Architects of Florence
(1445-1527; 1455-1534)

FRANCESCO DI PAOLO GIAMBERTI, who was a meritorious architect in the time of Cosimo de' Medici, and much employed by him, had two sons, Giuliano and Antonio, who practised the art of wood-carving. He put them with Francione, a clever joiner, who practised both wood-carving and perspective, and with whom he was very friendly, as they had done many works together in carving and architecture for Lorenzo de' Medici. One of the two boys, Giuliano, learned very well what Francione taught him, and carved the most beautiful perspectives for the choir of the Duomo of Pisa, where they are considered marvellous even among new works. While Giuliano was studying design, in all the flush of youth, the army of the Duke of Calabria, who hated Lorenzo de' Medici, encamped at La Castellina to occupy the territory of Florence, intending, in case of success, to pus 1, the attack. Lorenzo being thus obliged to send an engineer to Castellina to make bastions and to direct the artillery, a thing then understood by few, dispatched Giuliano as being the best fitted and the most dexterous and quick, knowing him, as the son of Francesco, to be a devoted servant of the Medici house. When Giuliano reached Castellina, he fortified it within and without with good walls bastions and other necessary things for defensive works. Perceiving the men to be slow and timid in manoeuvring the artillery, he turned his attention to this, and from that time no more accidents occurred, whereas many had previously lost their lives through ignorance of their duties. Giuliano then undertook the care of the artillery, and his prudence in firing and making use of it was so great, and he so terrified the duke's camp, that his highness at length came to terms and departed. From this Giuliano won no small praise from Lorenzo at Florence, where he was ever afterwards in great favour.

Meanwhile, having devoted himself to architecture, Giuliano began the first cloister of Cestello, 2 where he did the part in the Ionic style, setting the capitals on the columns, with the volutes descending in a curve to the collarine where the shaft terminates. Below the egg and anchor ornament he made the frieze one-third of the diameter of the column. He copied this capital from a very ancient marble one found at Fiesole by M. Lionardo Salutati, the bishop there, who at one time preserved this and other antiquities in his house and garden in the via di S. Gallo, opposite S. Agata. This capital is now in the possession of M. Gio. Battista de' Ricasoli, bishop of Pistoia, and is valued for its beauty and uniqueness, no other ancient capital having been found to match it. But the cloister was left unfinished because; the monks could not bear the great cost. Giuliano's reputation with Lorenzo being thus increased, and the latter desirous to build at Poggio a Caiano between Florence and Pistoia, for which he obtained several models from Francione and others, employed Giuliano to make a model of what he wanted. He produced one so unique and so different from those of the others, and so exactly in harmony with Lorenzo's ideas, that he caused the work to be begun immediately. Giuliano from this time received a provision. Afterwards, when Lorenzo wished to make a vault, such as we now call a barrel vault, for the great hall of the palace, he feared that the distance between the walls was too great. But Giuliano, who was building his own house in Florence, vaulted his hall in this fashion to hearten Lorenzo, so that he was allowed to successfully undertake that of Poggio. His fame being thus increased, he made a model for a palace for Naples by the commission of Lorenzo at the request of the Duke of Calabria, spending much time over it.

Meanwhile Rovere, the castellan of Ostia and a bishop, afterwards Pope Julius II., wished to put the fortress in good repair, and hearing of the fame of Giuliano, sent to Florence for him. Giving him a good provision, he kept him for two years in producing useful and convenient works by his art. In order that the Duke of Calabria's model should not suffer, Giuliano left it to his brother Antonio to finish it after his design. This was done with great diligence, for Antonio was not inferior to his brother. Giuliano was advised by Lorenzo to present the model himself in order to show the difficulties which he had overcome. Accordingly he set out for Naples, presented the work, and was received with honour, the surprise and wonder being equally great that Lorenzo should behave so handsomely and that the workmanship of the model should be so remarkable. It gave so much satisfaction that the work was soon put in hand near the Castelnuovo. After remaining a while at Naples, Giuliano requested permission to return, and was presented by the king with horses, raiment, and a silver cup containing some hundreds of ducats. These Giuliano would not accept, saying that he represented his master, who needed neither gold nor silver, but if the king wished to make him a present as a memento, he should like to be allowed to choose among his antiquities. The king freely granted this out of his friendship to Lorenzo the Magnificent and his esteem for Giuliano's ability. The latter chose a head of the Emperor Hadrian, now over the door of the garden of the Casa‚Medici, wonderfully natural, a nude woman, more than life-size, and a marble Cupid asleep. Giuliano sent these as a present to Lorenzo, who was overjoyed and never tired of praising this act of the liberal artist, who refused gold and silver, a thing that few would have done. The Cupid is now in the wardrobe of Duke Cosimo. When Giuliano returned to Florence he was warmly welcomed by Lorenzo. This prince determined to gratify Friar Mariano da Ghinazzano, a learned man of the Eremitani of St. Augustine, by building for him outside the S. Gallo gate a convent for one hundred friars. 3 Many artists prepared rnodels, but that of Giuliano was finally chosen, and from this circumstance Lorenzo called him Giuliano da S. Gallo. Hearing everyone call him by this name, he one day said jestingly to Lorenzo: "It is your fault in calling me `da S. Gallo' that I have lost my ancient family name, and so while I have been flattering myself at my progress due to my ancient stock I am going backwards." Lorenzo retorted that he ought rather to desire to be the founder of a new house through his own abilities than be dependent on others, and so Giuliano was satisfied.

The work of S. Gallo being followed by many other undertakings of Lorenzo, none of them were finished owing to the death of that prince, and very little of the structure remained standing, because it was pulled down in 1530 with the rest of the quarter, owing to the siege of Florence, and thus the whole piazza, formerly full of very beautiful structures, now shows no trace of‚house, church, or convent.

At this time the King of Naples died, 4 and Giuliano Gondi, a wealthy Florentine merchant, returned to Florence and employed Giuliano to build a palace of rustic-work opposite S. Firenze, above where the lions stand, as he had become intimate with the artist during his stay at Naples. This palace was to form the corner and face the Mercatanzia Vecchia, but the death of Giuliano Gondi put a stop to it. Among other things it contained a chimney-piece with rich carvings unlike anything seen before, beautifully composed, and with a great quantity of figures. Giuliano also built a palace for a Venetian outside the Pinti gate in Camerata, and many houses for private citizens which I need not mention.

Lorenzo the Magnificent, wishing to fortify Poggio Imperiale above Poggibonsi, on the road to Rome, to found a city there, as a public benefit and an ornament to the state, and to leave a memorial of himself in addition to his countless other projects, would do nothing without the counsel of Giuliano. Accordingly he began that renowned with its fortifications renown that, by the influence of Lorenzo, he went to Milan to make the model of a palace for the duke there. Here he was no less honoured by the duke than he had been at Naples by the king. When he presented his model in the name of Lorenzo, the duke was filled with wonder and admiration at seeing the arrangement and distribution of so many fine ornaments, each artistically adapted to its place. Accordingly he lost no time in procuring the necessary materials and beginning the work. Giuliano and Lionardo da Vinci were both working for the duke in the same city, the latter being full of the bronze horse which he was making, producing many studies; but this was broken in pieces by the French, and so the horse was not finished, and it was not possible to complete the palace either.

When Giuliano returned to Florence 5 he found that his brother Antonio, who helped him with his models, had become so excellent that no one at that time could surpass him in carving, especially large crucifixes of wood, as we see by one on the high altar of the Nunziata at Florence, and one in the possession of the friars of S. Gallo in S. Jacopo fra Fossi, and yet another in the company of the Scalzo, all considered excellent. But Giuliano took him from this and got him to devote his attention to architecture, as he was full of work, both private and public.

As is usually the case, Fortune, which is hostile to ability, removed that prop of men of genius, Florenzo de' Medici, causing great harm to the foremost artists, to his country, and to all Italy. Thus Giuliano was left disconsolate, as well as the other master spirits of the time, and withdrew to Prato, near Florence, to build a church to the Madonna delle Carceri, 6 because all the structures in Florence, both public and private, were at a stand still. He remained at Prato for three years, supporting the expense, discomfort and trouble as best he could.

At that time it had become necessary to roof in the church of the Madonna at Loreto, and to vault the cupola begun by Giuliano da Maiano, but those in charge of the work feared that the piers would be too weak to bear the weight. Accordingly they wrote to Giuliano, asking if he would come and see the work; so he went, and, being a man of courage and spirit, showed them that the vaulting could easily be done, that all they needed was confidence, and so heartened them that they entrusted the work to him. 7 With this new task he hurried on the work at Prato, and brought his masters, builders and stonecutters at Loreto. To strengthen the stonework and bind it together, he sent to Rome for pozzolana, which he mixed with all his mortar. Thus, in the space of three years, the building was perfectly finished.

Proceeding to Rome, he restored the falling roof of S. Maria Maggiore for Pope Alexander VI., constructing the present ceiling. In serving the court, the Bishop Rovere, created cardinal of S. Pietro ad Vincola, Giuliano's friend from the time when he was castellan at Ostia, employed him to make the model of the palace of S. Pietro ad Vincola. Soon after he further wished another palace to be created at his native Savona, under Giuliano's direction, but this was difficult,because the ceiling was not finished, and Pope Alexander would not allow him to go. Accordingly he caused it to be finished by his brother Antonio, who possessed a rich and versatile mind, and who, in serving the court, won the favour of the Pope. Alexander employed him to restore and strengthen the mole of Adrian, 8 now the castle of St. Angelo, in the form of a fortress. Great towers were constructed beneath, ditches, and the other fortications were made as we now see them, the work bringing Antonio into great favour with the Pope and his son Duke Valentino, and leading to his employment to make the fortress at Civita Castellana. During the Pope's life he was in continual employment, being highly rewarded and esteemed by him.

At Savona Giuliano had the work well advanced when the cardinal returned to Rome on his affairs, leaving several wardens to finish the structure in accordance with Giuliano's plan. The cardinal took the artist with him to Rome, and he went very willingly, for he wished to see his brother Antonio and his works, and he remained there several months. But at that time the cardinal fellin to disgrace with the Pope, and left Rome to escape imprisonment, Giuliano following him. Arrived at Savona, they employed more builders and other workmen, but as the Pope's wrath seemed increasing, the cardinal thought it prudent to withdraw to Avignon, and presented to the king the model of a palace made for him by Giuliano, a very richly decorated work, with spacious apartments capable of accommodating all the court. The king's court was at Lyons when Giuliano presented his model, and the king was so delighted that he rewarded the architect liberally, praising him loudly, and heartily thanking the cardinal, who was at Avignon. Receiving the news that the palace at Savona was nearly finished, the cardinal sent Giuliano there to see the work, and soon after his arrival it was completed. Desiring to return to Florence, which he had not seen for a long time, Giuliano went thither with some of the builders, and, as the King of France had at that time set Pisa free, and war reigned between Florence and Pisa, Giuliano obtained a safe conduct at Lucca, as he mistrusted the Pisan soldiers. Nevertheless, in passing near Altopascio, they were taken prisoners by the Pisans, 9 who paid no attention to the safe conduct, and they were detained six months at Pisa, nor did they return to Florence until they had paid a ransom of 300 ducats. Antonio had heard of this at Rome, and, as he wished to see his brother and his native place again, he obtained licence to leave the city, and on his way back designed the fortress of Montefiascone for Duke Valentino. He reached Florence in 1503, being received joyfully by his friends. Then occurred the death of Alexander VI., and, after a short pontificate of Pius III., the cardinal of S. Pietro ad Vincola was elected Pope as Julius II. This was welcome news to Giuliano, who had long served the cardinal, and he determined to go and kiss his feet. On reaching Rome he was received with great favour, and was at once appointed to direct the constructions before the arrival of Bramante.

Antonio remained at Florence, where Piero Soderini was gonfaloniere, and, as Giuliano was away, he continued the building of Poggio Imperiale, at which all the Pisan prisoners were sent to work in order that it might be finished more quickly. The old fortress being ruined in the troubles of Arezzo, 10 Antonio made the model for a new one, with the consent of Giuliano, who came from Rome for the purpose and returned immediately. This work led to the appointment of Antonio as architect of Florence for all the fortifications.

When Giuliano returned to Rome, the question arose as to whether the divine Michelagnolo Buonarroti should make the tomb of Julius. Giuliano strongly advised the Pope to have it done, adding that, in his opinion, a chapel ought to be built expressly to hold it, and that it ought not to be placed in old S. Pietro, for there was no room, and a chapel would render the work more perfect. After many architects had prepared plans, the matter gradually grew until, instead of a chapel, they began the great structure of the new S. Pietro. In those days Bramante da Castel Durante, the architect, had arrived in Rome, having returned from Lombardy, and he contrived, by means of his extraordinary fancies and by the favour of Baldassare Peruzzi, Raphael of Urbino, and other architects, to throw the whole work into confusion, much time being lost in argument. At length the work was given to Bramante, who knew how to manage things, as possessing the best judgment and finest invention. Giuliano was angered, considering himself slighted by the Pope, whom he had so well served when he was less important, the structure having been promised to him. Though he had been appointed the colleague of Bramante for other buildings being erected in Rome, he left and returned to Florence, laden with many gifts from the Pope. This gave great satisfaction to Piero Soderini, who immediately gave him employment. There six months had passed, M. Bartolommeo della Rovere, the Pope's nephew and Giuliano's friend, wrote to him in the name of His Holiness that it would be to his advantage to return to Rome. But he could not prevail upon Giuliano to come, because he thought himself slighted. At length they wrote to Piero Soderini to use every means to send Giuliano to Rome, because the Pope wished to finish the strengthening of the large round tower begun by Nicholas V. the Borgo, the Belvedere, and other things. Giuliano at length allowed himself to be persuaded, and went to Rome, where the Pope welcomed him and gave him many gifts.

After this the Pope went to Bologna, the Bentivogli were driven out, and, by the advice of Giuliano, Julius determined to get Michelagnolo to make him a bronze statue. This was done, as I shall relate in the Life of Michelagnolo. Giuliano also accompanied the Pope to Mirandola, and, as he had borne many discomforts and labours, he returned to Rome with the Court on its capitulation.

As the Pope's passion to drive the French out of Italy had not entirely left his head, he attempted to deprive Piero Soderini of the government of Florence, as he was no small obstacle in the way of this project. The Pope being in this way diverted from his building to war, Giuliano was left unemployed, and asked for his conge, seeing that the building of S. Pietro alone received any attention, and even that not much. The Pope wrathfully asked him, "Do you think there are no other Giulianos da S. Gallo ?" To which he replied that he would find none with a loyalty and devotion equal to his, but that he would find princes who kept their promises better than the Pope had kept his to him. However, he did not obtain

Raphael of Urbino had meanwhile been brought to Rome by his conge, the Pope saying that he would talk of it at another Bramante, who set him to paint the papal apartments. Giuliano, seeing that the Pope was delighted with pictures, and that he wished to have the vaulting of the chapel of his uncle Sixtus painted, suggested Michelagnolo to him, saying that he had already done the bronze statue at Bologna. The idea pleased the Pope, who sent for Michelagnolo, and on his arrival the vaulting was allotted to him. Soon after Giuliano renewed his application for his conge, and the Pope, seeing him so persistent, agreed that he should return to Florence with his good favour. After giving him his blessing, he handed him a red satin purse containing 500 crowns, saying that he ought to return home to rest, and that he would always be his friend. Giuliano having kissed the holy foot, returned to Florence at the very time that Pisa was surrounded and besieged by the Florentine army. No sooner had he arrived and been welcomed by Piero Soderini than he was sent to the camp to the commissaries, who could not prevent the besieged from revictualling Pisa by the Arno. Giuliano, after designing a bridge of boats to be built at a better season, returned to Florence. When spring came he took Antonio, his brother, and they went to Pisa, where he superintended the construction of this very ingenious bridge. As it rose and fell it was safe against floods, and being well chained together it enabled the commissaries to besiege Pisa on the sea-side of the Arno as they wished, so that the garrison, seeing themselves deprived of succour, were forced to come to terms with the Florentines. Not long after Piero Soderini sent Giuliano to Pisa 11 with a great number of builders to erect with great speed the fortress at the S. Marco gate, which is in the Doric style. While Giuliano was engaged upon this until 1512, Antonio went through all the territory surveying and repairing fortresses and other public structures.

When the Medici were restored in Florence by the favour of Pope Julius, after having been driven out on the coming of Charles VIII., King of France, to Italy, Piero Soderini being turned out of the palace, the services rendered by Giuliano and Antonio to the Medici in the past were recognised by that house. When, not long after the death of Julius II., Giovanni de' Medici, the cardinal, was made Pope, Giuliano was compelled to go to Rome once more, and as Bramante died soon after, it was proposed to entrust the building of S. Pietro to him. But as he was worn out by toil, enfeebled by old age, and suffering from the stone, he obtained permission from His Holiness to return to Florence, and the work was entrusted to Raphael of Urbino.

After suffering for two years, Giuliano died in 1517, aged seventy-four, leaving his name to the world, his body to the earth, and his soul to God. He was lamented by his brother Antonio, who loved him dearly, and by a son called Francesco, who studied sculpture, although of somewhat tender age. This Francesco has reverently preserved all the works of his ancestors, and among his own works in sculpture and architecture is the marble group of the Virgin and Child in the lap of St. Anne in Orsanmichele. This group, made of a single block, the figures in full relief, is considered a fine work. He has also done the tomb of Piero de' Medici, erected by Pope Clement at Monte Cassino, and other works, many of which are not mentioned because he is still alive.

Antonio lingered on after Giuliano's death, and made two large crucifixes of wood, one being sent to Spain and the other taken to France by Domenico Buoninsegni by order of the Cardinal Giulio de'Medici, the vice-chancellor. Then Antonio was sent to Livorno by the Cardinal de' Mediei to make a design for the fortress there. This he did, although the work was not undertaken thoroughly and his plan was not followed. After this the men of Montepulciano proposed to erect a costly temple for an image of the Madonna which worked miracles. 12 Antonio made the model and directed the work, visiting the building twice a year. It may now be seen completed will, its beautiful grouping and variety, executed with the utmost grace by Antonio's genius. All the stones are of a whitish tint like travertine. This work is outside the S. Biagio gate, on the right-hand, half-way up the hill. At this same time he began the palace of Antonio di Monte, cardinal of S. Prassede, in the castle of Monte S. Savino, and did another for the same at Montepulciano, beautifully made and finished. He built a side wing for the houses of the Servite friars on their piazza, 13 following the arrangement of the loggia of the Innocenti. At Arezzo he made the models of the aisles of the Madonna delle Lagrime. But this was badly designed, because it does not match the rest of the structure, and the arches at the top are not properly turned. He also made a model of the Madonna in Cortona, but I do not think that it was carried out. During the siege he was employed to make fortifications and bastions in the city, being assisted by his nephew Francesco. After Michelagnolo's colossal statue for the piazza was put in hand, in the time of Guilliano, Antonio's brother, and another by Baccio Bandinelli was to be taken to its site, Antonio was charged with this. Obtaining the assistance of Baccio d'Agnolo, he brought it with very strong engines and set it safely upon the pedestal appointed for it. 14 In his extreme old age he cared for nothing but agriculture, of which he knew a great deal. When he could no longer support the cares of the world, he rendered his soul to God, in 1534, and was laid to rest with his brother Guiliano in the tomb of the Giamberti in S. Maria Novella.

The marvellous works of these two brothers testify to the world of their wonderful genius, as their life and conduct constitute a good example they left the art of architecture in the Tuscan style inheritor of a better form than before, the Doric order being endowed with better measure and proportion than can be found in the rules and theories of Vitruvius. They collected in their house at Florence a great quantity of beautiful marble antiquities, which adorned the city as they adorned art. Giuliano brought from Rome the method of casting vaulting of materials which came out already carved, as we see in a room in his house and in the vaulting of the great hall at Poggio a Caiano. What a debt, then, do we owe them, for they fortified the Florentine territory and adorned the city, and wherever they worked they increased the reputation of Florence and of the Tuscans, so that these lines have been written in their honour:

Cedite Romani structores, cedite, Graii Artis, Vitruvi, tu quoque cede parens Etruscos celebrare viros testudinis areus', Urna, tholus, statuae, templa, domusque potunt.

  • 1 Castellina was taken in 1478.
  • 2 i.e. S. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi, beguzi in 1492.
  • 3 Rebuilt about 1488.
  • 4 Ferdinand I. died 25 January, 1494.
  • 5 In 1488.
  • 6 Commissioned 1485 and finished 1491.
  • 7 Completed 1500.
  • 8 In 1495.
  • 9 In 1497
  • 10 In 1502.
  • 11 In 1509.
  • 12 S. Biagio, bwldirig 1518-37.
  • 13 At Florence, in 1517.
  • 14 The David in 1504, and Bandinelli's in 1534.

  • Index of Artists