“Large salon” (1492)
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general information - sources and documentation

Places, Architecture:
“Large salon”

Author, circle:
Michelozzo (Florence, 1396-1472)

Commissioner, collector:
Cosimo di Giovanni, known as il Vecchio (1389-1464); Piero di Cosimo, known as il Gottoso (1416-1469); Lorenzo di Piero, known as il Magnifico (1449-1492)

Epoch, date:
before 1492

Location:
formerly Florence, Palazzo Medici, first floor (dismantled and transformed)

Technical details:
formerly Florence, Palazzo Medici, first floor (dismantled and transformed)
h. 7 m., length 20 m., width 10 m., approx.

Description, subject:
The wall structure of the “large salon” on the first floor of Palazzo Medici- the piano nobile - on the corner between Via Larga and Via de’ Gori must have been concluded around 1451, when Arduino da Baese wrote from Ferrara to Piero il Gottoso to explain the contract terms through which a carpenter of Belinguardo had been assigned the task of making the wooden ceiling for this room. As for other rooms in the palazzo, in this case too it was Piero, the son of Cosimo il Vecchio, who supervised the decoration of the residence built at the desire of his father Cosimo.
The “large salon” took light from two sides, having two windows opening onto Via dei Gori and five onto Via Larga (now via Cavour).We can get an idea of the appearance of this large room by looking at the plans of 1650, and through the reconstructions proposed by the modern critics. It was the first room that the visitor came to on the right of the corridor on the first floor, after ascending the stairs, which were at the time in the south wing (where the spiral staircase is now).
The carved wooden ceiling had coffers, gilded and painted blue, an admiring description of which has been left by the anonymous author of the Terze Rime (see: Archive/Anthology). A portion of the ceiling still survives - although altered and faded - in the corner room on the first floor, which was created during the renovations carried out by the Riccardi in the seventeenth century. The ceiling of the large salon of Palazzo Medici and that of the studiolo (see record on the studiolo of Piero il Gottoso), became so famous that they were imitated in other aristocratic residences even outside Florence. Diomede Carafa, for example, obtained the reproductions of the two Medici ceilings through the Strozzi bank to use as models to refer to during the renovation of his own palazzo.
From the inventory of 1492, drawn up on the death of the Magnifico, we can deduce that the works of art of this room reflected its official importance through subjects of pregnant public and civil significance. On the walls illuminated by the windows were the three canvases painted by Piero and Antonio del Pollaiolo portraying almost life size Three Labours of Hercules: Hercules and Antaeus and Hercules and the Nemean Lion on the long west wall, opposite the windows overlooking Via Larga, and Hercules and the Hydra on the north wall, towards the windows over Via de’ Gori. The impressive nature of this figurative trio is indicated by the replicas of two of the scenes (Hercules and the Hydra andHercules and Antaeus) executed by Antonio on the two small panels now in the Uffizi (Hercules and Antaeus, Hercules and the Hydra) and by the intarsia of a door in the Palazzo Ducale of Urbino (Hercules and the Nemean Lion).
Moreover, another canvas hanging above one door showed a number of lions closed in a cage painted by
Francesco Pesello, an allusion to the “menagerie of Lions” which was situated at the time behind Palazzo Vecchio (in the area of what is still Via de’ Leoni), and to the Marzocco, the heraldic emblem of Florence represented by a seated lion bearing in its paw the standard of the city with a red cross on a white ground. Above the other door was another canvas, painted by Andrea del Castagno, showing the patron saint of Florence, Saint John the Baptist. Running along the walls, at the top just beneath the ceiling, was a series of coats of arms of Tuscan municipalities, alternated with Medici arms, while below were benches with high backs.
Thus the figurative cycle of the large salon on the first floor of Palazzo Medici was designed to exalt iconographic subjects linked to the Republic and to Florence. The private residence of the family who effectively held the political reins of the city thus evidently assumed the role of a site dedicated to decisions of public interest and official meetings.
After the Medici were driven out in November 1494, negotiations were held in this room between Charles VIII King of France - who was a guest in Palazzo Medici - and the representatives of the new Republican government, including Pier Capponi, to avert the sacking of the city by the French troops, (see the record dealing with the Event). The agreement drawn up on 25 November was instead signed in the adjacent room, overlooking Via Larga.
As illustrated by a fresco by Poccetti , in the second half of the sixteenth century the room must have been adorned with a frieze, with views of landscapes and figurative monochromes, which were probably frescoed on commission from Isabella de’ Medici, daughter of Cosimo I, who settled in the palazzo of Via Larga after 1558. Beneath the frieze, the walls were covered by a hanging in red and gold silk, as also recorded in the inventory of 1598.
The plan of the first floor of Palazzo Medici, drawn by Gherardo Silvani in 1650, shows that in the meantime a theatre stage bordered by an arch in the proscenium and equipped with devices for sliding scenery, had been set up against the north facade of the room. The stage occupied about a third of the length of the room. The small theatre of Palazzo Medici was probably built for Cardinale Giovan Carlo, who was shortly afterwards to commission the construction of the Teatro dell’Accademia degli Immobili (what is now the Teatro della Pergola) from Ferdinando Tacca.
Once he had purchased Palazzo Medici in 1659, Gabbriello Riccardi radically transformed the salon on the first floor in the course of the first phase of renovation works launched in the same year. The room was in fact shifted by the space of two windows towards the centre of the old facade, excluding the present corner room (which preserves part of the fifteenth-century ceiling), taking in the bedroom to the north and raising the ceiling by about three metres. The Riccardi room thus obtained is now called the “Charles VII room”.



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