at the tremendous catastrophe of the deluge.
Aqueducts, erected probably at the same period, carried to
Fiesole the waters of Mount Reggi, several miles distant;
and, although they were broken down in the time of Cassar,
as Villani tells us, yet their remains dispersed along the coun-
try, resemble real rocks in magnitude, and may be confounded
with them from their rude and savage appearance. Fiesole
was one of the twelve cities of Etruria; the ancients praised
the serenity of its atmosphere, and the salubrity of its waters
and baths, which were reported to be a cure for many mala-
dies. This city had the glory of resisting, though unsuccess-
fully, and of fatiguing the armies of Rome, on which occa-
sion they gave proofs of the greatest courage. We perceive
in the writings of Livy and the other Roman authors how
formidable the inhabitants of Fiesole and the rest of Etnu'ia
were esteemed ; all the forces of Rome were employed at
various times to subdue them, and several dictators were
created for the purpose of allaying the fear which this people
inspired. The inhabitants of Fiesole distinguished themselves
on several occasions, amongst them, one of the most remark-
able was when, on the discovery of Catiline's conspiracy by
Cicero, the seditious citizen, compelled to seek safety in flight,
escaped from Rome accompanied by his fellow conspirators ;
they fled to Fiesole, the only city which by its formidable
situation, and the courage of its inhabitants, was capable of

Fiesole. 71

resisting the Roman arms. Catiline indeed did not hesitate to
hazard an engagement with the consul Caius Antonius, the
result of which was a doubtful victory, although the brave
citizens of Fiesole were few in number and almost without
arms. The fortune of Rome at length triumphed, when the
leaders of the Etrurian army, mortally wounded, fell upon the
mangled heaps of tlieir soldiers' bodies. The victory was,
however, almost as dear to the conquerors as to the conquered,
and at Rome smiles struggled with tears when the news of
the battle arrived there.

In the year 405, Fiesole, assisted by Florence, opposed the
attacks of Radagaisius king of the Goths, and Rome was de-
livered from the yoke of that people, under the weight of which
Italy had so often groaned. It was on this occasion that the
Florentines consecrated a temple to St. Reparata, as a contem-
porary historian relates. Saint Ambrose had promised fre-
quently to visit his beloved Florentines, and, during the time
that Radagaisius was besieging Florence, the holy Prelate,
who had died a little time previously, appeared in a dream to
one of the inhabitants, and promised them deliverance on the
morrow. This man communicated to his fellow citizens his
vision, which inspired them with great courage. Accordingly
Stilicon, the imperial general, made his appearance with his
army, and a division arising amongst the Goths, their defeat
was rendered still more certain. As this victory took place on
the birth-day of the Virgin Martyr, St. Reparata, the Floren-
tines raised a temple in her honour, which was ornamented
with the trophies borne from their enemies.

Desirous of enriching this cluu'ch with some relics of the
Virgin Saint whose body was deposited with the monks of
Jeano, a little town in the Terra di Lavouro, they applied in
1352 to the king of Naples, who ordered the monks to deliver
up an arm of their Patroness. Grieved at a command M'hich
obliged them to do so great an outrage to the remains of the
martyr, the good monks sent in its stead a piece of wood so
exquisitely carved, and so well imitating nature, that the fraud
was not discovered until several years afterwards by a jeweller
who had been directed to make a rich reliquary to contain the
precious and holy limb.

The subjection of Fiesole was the means of Florence re-
ceiving amongst her citizens some very noble and distinguished
families. It may be sufficient to mention the Pazzi, the
Strozzi, the Guadagni, and the Adimari. The destruction of
that city also furnished Florence with innumerable columns
and other materials for the erection of beautiful edifices j and
from the same place she carried away many statues and sculp

72 Castellan*s Travels in Italy.

tured marbles to adorn her temples and her palaces. It is
very probable that the four columns which support the arched
roof of the gallery of the Baptistry, are the remains of some
monument in Fiesole, and even at this day, they find in the
soil of its environs, very rich materials.

Fiesole was one of the first cities after Rome that embraced
Christianity. She has produced a great number of philoso-
phers and literary men besides several celebrated artists both
in sculpture and painting. The city of Fiesole may say with
pride " here rose my high towers and my impregnable walls —
there lay the baths of Catiline — yonder w^ere the temples of
Jupiter Fulminans, and of Mars — in that place stood the
college of Augurs and the palace of the ancient kings," and
even yet the relics of those indestructable walls, the steep rocks,
and the precipices which seem to be the vast tomb in which the
ancient city is buried, inspire sensations of awe and venera-
tion. On the ruins of the temple of Jupiter there now rises
a church where the All-powerful God is worshipped, and the
college of Augurs is replaced by an Academy, where they no
longer teach the superstitious art of reading the future, but the
truth and holiness of the Christian doctrine. The bathing
waters, formerly so celebrated, still run amidst the most de-
lightfiil villas and gardens of Tuscany. These beautiful re-
treats no longer re-echo the sound of the Avarlike trumpet,
but the sweet accents of joy j and Fiesole has exchanged the
splendour of military renown for the more durable gloi-y of
peace and the arts.

The most remarkable antiquities of Fiesole are the colossal
fragments of the old Etruscan walls, of which a few vestiges
only remain, particularly near the monastery of Saint Jerome,
which was converted into a villa by the Counts Bardi, and
also the aqueduct, the ruins of which may be seen near the
convent of La Doccia. The vast subterraneous chambers near
the cathedral, and which are called the Biiche delle Fate, the
fairies hiding-places, are worthy of the attention of the tra-

Country around Fiesole. . 7S


Description of the Country about Fiesole — Oratory of John of
Bologna — The Convent of La Doccia — Monte Senario — The
House of PoUtiano — The Villa Salviati — The Retreat of the
Decameron — Topaja.

Xn the midst of pleasant and select society, solely occupied
in games and diversified pleasures incessantly renewed, and
which seemed to borrow something of the vivacity of the air
which we breathed on these heights, I yet felt a desire of soli-
tude. There we find enjoyment, less expansive perhaps, but
more deep, and in which a slight tinge of melancholy is
mingled, Avhich is not without its charms.

Thus lonely, and with a book which served me as the text,
and so to speak, as the vehicle of my thoughts, I slowly tra-
versed the perfumed hills of Fiesole, under the shade of woods
of pine and sycamore. I frequently passed the hours of de-
clining day, in contemplating at a distance the plain of Flo-
rence, with its })alaces, its high towers, and its domes, coloured
by the vivid light of a sun, cloudless and ardent even in its
setting. The complete absence of every vapour permitted me
to see distant objects with such clearness, that I could trace
every detail, and I almost conceived that I must hear the con-
fused murmur of voices and the noise of mechanical occupa-
tions amongst the inhabitants of the capital. This prospect
was rendered still more interesting by contrasting it with the
peaceable shades by which I was sheltered. I placed a just
value on the tumultuous pleasure of the town, Avlien I com-
pared them with the silent freshness of the country. This
addressed itself eloquently to my heart, and immersed me in
that sweet meditation which is the fruit of a tranquil spirit,
of a feeling of happiness, and health, and calm joy, or rather
of the pleasure one experiences in youth when the passions
are slumbering and our being is in perfect harmony with every
thing around us.

The day faded, and I heard nothing but the light murmur
of the winds of night, as they swept through the foliage
mingled with the rippling of a fountain, and the expressive
chirping of birds, which, flying here and there, answered one
another, and seemed in haste to take advantage of the remains

Voyages and Travels, No, 5, Vol. III. h

74 Castellan's Travels in Italy.

of day-light, to search for their food and a secure retreat for
the night.

I quitted this place with regret, resolving, in gratitude for
the sensations which I had there experienced, to visit it again,
and to enrich my port-folio with several fine views which I
had remarked there.

Guided by the twilight, and shortly afterwards by the beams
of the moon, which seemed to [rise most majestically amid a
crowd of stars, which appeared far more brilliant and numerous
than in our climate, 1 followed a path which I supposed would
lead me into the road to Fiesole ; when suddenly I distinguished
the sounds of rustic music, amongst which I heard the notes
of the bagpipe, the guitar, and the zampogna. Attracted by

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