Friday, November 25, 2011

Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano


Today, we met as a group at Santa Maria Novella and then walked to the bus station to buy tickets to Poggio a Caiano. For our last excursion and guided tour we are going to see a Medici country house built by Lorenzo il Magnifico!

I was nearly late to class, but then I cannot start the day without...

Pastry (with cream filling) and a cappuccino! Man am I going to miss these!

The day was crazy hot. There has been a killer heatwave in Tuscany the last few days and the countryside is rumored to be buzzing with mosquitoes. I haven't been bitten that often, but to be safe I wore long sleeves (groan) and brought water. But hot weather or not, the Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano was beautiful!

The Villa Medici facade. Everything is original except for the two sets of stairs which were added later. You can easily see how the stairs break up the austere geometry of the original design. For art history -which is our reason for coming to an even hotter and mosquito filled place- the villa is very important as it is the first country house that was built in the cutting edge,"Renaissance" style, just as the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi was the first Renaissance house.

Professor Junkerman explaining the significance of the Medici Villa...

For today's lecture we had Professor Junkerman, who is lead professor from San Jose State University here in Florence. She is AWESOME! Talk about a walking encyclopedia of the Renaissance and Italian cultural history. She is a brilliant mind and a very engaging lecturer. Without our usual headphone contraptions, we gathered close to hear her speak. She has a soft, calm and very intelligent voice. Like every other lecture :) she spoke with reverence and awe about what we were looking at and how this place- the first villa in Italy to be "designed in the Renaissance (or Medici) style" - is significant within the broader narrative of Italian Renaissance art and architecture.

This porch on the second floor is greatly influenced by Roman architecture. It almost looks like a temple set into the facade of the villa. Beneath the Medici crest, there is even an ancient Roman temple inspired frieze.

Clock on the top of the facade. What time is it? Medici time for sure! :P

Near the entrance to the villa there were Roman marble coffins with depictions of mythic battles.

Here is a bit of detail:

Inside I snapped a few quick shots of the foyer which were the last non-sneaky pictures I took before the guards yelled "no photo!":

Barrel vaulted ceiling with grotesques

Some detail.

The majority of the house was either remodeled or redecorated long after Lorenzo the Magnificent died, but one room remains of the period. A giant gallery with paintings by Andrea del Sarto (the painter who doesn't make mistakes), Franciabigio and Pontormo. According to my Eyewitness Guidebook (I forgot to take notes), this villa was remodeled by Pope Leo X: "The villa's barrel-vaulted salone contains 16th century frescoes by Andrea del Sarto and Franciabigio. They were commissioned by the future Leo X, the Medici pope, to portray his family as great statesmen in the manner of ancient Roman figures."

I did snap some pictures. My apologies for any funny angles. Sneaky sneak that I have become, the pictures were taken covertly from the inside of my backpack!

View of the Great Hall of Leo X. Ceiling and fresco cycle by Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo and Franciabigio.In the middle you have Leo X's Medici crest!

Frescoes at an angle :(

Detail of the top of the frescoes, you can see the trompe l'œil features. The column appears three dimensional when you view the frescoes head on. The colors are spectacularly brilliant! Here you can also see the detailed carving of the ceiling. 

 Another gorgeous ceiling- the dining room! I've been hunting for the name of the artist but can't be sure.


No longer in the Renaissance, these rooms are a beautiful example of Neoclassical provincial luxury!

The entrance of the villa. The double stairwells, that were installed much later, show up in other country residences in Europe. I saw similar ones last summer at Fontainebleau.

Close up of the portico with the frieze above it!

On the way back to the bus station I took pictures of the grounds

Like the Boboli gardens, the ones here at Poggio a Caiano are manicured and deliberately designed!

Exiting through the gate that faces the front entrance


Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano entrance

The exterior walls of the Villa Medici

The corner of the walls with a side gate

Heading back I also took pictures of Poggio a Caino itself:

Ciao for now!

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