E.V. Lucas.

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By E.V. Lucas


A sentence from a "Synthetical Guidebook" which is circulated in the
Florentine hotels will express what I want to say, at the threshold
of this volume, much better than could unaided words of mine. It runs
thus: "The natural kindness, the high spirit, of the Florentine people,
the wonderful masterpieces of art created by her great men, who in
every age have stood in the front of art and science, rivalize with
the gentle smile of her splendid sky to render Florence one of the
finest towns of beautiful Italy". These words, written, I feel sure,
by a Florentine, and therefore "inspirated" (as he says elsewhere) by
a patriotic feeling, are true; and it is my hope that the pages that
follow will at once fortify their truth and lead others to test it.

Like the synthetical author, I too have not thought it necessary
to provide "too many informations concerning art and history," but
there will be found a few, practically unavoidable, in the gathering
together of which I have been indebted to many authors: notably Vasari,
Symonds, Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Ruskin, Pater, and Baedeker. Among
more recent books I would mention Herr Bode's "Florentine Sculptors of
the Renaissance," Mr. F.M. Hyett's "Florence," Mr. E.L.S. Horsburgh's
"Lorenzo the Magnificent" and "Savonarola," Mr. Gerald S. Davies'
"Michelangelo," Mr. W.G. Waters' "Italian Sculptors," and Col. Young's
"The Medici".

I have to thank very heartily a good English Florentine for the
construction of the historical chart at the end of the volume.


May, 1912


Chapter I The Duomo I: Its Construction
Chapter II The Duomo II: Its Associations
Chapter III The Duomo III: A Ceremony and a Museum
Chapter IV The Campanile and the Baptistery
Chapter V The Riccardi Palace and the Medici
Chapter VI S. Lorenzo and Michelangelo
Chapter VII Or San Michele and the Palazzo Vecchio
Chapter VIII The Uffizi I: The Building and the Collectors
Chapter IX The Uffizi II: The First Six Rooms
Chapter X The Uffizi III: Botticelli
Chapter XI The Uffizi IV: Remaining Rooms
Chapter XII "Aèrial Fiesole"
Chapter XIII The Badia and Dante
Chapter XIV The Bargello
Chapter XV S. Croce
Chapter XVI The Accademia
Chapter XVII Two Monasteries and a Procession
Chapter XVIII S. Marco
Chapter XIX The SS. Annunziata and the Spedale Degli
Chapter XX The Cascine and the Arno
Chapter XXI S. Maria Novella
Chapter XXII The Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele to S. Trinità
Chapter XXIII The Pitti
Chapter XXIV English Poets in Florence
Chapter XXV The Carmine and San Miniato
Historical Chart of Florence and Europe, 1296-1564

List of Illustrations

In Colour

The Duomo and Campanile, From the Via Pecori

The Cloisters of San Lorenzo, Showing the Windows of the Biblioteca

The Via Calzaioli, from the Baptistery, Showing the Bigallo and the
Top of Or San Michele

The Palazzo Vecchio

The Loggia of the Palazzo Vecchio and the Via de' Leoni

The Loggia de' Lanzi, the Duomo, and the Palazzo Vecchio, from the
Portico of the Uffizi

Fiesole, from the Hill under the Monastery

The Badia and the Bargello, from the Piazza S. Firenze

Interior of S. Croce

The Ponte S. Trinità

The Ponte Vecchio and Back of the Via de' Bardi

S. Maria Novella and the Corner of the Loggia di S. Paolo

The Via de' Vagellai, from the Piazza S. Jacopo Trafossi

The Piazza Della Signoria on a Wet Friday Afternoon

View of Florence at Evening, from the Piazzale Michelangelo

Evening at the Piazzale Michelangelo, Looking West

In Monotone

A Cantoria.
By Donatello, in the Museum of the Cathedral

Cain and Abel and Abraham and Isaac.
By Ghiberti, from his second Baptistery Doors

The Procession of the Magi.
By Benozzo Gozzoli, in the Palazzo Riccardi

Tomb of Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Urbino.
By Michelangelo, in the New Sacristy of S. Lorenzo

Christ and S. Thomas.
By Verrocchio, in a niche by Donatello and Michelozzo in the wall of
Or San Michele

Putto with Dolphin.
By Verrocchio, in the Palazzo Vecchio

Madonna Adoring.
Ascribed to Filippino Lippi, in the Uffizi

The Adoration of the Magi.
By Leonardo da Vinci, in the Uffizi

Madonna and Child.
By Luca Signorelli, in the Uffizi

†The Birth of Venus.
By Botticelli, in the Uffizi

The Annunciation.
By Botticelli, in the Uffizi

San Giacomo.
By Andrea del Sarto, in the Uffizi

The Madonna del Cardellino.
By Raphael, in the Uffizi

The Madonna del Pozzo.
By Franciabigio, in the Uffizi

Monument to Count Ugo.
By Mino da Fiesole, in the Badia

By Donatello, in the Bargello
By Verrocchio, in the Bargello

St. George.
By Donatello, in the Bargello

Madonna and Child.
By Verrocchio, in the Bargello

Madonna and Child.
By Luca della Robbia, in the Bargello

Bust of a Boy.
By Luca or Andrea della Robbia, in the Bargello

*Monument to Carlo Marzuppini.
By Desiderio da Settignano, in S. Croce

By Michelangelo, in the Accademia

The Flight into Egypt.
By Fra Angelico, in the Accademia

The Adoration of the Shepherds.
By Ghirlandaio, in the Accademia

The Vision of S. Bernard.
By Fra Bartolommeo, in the Accademia

Virgin and Child Enthroned, with Saints.
By Botticelli, in the Accademia

By Botticelli, in the Accademia

The Coronation of the Virgin.
By Fra Angelico, in the Convent of S. Marco

The Annunciation.
By Luca della Robbia, in the Spedale degli Innocenti

The Birth of the Virgin.
By Ghirlandaio, in S. Maria Novella

The Madonna del Granduca.
By Raphael, in the Pitti

The Madonna della Sedia.
By Raphael, in the Pitti

The Concert.
By Giorgione, in the Pitti

Madonna Adoring.
By Botticini, in the Pitti

The Madonna and Children.
By Perugino, in the Pitti

*A Gipsy.
By Boccaccio Boccaccini, in the Pitti

All the illustrations are from photographs by G. Brogi, except those
marked †, which are by Fratelli Alinari, and that marked *, which is
by R. Anderson.



The Duomo I: Its Construction

The City of the Miracle - The Marble Companions - Twilight and
Immensity - Arnolfo di Cambio - Dante's seat - Ruskin's "Shepherd" - Giotto
the various - Giotto's fun - The indomitable Brunelleschi - Makers of
Florence - The present façade.

All visitors to Florence make first for the Duomo. Let us do the same.

The real name of the Duomo is the Cathedral of S. Maria del Fiore, or
St. Mary of the Flowers, the flower being the Florentine lily. Florence
herself is called the City of Flowers, and that, in the spring and
summer, is a happy enough description. But in the winter it fails. A
name appropriate to all the seasons would be the City of the Miracle,
the miracle being the Renaissance. For though all over Italy traces
of the miracle are apparent, Florence was its very home and still
can point to the greatest number of its achievements. Giotto (at the
beginning of this quickening movement) may at Assisi have been more
inspired as a painter; but here is his campanile and here are his
S. Maria Novella and S. Croce frescoes. Fra Angelico and Donatello
(in the midst of it) were never more inspired than here, where they
worked and died. Michelangelo (at the end of it) may be more surprising
in the Vatican; but here are his wonderful Medici tombs. How it came
about that between the years 1300 and 1500 Italian soil - and chiefly
Tuscan soil - threw up such masters, not only with the will and spirit
to do what they did but with the power too, no one will ever be able
to explain. But there it is. In the history of the world two centuries
were suddenly given mysteriously to the activities of Italian men of
humane genius and as suddenly the Divine gift was withdrawn. And to see
the very flower of these two centuries it is to Florence we must go.

It is best to enter the Piazza del Duomo from the Via de' Martelli,
the Via de' Cerretani, the Via Calzaioli, or the Via Pecori, because
then one comes instantly upon the campanile too. The upper windows - so
very lovely - may have been visible at the end of the streets, with
Brunelleschi's warm dome high in the sky beside them, but that was
not to diminish the effect of the first sight of the whole. Duomo and
campanile make as fair a couple as ever builders brought together: the
immense comfortable church so solidly set upon the earth, and at its
side this delicate, slender marble creature, all gaiety and lightness,
which as surely springs from roots within the earth. For one cannot
be long in Florence, looking at this tower every day and many times a
day, both from near and far, without being perfectly certain that it
grows - and from a bulb, I think - and was never really built at all,
whatever the records may aver.

The interior of the Duomo is so unexpected that one has the
feeling of having entered, by some extraordinary chance, the wrong
building. Outside it was so garish with its coloured marbles, under
the southern sky; outside, too, one's ears were filled with all the
shattering noises in which Florence is an adept; and then, one step,
and behold nothing but vast and silent gloom. This surprise is the more
emphatic if one happens already to have been in the Baptistery. For the
Baptistery is also coloured marble without, yet within it is coloured
marble and mosaic too: there is no disparity; whereas in the Duomo
the walls have a Northern grey and the columns are brown. Austerity
and immensity join forces.

When all is said the chief merit of the Duomo is this immensity. Such
works of art as it has are not very noticeable, or at any rate do
not insist upon being seen; but in its vastness it overpowers. Great
as are some of the churches of Florence, I suppose three or four of
them could be packed within this one. And mere size with a dim light
and a savour of incense is enough: it carries religion. No need for
masses and chants or any ceremony whatever: the world is shut out,
one is on terms with the infinite. A forest exercises the same spell;
among mountains one feels it; but in such a cathedral as the Duomo one
feels it perhaps most of all, for it is the work of man, yet touched
with mystery and wonder, and the knowledge that man is the author of
such a marvel adds to its greatness.

The interior is so dim and strange as to be for a time sheer terra
incognita, and to see a bat flitting from side to side, as I have
often done even in the morning, is to receive no shock. In such a
twilight land there must naturally be bats, one thinks. The darkness
is due not to lack of windows but to time. The windows are there,
but they have become opaque. None of the coloured ones in the aisle
allows more than a filtration of light through it; there are only the
plain, circular ones high up and those rich, coloured, circular ones
under the dome to do the work. In a little while, however, one's eyes
not only become accustomed to the twilight but are very grateful for
it; and beginning to look inquiringly about, as they ever do in this
city of beauty, they observe, just inside, an instant reminder of the
antiseptic qualities of Italy. For by the first great pillar stands a
receptacle for holy water, with a pretty and charming angelic figure
upon it, which from its air of newness you would think was a recent
gift to the cathedral by a grateful Florentine. It is six hundred
years old and perhaps was designed by Giotto himself.

The emptiness of the Duomo is another of its charms. Nothing is allowed
to impair the vista as you stand by the western entrance: the floor
has no chairs; the great columns rise from it in the gloom as if they,
too, were rooted. The walls, too, are bare, save for a few tablets.

The history of the building is briefly this. The first cathedral of
Florence was the Baptistery, and S. John the Baptist is still the
patron saint of the city. Then in 1182 the cathedral was transferred
to S. Reparata, which stood on part of the site of the Duomo, and in
1294 the decision to rebuild S. Reparata magnificently was arrived
at, and Arnolfo di Cambio was instructed to draw up plans. Arnolfo,
whom we see not only on a tablet in the left aisle, in relief, with
his plan, but also more than life size, seated beside Brunelleschi
on the Palazzo de' Canonici on the south side of the cathedral,
facing the door, was then sixty-two and an architect of great
reputation. Born in 1232, he had studied under Niccolo Pisano, the
sculptor of the famous pulpit at Pisa (now in the museum there),
of that in the cathedral in Siena, and of the fountain at Perugia
(in all of which Arnolfo probably helped), and the designer of many
buildings all over Italy. Arnolfo's own unaided sculpture may be seen
at its best in the ciborium in S. Paolo Fuori le Mura in Rome; but
it is chiefly as an architect that he is now known. He had already
given Florence her extended walls and some of her most beautiful
buildings - the Or San Michele and the Badia - and simultaneously he
designed S. Croce and the Palazzo Vecchio. Vasari has it that Arnolfo
was assisted on the Duomo by Cimabue; but that is doubtful.

The foundations were consecrated in 1296 and the first stone laid
on September 8th, 1298, and no one was more interested in its early
progress than a young, grave lawyer who used to sit on a stone seat
on the south side and watch the builders, little thinking how soon
he was to be driven from Florence for ever. This seat - the Sasso di
Dante - was still to be seen when Wordsworth visited Florence in 1837,
for he wrote a sonnet in which he tells us that he in reverence sate
there too, "and, for a moment, filled that empty Throne". But one
can do so no longer, for the place which it occupied has been built
over and only a slab in the wall with an inscription (on the house
next the Palazzo de' Canonici) marks the site.

Arnolfo died in 1310, and thereupon there seems to have been a
cessation or slackening of work, due no doubt to the disturbed
state of the city, which was in the throes of costly wars and
embroilments. Not until 1332 is there definite news of its progress,
by which time the work had passed into the control of the Arte della
Lana; but in that year, although Florentine affairs were by no means
as flourishing as they should be, and a flood in the Arno had just
destroyed three or four of the bridges, a new architect was appointed,
in the person of the most various and creative man in the history
of the Renaissance - none other than Giotto himself, who had already
received the commission to design the campanile which should stand
at the cathedral's side.

Giotto was the son of a small farmer at Vespignano, near Florence. He
was instructed in art by Cimabue, who discovered him drawing a lamb
on a stone while herding sheep, and took him as his pupil. Cimabue,
of whom more is said, together with more of Giotto as a painter, in the
chapter on the Accademia, had died in 1302, leaving Giotto far beyond
all living artists, and Giotto, between the age of fifty and sixty, was
now residing in Cimabue's house. He had already painted frescoes in the
Bargello (introducing his friend Dante), in S. Maria Novella, S. Croce,
and elsewhere in Italy, particularly in the upper and lower churches
at Assisi, and at the Madonna dell' Arena chapel at Padua when Dante
was staying there during his exile. In those days no man was painter
only or architect only; an all-round knowledge of both arts and crafts
was desired by every ambitious youth who was attracted by the wish to
make beautiful things, and Giotto was a universal master. It was not
then surprising that on his settling finally in Florence he should be
invited to design a campanile to stand for ever beside the cathedral,
or that he should be appointed superintendent of the cathedral works.

Giotto did not live to see even his tower completed - it is the unhappy
destiny of architects to die too soon - but he was able during the
four years left him to find time for certain accessory decorations,
of which more will be said later, and also to paint for S. Trinità
the picture which we shall see in the Accademia, together with a few
other works, since perished, for the Badia and S. Giorgio. He died in
1336 and was buried in the cathedral, as the tablet, with Benedetto
da Maiano's bust of him, tells. He is also to be seen full length,
in stone, in a niche at the Uffizi; but the figure is misleading,
for if Vasari is to be trusted (and for my part I find it amusing to
trust him as much as possible) the master was insignificant in size.

Giotto has suffered, I think, in reputation, from Ruskin, who took
him peculiarly under his wing, persistently called him "the Shepherd,"
and made him appear as something between a Sunday-school superintendent
and the Creator. The "Mornings in Florence" and "Giotto and his Works
in Padua" so insist upon the artist's holiness and conscious purpose
in all he did that his genial worldliness, shrewdness, and humour, as
brought out by Dante, Vasari, Sacchetti, and Boccaccio, are utterly
excluded. What we see is an intense saint where really was a very
robust man. Sacchetti's story of Giotto one day stumbling over a
pig that ran between his legs and remarking, "And serve me right;
for I've made thousands with the help of pigs' bristles and never
once given them even a cup of broth," helps to adjust the balance;
while to his friend Dante he made a reply, so witty that the poet
could not forget his admiration, in answer to his question how was
it that Giotto's pictures were so beautiful and his six children so
ugly; but I must leave the reader to hunt it for himself, as these
are modest pages. Better still, for its dry humour, was his answer
to King Robert of Naples, who had commanded him to that city to paint
some Scriptural scenes, and, visiting the artist while he worked, on
a very hot day, remarked, "Giotto, if I were you I should leave off
painting for a while". "Yes," replied Giotto, "if I were you I should."

To Giotto happily we come again and again in this book. Enough at
present to say that upon his death in 1336 he was buried, like Arnolfo,
in the cathedral, where the tablet to his memory may be studied,
and was succeeded as architect, both of the church and the tower,
by his friend and assistant, Andrea Pisano, whose chief title to
fame is his Baptistery doors and the carving, which we are soon to
examine, of the scenes round the base of the campanile. He, too,
died - in 1348 - before the tower was finished.

Francesco Talenti was next called in, again to superintend both
buildings, and not only to superintend but to extend the plans of the
cathedral. Arnolfo and Giotto had both worked upon a smaller scale;
Talenti determined the present floor dimensions. The revised façade
was the work of a committee of artists, among them Giotto's godson
and disciple, Taddeo Gaddi, then busy with the Ponte Vecchio, and
Andrea Orcagna, whose tabernacle we shall see at Or San Michele. And
so the work went on until the main structure was complete in the

Another longish interval then came, in which nothing of note in the
construction occurred, and the next interesting date is 1418, when a
competition for the design for the dome was announced, the work to
be given eventually to one Filippo Brunelleschi, then an ambitious
and nervously determined man, well known in Florence as an architect,
of forty-one. Brunelleschi, who, again according to Vasari, was small,
and therefore as different as may be from the figure which is seated
on the clergy house opposite the south door of the cathedral, watching
his handiwork, was born in 1377, the son of a well-to-do Florentine of
good family who wished to make him a notary. The boy, however, wanted
to be an artist, and was therefore placed with a goldsmith, which was
in those days the natural course. As a youth he attempted everything,
being of a pertinacious and inquiring mind, and he was also a great
debater and student of Dante; and, taking to sculpture, he was one
of those who, as we shall see in a later chapter, competed for the
commission for the Baptistery gates. It was indeed his failure in that
competition which decided him to concentrate on architecture. That
he was a fine sculptor his competitive design, now preserved in the
Bargello, and his Christ crucified in S. Maria Novella, prove; but
in leading him to architecture the stars undoubtedly did rightly.

It was in 1403 that the decision giving Ghiberti the Baptistery
commission was made, when Brunelleschi was twenty-six and Donatello,
destined to be his life-long friend, was seventeen; and when
Brunelleschi decided to go to Rome for the study of his new branch of
industry, architecture, Donatello went too. There they worked together,
copying and measuring everything of beauty, Brunelleschi having always
before his mind the problem of how to place a dome upon the cathedral
of his native city. But, having a shrewd knowledge of human nature
and immense patience, he did not hasten to urge upon the authorities
his claims as the heaven-born architect, but contented himself with
smaller works, and even assisted his rival Ghiberti with his gates,
joining at that task Donatello and Luca della Robbia, and giving
lessons in perspective to a youth who was to do more than any man
after Giotto to assure the great days of painting and become the
exemplar of the finest masters - Masaccio.

It was not until 1419 that Brunelleschi's persistence and belief
in his own powers satisfied the controllers of the cathedral works
that he might perhaps be as good as his word and was the right man
to build the dome; but at last he was able to begin. [1] For the
story of his difficulties, told minutely and probably with sufficient
accuracy, one must go to Vasari: it is well worth reading, and is a
lurid commentary on the suspicions and jealousies of the world. The
building of the dome, without scaffolding, occupied fourteen years,
Brunelleschi's device embracing two domes, one within the other,
tied together with stone for material support and strength. It is
because of this inner dome that the impression of its size, from
within the cathedral, can disappoint. Meanwhile, in spite of all the
wear and tear of the work, the satisfying of incredulous busy-bodies,
and the removal of such an incubus as Ghiberti, who because he was a
superb modeller of bronze reliefs was made for a while joint architect
with a salary that Brunelleschi felt should either be his own or no
one's, the little man found time also to build beautiful churches
and cloisters all over Florence. He lived to see his dome finished
and the cathedral consecrated by Pope Eugenius IV in 1436, dying ten
years later. He was buried in the cathedral, and his adopted son and
pupil, Buggiano, made the head of him on the tablet to his memory.

Brunelleschi's lantern, the model of which from his own hand we shall
see in the museum of the cathedral, was not placed on the dome until
1462. The copper ball above it was the work of Verrocchio. In 1912
there are still wanting many yards of stone border to the dome.

Of the man himself we know little, except that he was of iron
tenacity and lived for his work. Vasari calls him witty, but gives
a not good example of his wit; he seems to have been philanthropic
and a patron of poor artists, and he grieved deeply at the untimely
death of Masaccio, who painted him in one of the Carmine frescoes,
together with Donatello and other Florentines.

As one walks about Florence, visiting this church and that, and
peering into cool cloisters, one's mind is always intent upon the
sculpture or paintings that may be preserved there for the delectation
of the eye. The tendency is to think little of the architect who made
the buildings where they are treasured. Asked to name the greatest
makers of this beautiful Florence, the ordinary visitor would
say Michelangelo, Giotto, Raphael, Donatello, the della Robbias,
Ghirlandaio, and Andrea del Sarto: all before Brunelleschi, even if
he named him at all. But this is wrong. Not even Michelangelo did
so much for Florence as he. Michelangelo was no doubt the greatest
individualist in the whole history of art, and everything that he did
grips the memory in a vice; but Florence without Michelangelo would
still be very nearly Florence, whereas Florence without Brunelleschi
is unthinkable. No dome to the cathedral, first of all; no S. Lorenzo

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