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Even the most casual stroll through the streets of Florence may lead to the Ponte Vecchio, where today, at the northern entrance, one finds a plaque (Figure I.1) inscribed with these verses from Dante’s Comedy (Paradiso, 16.145–147): “… conveniasi a quella pietra scema/ che guarda il ponte, che Fiorenza fesse/ vittima nella sua pace postrema” (“it was fitting that Florence, in her last peace, should offer a victim to that mutilated stone which guards the bridge”).1 The quotation illustrates that when history intersects with physical space it imbues the place with collective memory.2 In this instance, the events occurred in 1215: the Florentine knight Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti broke a marriage covenant with the Amidei family.3 His decision to marry instead a woman from the more noble Donati family brought great dishonor not just to the immediate family but to the entire powerful clan to which the Amidei belonged. The violence that ensued marked the starting point for the long-standing hostility between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, factions that represented, respectively, the Buondelmonti and the Amidei. Buondelmonte was murdered at the head of the Ponte Vecchio, near the column bearing an equestrian statue.
Chapter 4 narrows the focus to representations of architecture in selected scenes from the Tornabuoni Chapel, frescoed by Domenico Ghirlandaio in 1486–1490. The chapter argues that the patron Giovanni Tornabuoni, in collaboration with Ghirlandaio, created a new visual image of his native Florence, one that reflected the political aspirations and architectural ideals of the dominant Medici family.
Chapter 3 takes up expressions of Florence as a New Jerusalem, for example, in the evocations of the holy city staged in religious processions and in the liturgical dramas that were performed throughout the year, imprinting an image of Jerusalem on certain city spaces and architectures.
This book has considered the idea, or ideas, of Florence as a city, as seen through the self-identification of the city as a New Athens, a New Rome, and a New Jerusalem. Architecture, described in words, imagined in paintings and reliefs, and realized in fact, played a critical role in the articulation of those identities and in creating the image of Florence as the ideal city. Architecture also played a central role in the formulation of Florence as a descendant of the three distinguished cities of the past – Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem – an idea that fostered the growing importance of lineage and genealogy of both the family and the city.
Chapter 2 considers Florence as descendant of and successor to ancient Rome (subsuming Troy). It examines how the idea of Florence as a New Rome was expressed in terms of architecture in texts and visual arts.
In this book, Irina Chernetsky examines how humanists, patrons, and artists promoted Florence as the reincarnation of the great cities of pagan and Christian antiquity – Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem. The architectural image of an ideal Florence was discussed in chronicles and histories, poetry and prose, and treatises on art and religious sermons. It was also portrayed in paintings, sculpture, and sketches, as well as encoded in buildings erected during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Over time, the concept of an ideal Florence became inseparable from the real city, in both its social and architectural structures. Chernetsky demonstrates how the Renaissance notion of genealogy was applied to Florence, which was considered to be part of a family of illustrious cities of both the past and present. She also explores the concept of the ideal city in its intellectual, political, and aesthetic contexts, while offering new insights into the experience of urban space.
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