ABOUT FLORENTINE SCULPTURE – At the end of the 14th century Florence was in full urban expansion and many great public buildings were still to be completed and were waiting for their sculptural decoration.
The organization of the work was changing: while medieval construction sites were conceived as a community of artists and artisans working together at one single great project, the new creative centers were the individual artisans’ workshops.
A workshop consisted of a master artisan and his team of collaborators.
This new working system not only greatly increased the autonomy of the creativity but also improved the constructive techniques.
Working in an atelier was much more comfortable and provided a much better equipment than sculpting directly on the construction site.
During the course of the Quattrocento Florence experienced an extraordinary flourishing of stone and marble workshops, in 1470 it could boast 54 of them!
Stylistically, the Gothic tradition, with its linearism and its taste for elaborate decorations, gives way to a totally new way of conceiving the work of art, allowing Florence to initiate the extraordinary season of the Renaissance.
Much earlier than painters, sculptors began to rediscover the aesthetic values and the techniques of classic art. This phenomenon went hand in hand with the revival or Greek and Roman texts perpetrated by the humanists.
During the course of the century statues ceased to be just architectural complements.
The iconography, until then almost exclusively dealing with religious themes, expands to mythology, modern history, portraits.
Medals, equestrian monuments, small bronzes were back in fashion after so many centuries.
Long forgotten plastic techniques, such as terracotta or bronze enjoyed a magnificent new life.
The year 1401, when the powerful guild of Calimala (wool merchants) opened a competition for the execution of the second door of the Baptistery, is traditionally considered the official beginning of the Renaissance.
The winners, ex aequo, were Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi, who produced, as a test, two gilt bronze tablets depicting the Sacrifice of Isaac, presently at the Bargello Museum of Sculpture.
And it is exactly at the Bargello that our walk through Florentine sculpture will start.
Your guide will illustrate the most outstanding works of art, point out the crucial moments in the evolution of the taste, narrate about patrons, collectors, historical and legendary episodes, past and present problems of preservation.
Just a few absolute masterpieces at the Bargello: the two statues of David by Donatello and his St George. The other famous David by Andrea del Verrocchio. Hercules and Antaeus by Pollaiolo.
A spectacular collection of terracotta by Luca, Giovanni and Andrea della Robbia.
Four works by Michelangelo (Bacchus, Madonna and Child, Brutus and David-Apollon).
An exquisite group of small bronzes by Giambologna. High end works by Benvenuto Cellini.
Our tour will go on to the Church of Orsanmichele (originally built to be a granary) that was directly under the patronage of the Arts, the powerful artisans’ guilds, subdivided in 7 Major (that could afford bronze statues) and 5 minor (that provided much cheaper marble statues).
Each Art was to ornate an exterior tabernacle with the statue of its patron saint.
The result is a sort of ‘summa’ of Florentine sculpture, the best of the best for the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th. Nanni di Banco, Donatello, Lamberti, Ghiberti,
Verrocchio produced some of their masterpieces here.
Our third and final stop will be at the recently (October 2015) renovated Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (as to say: the Cathedral’s workshop Museum).
A very modern shrine for the ancient noble artifacts, some of them of huge dimensions. Designed with space and light as main categories, the Museum itself makes the visit quite unique and breathtaking.
The amount of impressive masterpieces on display can be dazzling, but your guide will help to ‘absorb’ all the beauty hooking it to historical facts, highlighting top masterpieces, and relating the most significant episodes.
If we had to choose just five pieces to save from
destruction these will be: The two Choirs (or Cantorias) respectively by Donatello and Luca della Robbia
The original ‘Gates of Paradise’ Lorenzo Ghiberti conceived for one of the Baptistery doors
Donatello’s touching Mary Magdalene Michelangelo’s late ‘Pieta’ (perhaps destined to ornate his tomb)
It is worth to remember that the excellence of Florentine sculpture was often used by Lorenzo il Magnifico as a strategic weapon in his relations with the other Italian courts, as an instrument of propaganda for his foreign policy.
The best artists were sent almost as gifts to other princes. Just to remind how powerful and convincing art can be.
The tour ideally should ends with the Duomo Museum. You’ve seen so much that it is hard to believe you can retain any more art.
However, you still have stamina, we can add an extra hour (we need to know in advance, as pre booking is necessary, but don’t worry we’ll take care of it!) and walk to the
Academy where Michelangelo’s David is waiting for you!
Cost of this tour
This tour lasts three hours and costs 240 euros up to six people (not per person), only private parties.
For larger parties send us an email
Admission fees: Bargello: 8 euro (closed alternatively on Sundays and Mondays); Opera del Duomo Museum: 15 euro (closed on Tuesdays)
If you wish to add the Academy to see the David it will be a 4 hour tour.
Cost for this tour: 280 euros up to 6 people for larger parties please inquire at email
Admission to the Academy (with pre booking, we take care): 16,50 euro per person (closed on Mondays)