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The Palazzina della Meridiana in Pitti Palace

  • The Palazzina della Meridiana in Pitti Palace

    The frescoes from between 18th and 19th centuries

    The Palazzina della Meridiana in Pitti Palace
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    Within the grand ducal abode of Pitti Palace, in the heart of Florence, lies a building whose construction and décor reflect the history of Tuscany’s rulers. This is the Palazzina della Meridiana, or Sundial Villa, a south-western extension joined to the palace by a long corridor and several flights of stairs. The rooms of this single-story villa overlook the palace's grounds, the Boboli Gardens, enjoying a special relationship with the surrounding greenery, secluded from the imposing formality of the ceremonial building.

    The events surrounding the building's construction are intertwined with the history of the families that succeeded the Medici after their dynasty expired. The last Medici, Anna Maria Luisa, lived in the Pitti Palace until 1743, after the last grand duke, her brother Gian Gastone, died in 1737, without an heir. The grand duchy was then appointed to the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine who ruled until 1859 (the year of Tuscany's self-annexation to united Italy), with the exception of a brief Napoleonic interlude (1799-1814) during which the fate of the grand duchy at the behest of Emperor Bonaparte was ruled first by a branch of the Bourbon family and then by his sister Elisa Baciocchi. After the final expulsion of the grand dukes from Florence in 1859 and its annexation to the Kingdom of Italy, Florence was the capital of the kingdom from 1865 to 1871, and Victor Emmanuel II came to the Pitti Palace to settle, preferring these very rooms as his private residence.

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    The appearance of the building in the early nineteenth century and its relationship with the Gardens is well documented in this watercolour, dated 1819 and kept at the Uffizi Department of Prints and Drawings (inv. 1890 no. 10791). This is a panorama by Austrian landscape painter and engraver Thomas Ender (Vienna 1793 - Vienna 1875), twin brother of portrait painter Johann. The two brothers demonstrated an aptitude for painting and drawing early on and both attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Their paths soon diverged, each instructed to follow their personal preferences: while Johann was inspired by classics of antiquity, orienting himself toward portraiture and soon achieving great success in society, Thomas, on the other hand, felt inspired by the reality of nature, initially in the liberal landscapes around Vienna.

    In 1819 the Austrian Emperor Francis I granted him permission to travel to Italy following the state chancellor Klemens von Metternich, where he stayed for four years at the artist boarding house in Rome. During his first year on the peninsula he had to stop in Florence, pausing to depict the famous Boboli Gardens and the Palazzina della Meridiana.


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    During the Medici era, in the late 17th century, the room that still houses the sundial the building is named after, was part of the apartment of the Grand Prince Ferdinando de'Medici. The fresco vault decoration, painted by Anton Domenico Gabbiani between 1692 and 1693, depicts the exaltation of Galileo Galilei and his scientific discoveries. The name of the room derives from a sundial built by Vincenzo Viviani, a pupil of Galileo Galilei, in 1696: the sundial consists of a brass plate spanning 4.27 metres vertically along the right edge of the room and continuing for equal length to mark the diagonal on the floor. Although still in place, the instrument is no longer functional due to later architectural changes.

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    It was Grand Duke Peter Leopold Habsburg-Lorraine who decided, in 1776, to start the ex-novo construction of an extension of the southern wing of the Pitti Palace, starting from the pre-existing corner room already known then as the “sundial room”. At his behest, architect Gasparo Maria Paoletti built the first six rooms of the villa, endowing them with a neoclassical façade. The new addition thus soon became known as the Palazzina della Meridiana: the Sundial Villa.

    Work resumed during the Napoleonic era under Elisa Baciocchi, who commissioned Giuseppe Cacialli to enlarge and modernise the palace, though it was Leopold II, the House of Lorraine Grand Duke, who gave it its final aspect, entrusting the project to Pasquale Poccianti. Beginning in 1826, Poccianti built the ballroom and adjoining gallery, and by 1827 he provided the Palazzina with a west-facing side façade. Once the structural work was finished, the same architect personally supervised the fresco paintings in the rooms as well as the interior decoration.

    These continual transformations are evidence of increased interest in the Palazzina della Meridiana from the various rulers residing in the Pitti Palace. Under Napoleonic rule, between 1801 and 1807, the Queen of Etruria, Maria Luisa of Bourbon, was the first to choose it as her private residence, as an alternative to the palace's piano nobile quarter, where the Medici had lived until 1743. Later, the same choice was made by Elisa Baciocchi, by Leopold II after the return of the Lorraines, and by Victor Emmanuel II when Tuscany was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. As times changed, the lifestyle of the rulers had become more bourgeois, and the modest and secluded character of the Sundial Villa was preferred to the lavish but unwelcoming halls of the main piano nobile quarter.

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    Like other areas of the Palace, the Palazzina della Meridiana is decorated with an exquisite series of frescoes executed in three phases. The initial is seen today in a single room, frescoed by Luigi Sabatelli with Solomon's Dream, commissioned by Maria Luisa of Bourbon in 1807, during the Napoleonic era. When the Lorraines returned to Tuscany, the undertaking was continued under Leopold II in the 1830s who had most of the rooms, both public and private, frescoed with biblical and literary subjects, both historical and contemporary. Lastly, a final decorative campaign began in 1860 when planning began for the arrival of Victor Emmanuel II in Florence, proclaimed capital of the Kingdom of Italy in 1865. The frescoes of this last phase are designed in two distinct tones: the rooms facing the Boboli Gardens, intended for public functions, are characterised by solemn depictions, with allegorical scenes celebrating the Kingdom of Italy; the rooms facing the interior, for private use, are less courtly in style, with historical scenes that pay homage to the city of Florence and its most illustrious figures.

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    1. Entrance Hall

    ca. 1860

    This space was the noble entrance to the Palazzina, accessed directly from the Boboli Gardens. Its décor, dating back to the Savoy era, is entirely monochrome, consisting of a coffered ceiling and a frieze running along three sides of the room.

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    1. Entrance Hall

    Two processions of cherubs face each other on the side walls, one group bearing bersagliere hats, carbines and a cannon, and the other, oak and laurel branches.

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    1. Entrance Hall

    On the central wall, cherubs hold up the Savoy coat of arms.

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    2. Stories of Solomon

    Luigi Sabatelli

    Florence 1772 - Milan 1850

    Solomon's Dream


    The first sovereign to choose the Palazzina della Meridiana as her private residence was the Regent of Etruria, Maria Luisa of Bourbon. This room, chosen as her bedroom, was thus the first in the entire villa to be painted decoratively. The central medallion, frescoed by Luigi Sabatelli, features a dreamlike depiction in which young King Solomon, asleep, dreams that God gives him the wisdom he needs to rule his people. The theme is clearly an allusion to Maria Luisa's hopes, after the death of her husband Lodovico of Bourbon, for the future of her son Charles Louis, then 12 years old. The Empire style furnishings painted by Sabatelli, which conform to those Maria Luisa commissioned to furnish the villa, further reinforce the reference to current events. The detail of the crown, poised on a small table in the foreground, however, seems to allude to the precarious foundation of the Kingdom of Etruria, which indeed soon came to an end.

    The dream of Solomon
    Architettura | Gli Uffizi
    Artwork details
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    2. Stories of Solomon

    Ferdinando Folchi

    Florence 1822 - 1883

    Four scenes from Solomon’s life


    The four minor panels were painted by Ferdinando Folchi with scenes from the life of King Solomon.

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    3. Stories of Roman Women

    Antonio Marini

    Prato 1788 - Florence 1861

    Cornelia presents her children to a Capuana matron


    This room, designed for the audiences of Grand Duchess Maria Antoinette of Bourbon, wife of Leopold II of Habsburg-Lorraine, is dedicated entirely to celebrating female virtues through scenes from Roman history. The central panel, by Antonio Marini, is dedicated to Matron Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi brothers, a figure depicted in many paintings during the Neoclassical period. Widowed while still young, Cornelia rejected a marriage proposal from the king of Egypt, devoting herself entirely to the education of her twelve children. Of these, however, only three survived to adulthood: Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, who later devoted themselves to political careers, and their sister Sempronia. The fresco depicts a famous scene recounted by Valerius Maximus, in which Cornelia, faced with a friend who flaunts her precious stones, replies to her, pointing to her children, “here are my jewels”.




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    3. Stories of Roman Women

    Ferdinando Folchi

    Florence 1822 - 1883

    Iconic actions of Roman Women


    The four smaller panels were done by Ferdinando Folchi, then a pupil of Marini, and depict other famous feats of Roman women, including the scene of the Sabine women stopping fighting between Sabines and Romans.

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    4. Stories of Tobias

    Gaspero Martellini

    Florence 1785 - 1857

    Central oval | Archangel Raphael's return to heaven

    Lunettes | Tobias’ upbringing; The domestic paragon; The departure; A provident companion; The bride; The wedding; The return; The healing

    1833 - 36

    This room was the bedroom of Grand Duchess Maria Antoinette. The decorative vault painting was entrusted to Gaspero Martellini and centres on the biblical story of Tobias and the angel, popular in Florence since the Renaissance. In this case, domestic scenes are particularly emphasised, referring to the importance of raising children and the role of the family.

    The story is told in eight lunettes. Tobias, lovingly raised by his father, who went blind, and his mother Anna, is sent to another city to collect a sum of money loaned long ago, but he needs a guide to protect him on this mission. Azariah appears, who knows the way well, and offers to accompany him. With his help, Tobias completes his task and marries Sarah. Back home, following Azariah's suggestion, he rubbed his father's eyes with gall from a fish caught during his trip, restoring his sight. The central oval depicts the epilogue of the story, in which Azariah reveals his true identity: he is in fact the archangel Raphael, sent by God to fulfil the prayers of Tobias and his family.

    Initially, only these scenes were commissioned, though at a later stage it was decided that Martellini would add four virtues (Humility, Faith, Charity, Marital Fidelity), further emphasising qualities considered vital in marriage and family.

    The elaborate décor of the room is complemented by stuccoes with flying angels and gilded friezes.



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    5. Stories of Esther

    Gaspero Martellini

    Florence 1785 - 1857

    Central panel | Esther fainting before Ahasuerus

    Side panels | Esther hearing the order to exterminate all Jewish people; The unknown merit (Ahasuerus having the Annals read to him at night in which he discovers Mordecai's allegiance); Mordecai's triumph; Ahasuerus at the feast of Esther

    1834 - 36

    This room served as the private drawing room of Grand Duchess Maria Antoinette. The theme of the frescoes celebrates a biblical heroine who symbolises marital fidelity and devotion to her people, though could also be an allusion to the foreign origin of the new ruler, who was born a princess of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

    Its decoration began before the adjacent Grand Duchess' bedroom was finished and was entrusted to the same painter, Gaspero Martellini.

    The complex story of Queen Esther was summarised in a central scene accompanied by four minor panels in faux bas-relief.

    Esther, of Jewish lineage, is married to the Persian king Ahasuerus and is the niece of Mordecai, who previously foiled a conspiracy against the king and saved his life. Ahasuerus is unaware of the gesture, but it is recorded in the Annals of the kingdom. Aman, the king's chief adviser, orders everyone to bow before him, but when Mordecai refuses, he issues a decree of ordering the extermination of all Jews in the kingdom. Apprised of the decree, Esther had to plead with her husband to save her people, though in doing so she would violate an explicit prohibition against appearing before the king uninvited. The encounter, pivotal for a positive turn in the story, is narrated in the central vault panel. Later, Ahasuerus discovers Mordecai's loyalty in the Annals and bestows him with honours, he withdraws the decree against the Jews and sentences Aman to the gallows.



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    6. Stories from "The Betrothed"

    Niccolò Cianfanelli

    Moscow 1793 - Florence 1848

    Central panel | Don Rodrigo's meeting with Lucia


    The theme of the frescoes in this room designed for private use fulfils a personal wish of Leopold II, who had long planned to pay homage to Manzoni's now famous novel, published in 1827.

    The grand duke's passion for The Betrothed had been apparent since he organised a banquet for his birthday in 1828 at his villa in Poggio a Caiano featuring tableaux vivants based on the novel. That same year, while visiting Milan, he had personally met Alessandro Manzoni. The encounter deeply impressed Leopold, who commissioned Francesco Sabatelli, Luigi's son, to paint a portrait of the writer. However, the painting was not completed due an illness that caused the painter’s untimely death in 1829.

    In 1832 Leopold lost his first wife, Maria Anna Carolina of Saxony, to whom he was very close: this grief prompted him to go back to the idea of celebrating The Betrothed in a decorative series. In a letter addressed to Manzoni, the grand duke said he found great comfort in reading the book, thanks to which he recovered his faith in the role of Divine Providence in the lives of men.

    This time, Leopold sent painter Nicola Cianfanelli to Milan, both to finally execute the portrait of Manzoni, which had been deferred, and to study the places in which the scenes of the fresco series were to be set, for which a room in the Palazzina della Meridiana was allocated.

    This is one of the earliest iconographic series of the novel, which immediately resonated with Tuscan painters.

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    6. Stories from "The Betrothed"

    Top | Lucia ready for the wedding; Fra Cristoforo; Renzo cursing Don Rodrigo

    Bottom | The fake beggar (Griso at Lucia's house); Federico Borromeo; The arrival after escaping

    The story begins in the central panel, depicting Lucia and Don Rodrigo’s first encounter. The choice of scenes focuses on Renzo and Lucia’s personal events, emphasising the moral principles expressed in the novel. The painter interpreted the scenes in neoclassical style, relying on loud colours add a vividly narrative tone.

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    6. Stories from "The Betrothed"

    Top | Renzo giving alms; Lucia and the Unnamed; Ludovico's forgiveness

    Bottom | Renzo, Lucia and Fra Cristoforo at the lazaretto; Alessandro Manzoni; The wedding of Renzo and Lucia

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    7. The feats of Caesar

    Giuseppe Bezzuoli

    Florence 1784 - 1855

    Central panel | Caesar abandons Cleopatra

    Side panels | Caesar at Rhodes; Caesar weeps over the image of Alexander; The triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus; Caesar lays a bridge over the Rhine; Caesar at the Rubicon River; Caesar at the Anio River; Caesar at the Battle of Pharsalus; Caesar saves his Commentarii; Caesar perpetual dictator; Caesar forgives Ligarius


    The solemn character and quality of the frescoes in this room still testify to the key ceremonial role this room played for Leopold II. Unsurprisingly, the Grand Duke entrusted its execution to Giuseppe Bezzuoli, well established as a leading figure in Romantic painting.

    Even the chosen subject could not be more eloquent: it is a complex series recounting, in eleven salient scenes, the stories of Julius Caesar, exemplar of military prowess and an attachment to one's homeland, for which every ruler should strive.

    The scenes are not arranged in chronological order, but rather according to an aesthetic criterion, alternating between concussive battle scenes and more reflective panels populated by few characters. Carefully scattered accents of electric blue guide the eye through the crowds.

    However, the viewer's attention is caught by the central panel, in which we see Caesar leaving Egypt to return to Rome and his duties, abandoning Queen Cleopatra, who faints from grief. The leader casts one last glance at her as he walks away, sanctioning the pre-eminence of public interest over personal interest and the triumph of intellect over the senses.

    With the arrival of Victor Emmanuel II, the ceremonial rooms were moved to the garden-facing side of the Palazzina, and this room was chosen as the king's personal bedroom.



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    7. The feats of Caesar

    Side panels.

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    8. Moses and the Ten Commandments. Figures from the Old Testament

    Niccola Monti

    Pistoia 1781 - Cortona, Arezzo 1864

    Central panel | Moses receiving the stone tablets

    Lunettes | Figures from the Old Testament

    Side panels | The Four Cardinal Virtues

    1833 - 35

    The theme for the frescoes entrusted to Niccola Monti in this room is once again inspired by the Old Testament. In the central scene, figures emerge from a blanket of clouds. Moses, kneeling at the peak of Mount Sinai receives the tablets with the commandments from an angel and, through him, directly from God our Father.

    Characters from the Old Testament are featured in the lunettes, while the four Cardinal Virtues are depicted in monochrome in the side hexagons.

    References to sixteenth-century painting are evident in the solidity of the figures and the articulate poses of the nudes, taking inspirations from Michelangelo.

    Originally designed as the audience chamber of Leopold II, this room was transformed by Victor Emmanuel II into an “Arms Room”, as evidenced by an 1878 inventory.

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    9. Stories of Francesco Ferrucci

    Antonio Puccinelli

    Castelfranco di Sotto, Pisa 1822 – Florence 1897

    Central panel | Ferruccio places Empoli in state of defence

    Side panels | Ferruccio lays out his plan; Ferruccio suspects Maramaldo's envoy; Ferruccio takes Volterra; Ferruccio forced to Pisa; Ferruccio's death at Gavinana; Ferruccio regains rebellious San Miniato 

    ca. 1862

    The subject of this room is the only one in the entire Palazzina della Meridiana series to pose uncertainties regarding its correct interpretation. The most likely identification, based on the scenes depicted, leads back to the events of Florentine captain Francesco Ferrucci. In 1530, during the siege of Florence, Ferrucci commanded the Florentine Republic in the Battle of Gavinana against the army of Emperor Charles V, but lost his life during the battle. His sacrifice was celebrated in the Risorgimento period (unification of Italy during the 19th cent.) and therefore fits in well with the iconography Victor Emmanuel II wanted for the Palazzina rooms. The chosen painter entrusted with the execution of the frescoes was Antonio Puccinelli, an artist more open to innovations from the Macchiaioli sphere than Annibale Gatti and Cesare Mussini, chosen for the other rooms.

    This decoration was perhaps the final completed for the fresco series commissioned by Victor Emmanuel II, who had used this small room as a “smoking room”.

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    10. Victorious Military Genius and Stories of Florence

    Annibale Gatti

    Forlì 1828 - Florence 1909

    Centre | Victorious military genius; Cherub with Savoy coat of arms; Cherub with Florence coat of arms 


    This lavish gallery, designed as a dining room at the time of Victor Emmanuel II, sealed the ties between the houses of Savoy and Florence. Standing out on the barrel vault between gilded rosettes are Victorious military genius and two geniuses, one holding the Florence coat of arms and the other that of the Savoy family. The lunettes, on the other hand, illustrate two scenes from Michelangelo's life. This decoration, thanks to Annibale Gatti, was complemented by two curtains painted in oils by Nicola Sanesi, depicting The Duel in Barletta and Ferruccio in Gavinana, two scenes from the 1530 siege of Florence described in Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi's historical novel.

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    10. Victorious Military Genius and Stories of Florence

    Lunette | Michelangelo oversees the fortification of the walls of Florence.


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    11. Stories of Torquato Tasso

    Antonio Marini

    Prato 1788 - Florence 1861

    Centre | Poetry holds a scroll with Jerusalem Delivered written on it


    The frescoes in this room were commissioned by Victor Emmanuel to a painter who had previously worked in the Palazzina during the time of Leopold II, Antonio Marini. A singular event in the entire Palazzina della Meridiana series, Marini was free to choose the subject to be depicted. In perfect harmony with the themes addressed in the other rooms executed for Victor Emmanuel, Marini chose to celebrate Torquato Tasso.

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    11. Stories of Torquato Tasso

    Lunettes | Tasso's encounter with the architect Buontalenti in Florence; Aldo Manuzio, his father Angiolo Grillo and the painter Terzi visit Tasso at the Saint Anne hospital; Tasso accompanied by Cardinal Cinzio Aldobrandini to Sant'Onofrio a few days before his death; Tasso presented by Cardinal Luigi d'Este to his sister Eleonora

    The four lunettes illustrate scenes from the poet's life, while the central tondo houses an allegorical representation celebrating Jerusalem Delivered. However, the painter died before completing the lunette with Tasso presented by Cardinal Luigi d'Este to his sister Eleonora, which was therefore completed by his pupil Pietro Pezzati.

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    12. The Pazzi Conspiracy

    Cesare Mussini

    Berlin 1804 - Barga, Lucca 1879

    ca. 1861

    The subject of this room is taken from Vittorio Alfieri's tragedy The Pazzi Conspiracy, which recounts a famous piece of Florentine history. Its composition replicates a painting done by Cesare Mussini himself in 1835 but exhibited in Florence at the First Italian Exposition in 1861. Raimondo de' Pazzi, determined to oppose the Medici's dominance over Florence, bids farewell to his wife Bianca de' Medici, who portends the tragic end to his mission. Raimondo would indeed go to the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, where he would kill Giuliano de' Medici, but he himself would die from a wound. The scene is framed by friezes with cherubs holding the Medici and Pazzi coat of arms and medallions featuring portraits of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Giuliano's brother, and Pope Sixtus IV.


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    13. Stories of Odysseus

    Francesco Nenci

    Anghiari , Arezzo 1781 - Siena 1850

    Centre | Odysseus' banquet in the palace of Alcinous


    Interrupting the string of rooms decorated in the Savoy era is this one, which was the dining room of Leopold II of Lorraine. In fact, before Victor Emmanuel II, he too had designated the Palazzina della Meridiana his private home. Decorating the dining room is a classical theme, taken from the Odyssey and, appropriately centred on the depiction of a lavish banquet. Odysseus is hosted by Alcinous, king of the Phaeacians, in his palace. When a bard begins to recite the events of the Trojan War, Odysseus is unable to hold back his tears, thus revealing his true identity, hitherto concealed. In Francesco Nenci's interpretation of the subject, the scene’s dramatic epicentre features Odysseus himself in the foreground, who, while the other diners happily listen to the poet, covers his face with his hand at height of emotion. The scene is framed by four minor panels, with scenes from Odysseus’ story, done in monochrome to imitate classical friezes.

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    14. Dante, ambassador of the Florentines before Pope Boniface VIII

    Giorgio Berti

    Florence 1794 - 1868

    ca. 1860

    This room concludes the nucleus decorated for Victor Emmanuel II's arrival in Florence, though its tone is totally different from that of the rooms facing the garden, most likely because rather than a ceremonial room, it was only a small service room. Here, the celebration of the Italian nation is conveyed through the illustration of a historical scene, paying homage to Florence and one of its most illustrious citizens. Painter Giorgio Berti executed the central fresco with a little-known scene from Dante's life when, in 1300, the poet allegedly went to the pope to persuade him to reverse the sending of Charles of Valois to Florence, formally known as a peacemaker but in reality, a conqueror. His expedition, however, would have the disastrous outcome of Dante being exiled because of his hostility toward the pope.

    There is no shortage of celebration of the House of Savoy, whose coat of arms is depicted in the corners of the monochrome frieze that frames the scene.

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    15. Ballroom

    Ulisse Cambi
    Florence 1807 - 1895
    Apollo gives a bow to Hercules; Apollo gives a staff to Mercury in exchange for a bagpipe 

    Aristodemo Costoli
    Florence 1803 - 1871
    Mount Parnassus; Apollo with Cupid and Bacchus leaning on Ampelos; Two Bacchae

    Luigi Pampaloni
    Florence 1791 - 1847
    Hercules taking Apollo's tripod; Apollo giving Hercules the golden cup; A Bacchae

    Emilio Santarelli
    Florence 1801 - 1886
    Apollo granting Cassandra the power to utter prophecies; The struggle between Marsyas and Apollo; A Bacchic

    ca. 1831-37

    This room, designed for hosting, fully expresses the artistic conception of Pasquale Poccianti, who curated it down to the smallest detail.

    Unlike the other rooms in the Palazzina della Meridiana, it has no fresco decorations, but features monochromatic ornamentation in a Neoclassical style, achieving the optical effect of enlarging the space. The dome is coffered featuring rosettes, a recurring motif in the rooms designed by Poccianti, incorporating a typical element from the repertoire of his master, Giuseppe Cacialli.

    Surrounding it is a pagan themed stucco with reference to music and dance. The four Bacchae in the pendentives and the six bas-reliefs in the sub-arches were entrusted to four different artists, though Poccianti's strict supervision ensured utmost stylistic uniformity among their work.

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    15. Ballroom

    Details of the stucco decoration.

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    16. Italy takes its place among nations led by the Genius of the House of Savoy

    Annibale Gatti

    Forlì 1828 - Florence 1909

    ca. 1860 circa

    Italy strides solemnly, waving the tricolour flag, to reach its rightful place among other nations. To the sides, two monochrome panels feature the Savoy coat of arms held up by two lions, while all around a gilded stucco frame alternates the Savoy motto FERT with the names of the twenty-four Italian cities that stood out during the Risorgimento uprisings. King Victor Emmanuel's initials stand out in the four corners of the ceiling.

    Preparing to move to Florence, the new capital of the Kingdom of Italy, King Victor Emmanuel chose this Palazzina della Meridiana as his private residence, preferred to other wings of the Pitti Palace for the secluded, inviting character of its rooms. The garden-facing rooms, hitherto devoid of worthy pictorial decoration, were intended for ceremonial purposes, and suitably lavish decorations, distinguished by white and gold stucco, had to be conceived from scratch. To decide on the subjects of the frescoes, with scenes celebrating the Kingdom of Italy, a special commission was appointed entrusting this room to the painter Annibale Gatti.

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    16. Italy takes its place among nations led by the Genius of the House of Savoy

    Detail of the decoration.

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    17. Italy crowning Fine Arts and Economic Activities

    Cesare Mussini

    Berlino 1804 – Barga, Lucca 1879

    Centre | Italy crowning fine arts and economic activities
    Side panels | Science; Arno River; Industry; Agriculture


    The painter Cesare Mussini was entrusted to decorate two rooms in the villa, this one being the second. The date and the artist's signature are seen clearly on the central panel. As a reception hall, the subject chosen for decoration features a solemn celebration of the new Kingdom of Italy as the protector of the Arts. In the main scene, Italy crowns Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, seated at her feet on a podium rising among the clouds, while the four smaller panels celebrate the economic activities that are to sustain the nation's development.

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    17. Italy crowning Fine Arts and Economic Activities

    In the panel devoted to Agriculture, the painter included a tribute to the Digny coulter, an innovation developed in the rural instrument factory of Tuscan senator Guglielmo Cambray Digny, which had been presented at the 1861 Italian Exposition.

The Palazzina della Meridiana in Pitti Palace

The frescoes from between 18th and 19th centuries


Scientific coordination: Elena Marconi
Supervision (Intro): Vanessa Gavioli
Texts: Arianna Borga

Coordination: Francesca Sborgi
Texts review: Chiara Ulivi
Editing web: Andrea Biotti

Translations: Way2Global

Photographs: Roberto Palermo (frescoes), Andrea Biotti (exterior), Franca Belvisi (panoramic view)

Special thanks to Susanna Sordi, Claudia Luciano and the museum staff.

Publication date: May 2022

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