and the next day arrived at Florence, being recommended to the house of Signor Baritiére. in the Piazza del Spirito Santo, where we were exceedingly well treated. Florence is at the foot of the Apennines, the west part full of stately groves and pleasant meadows, beautified with more than a thousand houses and country palaces of note, belonging to gentlemen of the town. The river Arno runs through the city, in a broad, but very shallow channel, dividing it, as it were, in the middle, and over it are four most sumptuous bridges of stone. On that nearest to our quarter are the four Seasons, in white marble1; on another are the goldsmiths’ shops;2 at the head of the former stands a column of ophite, upon which a statue of Justice, with her balance and sword, cut out of porphyry, and the more remarkable for being the first which had been carved out of that hard material, and brought to perfection, after the art had been utterly lost; they say this was done by hardening the tools in the juice of certain herbs. This statue was erected in that corner, because there Cosmo3was first saluted with the news of Sienna being taken.
Near this is the famous Palazzo di Strozzi, a princely piece of architecture, in a rustic manner. The Palace of Pitti was built by that family, but of late greatly beautified by Cosmo ((Either Cosimo I or Cosimo II de’ Medici —GS)) with huge square stones of the Doric, Ionic, and the Corinthian orders, with a terrace at each side having rustic uncut balustrades, with a fountain that ends in a cascade seen from the great gate, and so forming a vista to the gardens. Nothing is more admirable than the vacant staircase, marbles, statues, urns, pictures, court, grotto, and waterworks. In the quadrangle is a huge jetto of water in a volto of four faces, with noble statues at each square, especially the Diana of porphyry above the grotto. We were here shown a prodigious great loadstone.
The garden has every variety, hills, dales, rocks, groves, aviaries, vivaries, fountains, especially one of five jettos, the middle basin being one of the longest stones I ever saw. Here is everything to make such a Paradise delightful. In the garden I saw a rose grafted on an orange tree. There was much topiary-work, and columns in architecture about the hedges. The Duke has added an ample laboratory, over against which stands a fort on a hill, where they told us his treasure is kept. In this Palace the Duke ordinarily resides, living with his Swiss guards, after the frugal Italian way, and even selling what he can spare of his wines, at the cellar under his very house, wicker bottles dangling over even the chief entrance into the palace, serving for a vintner’s bush.
In the Church of Santo Spirito the altar and reliquary are most rich, and full of precious stones; there are four pillars of a kind of serpentine, and some of blue. Hence we went to another Palace of the Duke’s, called Palazzo Vecchio, before which is a statue of David4, by Michael Angelo, and one of Hercules, killing Cacus, the work of Baccio Bandinelli. The quadrangle about this is of the Corinthian order, and in the hall are many rare marbles, as those of Leo X. and Clement VII., both Popes of the Medicean family; also the acts of Cosmo, in rare painting. In the chapel is kept (as they would make one believe) the original Gospel of St. John, written with his own hand; and the famous Florentine Pandects, and divers precious stones. Near it is another pendent5 Tower like that of Pisa6, always threatening ruin.
Under the Court of Justice ((The Court was part of the Palazzo Vecchio —GS))is a stately arcade for men to walk in, and over that, the shops of divers rare artists who continually work for the great Duke. Above this is that renowned cimeliarchy, or repository, wherein are hundreds of admirable antiquities, statues of marble and metal, vases of porphyry, etc.; but among the statues none so famous as the Scipio, the Boar, the Idol of Apollo, brought from the Delphic Temple, and two triumphant columns. Over these hang the pictures of the most famous persons and illustrious men in arts or arms, to the number of 300, taken out of the museum of Paulus Jovius.
They then led us into a large square room, in the middle of which stood a cabinet of an octangular form, so adorned and furnished with crystals, agates, and sculptures, as exceeds any description. This cabinet7 is called the Tribuna and in it is a pearl as big as an hazelnut. The cabinet is of ebony, lazuli, and jasper; over the door is a round of M. Angelo; on the cabinet, Leo X, with other paintings of Raphael, del Sarto, Perugino, and Correggio, viz, a St. John, a Virgin, a Boy, two Apostles, two heads of Durer, rarely carved.
Over this cabinet is a globe of ivory, excellently carved; the Labors of Hercules, in massy silver, and many incomparable pictures in small. There is another, which had about it eight Oriental columns of alabaster, on each whereof was placed a head of a Caesar, covered with a canopy so richly set with precious stones, that they resembled a firmament of stars. Within it was our Savior’s Passion, and the twelve Apostles in amber. This cabinet was valued at two hundred thousand crowns. In another, with calcedon pillars, was a series of golden medals. Here is also another rich ebony cabinet cupolaed with a tortoise shell, and containing a collection of gold medals esteemed worth 50,000 crowns; a wreathed pillar of Oriental alabaster, divers paintings of Da Vinci, Pontomo, del Sarto, an Ecce Homo of Titian, a Boy of Bronzini, etc. They showed us a branch of coral fixed on the rock, which they affirm does still grow.
In another room, is kept the Tabernacle appointed for the chapel of St. Laurence, about which are placed small statues of Saints, of precious material; a piece of such art and cost, that having been these forty years in perfecting, it is one of the most curious things in the world. Here were divers tables of Pietra Commessa8, which is a marble ground inlaid with several sorts of marbles and stones of various colors representing flowers, trees, beasts, birds, and landscapes. In one is represented the town of Leghorn, by the same hand who inlaid the altar of St. Laurence, Domenico Benotti, of whom I purchased nineteen pieces of the same work for a cabinet. In a press near this they showed an iron nail, one half whereof being converted into gold by one Thurnheuser, a German chemist, is looked on as a great rarity; but it plainly appeared to have been soldered together. There is a curious watch, a monstrous turquoise as big as an egg, on which is carved an emperor’s head.
In the armory are kept many antique habits, as those of Chinese kings; the sword of Charlemagne; Hannibal’s headpiece; a loadstone of a yard long, which bears up 86lbs. weight, in a chain of seventeen links, such as the slaves are tied to. In another room are such rare turneries in ivory, as are not to be described for their curiosity. There is a fair pillar of oriental alabaster; twelve vast and complete services of silver plate, and one of gold, all of excellent workmanship; a rich embroidered saddle of pearls sent by the Emperor to this Duke; and here is that embroidered chair9 set with precious stones in which he sits, when, on St. John’s day, he receives the tribute of the cities.
The Ponte Vecchio. Longfellow has remembered this feature in his sonnet ending —
Florence adorns me with her jewelry;
And when I think that Michael Angelo
Hath leaned on me, I glory in myself.
A Masque of Pandora, 1875, 151. ↩
“A pendant vault is a rare form of vault used in late Gothic architecture in which large decorative pendants hang from the vault at a distance from the walls.” — Wikipedia —GS ↩
Each “cabinet” is a large room, not a piece of furniture — GS ↩
Pietre-commesse, inlaid marbles peculiar to Florence, often mentioned by Evelyn and other voyagers in Italy. “Who,” says Lassels in his Voyage of Italy (defending his ‘exotick words’) “can speak … of Wrought Tombes, or inlayd Tables ; but hee must speak of bassi rilievi; and of pietre commesse? If any man understand them not, it’s his fault, not mine” (A Preface to the Reader concerning Travelling). ↩
Lassels gives a minute description of the contents of the Armoury and different cabinets (i. pp. 164-177). ↩