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Palazzo Pitti

Florence, Italy

2005 Q2

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The design of the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace) in Firenze (Florence) has been attributed to Brunellesci, and to Alberti as well. This palace is the largest in Italy, except for the Vatican. It was designed for Luca Pitti, who thought of himself as Cosimo dé Medici’s rival, and thus was thought to have been a vain and silly old man at the time.

The Brunellesci design for the Medici Palace that had been rejected by Cosimo is probably the model for the Pitti Palace, although Brunellesci may have had nothing to do with it. More than likely, it was Luca Fancelli, a student of Alberti’s, that designed it, although the grand scale of the building is why many people associate the design to Brunellesci, even though it was never listed by Brunellesci as one of his works. It is thought that the Pitti is certainly a lot grander and larger than the Medici Palace, and that it was intended to make the Medici look insignificant..

The original design only contained the central block. The lower stories were extended and the wings added by successor architects; Luca Fancelli, Ammanati, G. and A. Parigi, and Ruggeri. The rear has a wonderful cortile and overlooks the Boboli Gardens. It was erected piecemeal over many years beginning in 1458 (12 years after Brunellesci’s death) with the major completion in 1640. Minor remodelings continued after that. With so many different architects, it is a wonder that the final effect is so harmonious and integrated.

The palace typifies the Renaissance Palazzo style. It is of astylar treatment, where the masonry is incised and sculpted to look rugged. The arches are of horseshoe style, with the same incised treatment of the stone. The windows were by Ammanati, and the lions heads below the sills were added much later.

The palace became the Grand Ducal residence and is partly occupied by the famous picture gallery, remodeled for Ferdinand II (1640-7) by P. Cortona. The Baroque paintings were displayed in elaborate stucco frames painted white and gold.

As you can see from the sketch, the Piazza is filled with vehicles of tourists who come to visit and admire the palace and the gardens. This is one of the simplest and grandest of all of the Palazzos, and well worth seeing.

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