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FAH337H1 (20)

Readings: The Building and Decoration of Orsanmichele Before Verrocchio, Zervas

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Betsy Bennett Purvis

- guild hall - ordered by the florentine government in 1336 to accommodate the economic, civic and religious activities that had developed in its piazza over the course of the previous century. - buildings history: convent> grain market> guild hall - grain constituted the portray staple of their diet. was increasingly unable to produce adequate supplies of it for its growing population - they eventually only allowed one grain market to exist (at orsanmichele) so the sales would be regulated, so that they could watch out for criminal activity. - interior: frescoed image of the Virgin Mary in one of the grain loggias piers. - metaphor of Mary as the virgin earth that brought forth the divine wheat, man;s spiritual food, in the form of Christ, the second Adam. - st. Lawrence too was linked with grain by the Gospel reading for his feast day except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it fie, it bringeth forth much fruit. and was therefore the patron of the Florentine bakers, who brought their flour in piazza Orto San Michele. - the confraternitys popularity (at orsanmichele) began to soar (resulting in more donations) because the Virgin of Orsanmichele began to perform miracles, healing the sick and crippled. the site was soon transformed into a major pilgrimage center. - 1304: large fires deliberately started by a Black Guelf partisan, damaging the grain loggia and much of the neighbouring area north of the Arno. the image of the Virgin was injured, and probably destroyed, by flames and smoke fuelled by the votive wax offerings surrounding her oratory. - - new confraternal painting housed in an new oratory, and religious life in piazza quickly resumed. - by contrast rem airs to the communal grain loggia were made more slowly, the building remaining unstable. the florentine government lacked the funds to rebuild the grain loggia. - need for a new building at this important site that was capable of accommodating the communal stores of wheat, must have presented itself with stark reality during the severe famine of 1328-29, which unleaded the panic, terror and riots in the grain market. - decision to rebuild was finally taken in september 1336 during a brief period of prosperity that saw the production of Andrea Pisanos bronze doors for the baptistry in 1330, the resumption of work on the Canthedral in 1331, the designing of the large vaulted hall of the bargello in 1333, and the founding of Giottos Campanile in 1334. - the government admitted that its present appearance was a discredit to the city and that the continued lack of proper store space for the grain supplies was causing spoilage and financial loss. a buiding was therefore ordered to house the communal granary and offices and residences of the citys grain officials. - - revenues from several grain-related taxes were set aside for this, and a committee was subsequently elected to organize the details of its design with the architect of its choice , Andrea Pisano . - influenced by the northern italian palace known as a broletto, comprising a ground floor loggia and enclosed upper stories that could accommodate commercial and communal activities within a market setting. - work appears to have started in early 1337, and the foundation ceremony was celebrated the following July. - in April 1339 , the silk guild sponsored legislation that extended the functions of the new loggia and made a significant addition to the activities that took place in piazza Orto San Michele. - The loggia had ten external piers, providing a total of thirteen (later expanded to fourteen) usable external pier surfaces, the silk guild proposed that these be decorated with tabernacles containing either panel painting, fresco, or a sculpted figure of the patron saints of the citys official political party, the Parte Guelfa, and of its five major and seven middle guilds, collectively known as the twelve major guilds. - the wording of the new law suggests that the tabernacles were to be constructed as an integral part of the new loggia, and therefore financed by the building funds derived from the communal grain taxes. - each of the thirteen corporate bodies was responsible for the cost of decorating its tabernacle and supplying it with an appropriate image, before which it was to offer wax oblations on the feast day of its patron saint to be donated to the compagnia di orsanmichele to help the citys poor. - the program to garland the new loggia with the patron saints of the Parte Guelfa and the twelve major guide transformed the piazza Orto San Michele into a unique corporate centre, for although these institutions, participated in the annual processions to certain churches where the festivals and communally recognized saints were especially venerated, at Orsanmichele they were singled out, each with an individual feast day to be celebrated at the same prestigious site. through these civic rituals the Parte Guelfa and the twelve major guilds received recognition for the offerings they made to the confraternity responsible for managing the majority of the citys poor relief. - the three guilds in charge of the citys most prestigious communal building projects were the first to comply with the new legislation, carrying out their obligations between 1339 and 1314: the Arte della Lana, responsible for S. Maria del Fiore and its Campanile; the Arte di Calimala, responsible for the Baptistry; and the Arte di Por Santa Maria. - - the Arte Della Lana was given the central pier on the west Facade, opposite its palace, while the Arte di Calimala and Arte di Por Santa Maria were given positions of honour on the east and south faces of the southeast corner pier of the Virgins holy bay. - By 1347 the Arte die Becchai had claimed the northern face of the of the southeast corner pier, to which a panel painting of St. Peter and the guilds flag were brought for this annual celebration. - The arte di Por Santa Maria was probably the earliest to act, commissioning Andrea Pisano to design a tabernacle that could serve as the prototype for those of the other guilds. the same design was used by the Arte della Lana and the Arte die Beccai increases the likelihood that Andrea Pisanos scheme was also employed by the Arte Di Calimala for its tabernacle, which was replaced in the early fifteenth century. such repetition serves to emphasize the uniformity of this first decorative campaign, a reflection not only for corporate aesthetic ideals but also of corporate equality, a decisive feature of Florentine politics during those years. - of these four guilds, only one, the wool guild, appears to have executed a statue for its tabernacle, appointing a committee of four to supervise the commission, and providing 200 florins for the statue and its decoration, which probably included the marble inlay and polychrome inters panels of the niche opening, but not the tabernacle. Its statue was probably the marble St. Stephen attributed to Andrea Pisano and now in the Opera del Duomo; its statue was removed from orsanmichele to the facade of the cathedral upon the installation of a new bronze statue by Ghiberti in 1428. - The silk guild waited until the 1370s before ordering a marble St. John Evangelist , now stored in the Ospedale Degli Innocenti. - the failure to complete the initial program of thirteen identical external tabernacles was probably linked to the increasing scarcity of funds available for the construction of the new grain palace. - - dependent on taxes levied on the sale of grain and flour and on the mandatory rental of communal grain barrels and sacks by the citys grain merchants, these funds declined precipitously as the volume of free trade within the market blunged during the periods of famine and plague that punctuated the troubled decade of the 1340s, providing barely enough to raise the loggia to the level of its vault imposts by 1350 - aside from their obligation to decorate their respective pier faces, the guilds had another important reason for wishing thei
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