May 21, 2022


Santa Maria History

Reading Florentine history with the British Institute

Examining Florentine record in Santa Maria Novella frescoes

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April 2, 2021 – 12:51

When you’re on the prowl for Renaissance fresco paintings in Florence, the church of Santa Maria Novella is the location to go.

You are greeted on entry by the seminal Trinità fresco of Masaccio, who, with his close friend and mentor Brunelleschi, revolutionized the art of portray with the introduction of linear point of view as early as the 1420s. This work’s profound affect can be witnessed in the incredible Tornabuoni and Strozzi Chapels, which comprise some of the finest fresco paintings in Florence. Accomplished inside 10 years of just about every other, the two fresco cycles are radically distinct in type and content material, vividly contrasting compositions that replicate the spectacular story of Florence in the last several years of the fifteenth century.

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Visitation


In 1485, Giovanni Tornabuoni, Lorenzo de’ Medici’s uncle, commissioned Domenico Ghirlandaio to redecorate his relatives chapel with a sequence of frescoes depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin and the Baptist. These superbly detailed paintings offer you a glimpse into the daily life and occasions of their patron, featuring a lot of portraits of people today in the Tornabuoni and Medici circle, placed in luxurious domestic interiors and landscapes, a riot of secular daily life which often overshadows the spiritual messaging. 

Lorenzo il Magnifico died in 1492, two years immediately after the chapel was accomplished, and in 1494 the idealised planet presented in Ghirlandaio’s frescoes was challenged by the rise to electric power of Fra Girolamo Savonarola. The fiery preacher minimize a offer with the invading Charles VIII to spare Florence from the ravages of the French military, and the Medici were expelled. Savonarola recognized a radical fundamentalist regime to cleanse Florence of its wanton hedonism. 

Filippino Lippi, St Philip and the Dragon

This extraordinary transform of occasions is reflected in the frescoes of the Strozzi Chapel. Nevertheless Filippo Strozzi commissioned the frescoes just two several years afterwards than Tornabuoni, Filippino Lippi took fifteen a long time to finish the operate, and the resulting paintings are suffused with the new austerity promoted by Savonarola’s repressive regime. Skilled in Botticelli’s workshop, Lippi prolonged the maestro’s fluid model to generate emaciated and determined figures, Christians locked in mortal overcome with a highly stylised pagan globe. Gone is the confident poise and snug familiarity of Ghirlandaio’s Medici-Tornabuoni milieu, replaced as a substitute with profound non secular anguish. It is thought that Botticelli himself threw his have paintings into the notorious 1497 Bonfire of the Vanities, alongside with the guides, musical devices, cosmetics and tapestries of fellow Florentine supporters, spellbound by the friar’s prophecies and antipapal propaganda. A year afterwards, Savonarola would himself be burned at the stake in piazza della Signoria, clearing the way for the Medici to regain handle of the city. Within 50 many years they had set up the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which they would rule for two generations, but which is yet another story!

Examine out The British Institute of Florence for fascinating on the net seminars discovering these turbulent instances in Florence and Tuscany as a result of the artwork of the Renaissance in all its glory.


This report was released in Situation 277 of The Florentine.