Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Florence 2012 Journal: Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio

The name of this government building in Florence means the ‘Old Palace’. It was given this name when Duke Cosimo 1st changed the residency of the Medici from here to the Palazzo Pitti. It overlooks the Piazza de la Signoria and was extended under the Medici’s following the Republics short-lived rule.

Among the many impressive rooms of the palace is the Hall of 500. Originally built for the republic until Cosimo took over and commissioned it to be revamped. One of the main features of the room is the elaborate fresco cycle by Vasari and his workshop. There are numerous scenes with the horses and fighting men that have clearly been inspired by the Battle of Anghari fresco that is now hidden underneath.

The now hidden Battle of Anghiari has been the target of much research. One research team in particular, independent of the OPA, found evidence that the scene underneath Vasari’s fresco (opposite the entrance from the stairs) was in fact done by Leonardo. The pigments they found were typical of Leonardo and have never been attributed to any other artist. The technique to find this was with an endoscope. It was the only method approved by the mayor of Florence. The research was largely restricted in that they were only allowed to inject the endoscope in 5 different holes. These areas were chosen by the mayor as the areas had already been tampered with. Unfortunately, these prescribed holes were not near the inscription of ’Cerca Trova’ (He who looks for it shall find it), which is often believed to be a hint to the location of the original Leonardo - left behind by Vasari’s team. The research team had previously asked to be granted permission to use the non-invasive method of ‘Backscattering Neutronico’. However, this technique involves the use of fissionable neutrons and fears arose surrounding its safety; therefore, it was not given the go ahead.
Vasari’s intervention in the original Hall of 500 (Pictured Left, with Palazzo Vecchio Above) includes raising the height of the room, as with the entire building. He also covered a number of windows with plaster and redirected the course of the original staircase. We know this because of a number of written sources such as Giorgio Vasari’s ‘Le Vite de’ Pui’ Eccelenti Pittori’. But also because of the likes of Ultrasounds and Infrared Reflectograms which are able to signify areas with more air infiltration.

Other areas within the Palazzo Vecchio of note are the two Studiolo’s that home expensive, valuable items and quite often fine jewellery. They are fairly small and are in the shape of a treasure box to allude to it being a ‘chamber of miracles’.

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