Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Palazzo Vecchio

19 Settembre
A tour of the "secret rooms" in the Palazzo Vecchio with our guide, Marcello Massimo.

Photo courtesy Meredith Taylor
To begin, he led us outside the museum and through a narrow door in the wall up a dark, narrow winding staircase and into a small room that had once been a bath. On the wall was a picture of the room purporting to show how it once looked, with a fireplace and four poster bed.  Our guide said there had never been a fireplace in the room and that when the room was constructed fireplaces were restricted to exterior rooms for safety. We then passed through a door at the back and into the most marvellous room I have seen to date in Italy, the Studiolo of Francesco I. My better half has already mentioned the portrait of the Grand Duchess Eleonora da Toledo high on one wall of this room.
What I noticed was the absence of Christian iconography. How refreshing after all those Madonnas and Crucifixes to see a room decorated with nymphs and other classical figures of pagan Greece and Rome. The portraits on the walls were in heavy frames which swung open to reveal shelves for books or treasure or, in one case, another narrow staircase.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons 
On a balcony on the third floor we were close to the ceiling of the great reception hall, the Salone dei Cinquicento.
Duke Cosimo had Vasari raise the ceiling of this room, presumably to make it more impressive to visiting dignitaries, and I wondered how such a large space could be constructed without resorting to the arches and flying buttresses found in cathedals. Our guide led us up a final flight of stairs to what I'd call the attic where we found the answer: wooden trusses which support the ceiling and "float" on the walls of the building.

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