Agnolo Bronzino

Agnolo Gaddi

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Andreadi di Bonaiuto

Andrea del Castagno

Andrea del Sarto

Andrea di Bartolo

Andrea Mantegna

Antonello da Messina

Antonio del Pollaiuolo

Bartolo di Fredi

Bartolomeo di Giovanni

Benozzo Gozzoli

Benvenuto di Giovanni

Bernard Berenson

Bernardo Daddi

Bianca Cappello

Bicci di Lorenzo

Bonaventura Berlinghieri

Buonamico Buffalmacco

Byzantine art



Dietisalvi di Speme

Domenico Beccafumi

Domenico di Bartolo

Domenico di Michelino

Domenico veneziano


Duccio di Buoninsegna

Eleonora da Toledo

Federico Zuccari

Filippino Lippi

Filippo Lippi

Fra Angelico

Fra Carnevale

Francesco di Giorgio Martini

Francesco Pesellino

Francesco Rosselli

Francia Bigio

Gentile da Fabriano


Domenico Ghirlandaio


Giorgio Vasari

Giotto di bondone

Giovanni da Modena

Giovanni da San Giovanni

Giovanni di Francesco

Giovanni di Paolo

Giovanni Toscani

Girolamo di Benvenuto

Guidoccio Cozzarelli

Guido da Siena

Il Sodoma

Jacopo del Sellaio

Jacopo Pontormo

Lippo Memmi

Lippo Vanni

Lorenzo Ghiberti

Lorenzo Monaco

Lo Scheggia

Lo Spagna

Luca Signorelli


masolino da panicale

master of monteoliveto

master of saint francis

master of the osservanza

matteo di giovanni

memmo di filippuccio

neroccio di bartolomeo

niccolo di segna

paolo di giovanni fei

paolo ucello


piero della francesca

piero del pollaiolo

piero di cosimo

pietro aldi

pietro lorenzetti



sandro botticelli

sano di pietro


simone martini

spinello aretino

taddeo di bartolo

taddeo gaddi

ugolino di nerio



Domenico Veneziano, Central panel from Santa Lucia de' Magnoli Altarpiece (detail)
Domenico Veneziano, Central panel from Santa Lucia de’ Magnoli Altarpiece (detail), c. 1445, tempera on wood, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Travel guide for Tuscany
Domenico Veneziano (c. 1410 - 1461)

Domenico Veneziano was born about 1410, in Venice, but trained with Gentile da Fabriano in Florence and Rome. After Gentile's death he worked with Pisanello in Rome in the 1430s.

He was a contemporary with Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi, since those two artists and himself are known to have valued the frescoes of Buonfigli at Perugia. He was painting frescoes in Perugia and Florence in the late 1430s. Most of these are now lost and his principal surviving work is the 'Saint Lucy' altarpiece now in the Uffizi, Florence. His work shows a sensitivity to naturalism, and his use of light and colour influenced Piero della Francesca, whom he taught.[1]
One masterpiece is considered to be the St. Lucy Altarpiece (c. 1445-1447), originally in the Santa Lucia dei Magnoli in Florence but has been moved to the Uffizi. The painting, tempera on panel, displays such an unusual palette for this period that Vasari wrote that it had been painted in oil.
Domenico's early training in Venice or perhaps in Padua, close to artists like Giovanni d'Alemagna, left its mark in his attentive observations from nature, readily seen in his earliest works. Of these the first seems to be according to Vasari's account[2] but also on the basis of its style the decoration of the Carnesecchi tabernacle in Florence, which bears his signature (the frescoes, now detached, are in the National Gallery in London).

Domenico Veneziano stayed in Florence around 1432. Here he began to work as an independent artist, painting his first works between 1432 and 1437, the year he moved to Perugia to paint, as Vasari informs us, "a room in the house of the Baglioni family with frescoes that have been destroyed." The first painting Domenico worked on in Florence was the Carnesecchi Tabernacle, today in the National Gallery, London.
The painting shows a dignified and aristocratic Madonna seated on an elegant throne decorated with splendid marble intarsia. The Child is standing on her lap, giving a sign of blessing. Above them, the foreshortened figure of God the Father is dispatching the dove of the Holy Spirit. The elaborate and accurate perspective construction of the throne, to some extent influenced by Paolo Uccello, is also indicative of another aspect of Domenico's style, his interest in the rules of perspective, for his art belongs entirely to the new language of the Renaissance.
The choice of colours in the London painting is extraordinary: the delicate tones are emphasized by the bright and uniform lighting, widely praised by all art historians as one of the most truly original elements in Domenico's work.

The Head of a Tonsured, Beardless Saint as well as Head of a Tonsured, Bearded Saint and The Virgin and Child Enthroned, in the collection of the National Gallery in London, are the surviving parts of a street tabernacle once on the Canto de' Carnesecchi, near the Piazza of Santa Maria Novella in Firenze, painted by Domenico Veneziano in the 15th century. The two heads of saints are fragments from the sides of the tabernacle.

According to the painter and biographer Giorgio Vasari, this was one of Domenico's first works in Florence. Domenico Veneziano's assistant in 1439 was Piero della Francesca.

Shortly after this work, characterized by the bold but not totally successful foreshortening of the throne, is the tondo of the Adoration of the Magi (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin), probably executed for the Medici after the artist's return to Florence, in which solid handling of the perspective is enlivened by minute description of nature in the landscape, recalling probable Flemish prototypes and perhaps also memories of the artist's early training in the Veneto. From the same period is a vigorous portrait of a young man in the museum in Chambéry, usually attributed to Paolo Uccello.

Domenico Veneziano, Madonna and Child, c. 1435, National Gallery, London
In the Madonna and Child in the Biblioteca Berenson near Florence, the forcefully defined figures stand out sharply against the precious damask of the background.

The newly married art historians Bernard and Mary Berenson made their home at the Villa I Tatti near Florence in 1900. In the following years Mary, supervised the rebuilding of the villa and the creation of its elegant gardens. The Berensons pursued their work at I Tatti over a period of nearly six decades, and here they entertained a remarkable circle of friends: art historians ( Kenneth Clark, John Walker, John Pope-Hennessy), writers (Edith Wharton, Alberto Moravia), political thinkers (Walter Lippman, Gaetano Salvermini), musicians (Yehudi Menuhin) and countless other visitors from every part of the world. At I Tatti Bernard Berenson assembled a choice collection of Renaissance art, including works by Giotto, Sassetta, Domenico Veneziano, and Lorenzo Lotto. He also formed a prodigious art historical research library and photograph collection. When he died in 1959, he bequeathed the house, its contents, and the gardens to Harvard University as a Center for Renaissance Studies.[3]

The Madonna and Child in the Berenson Collection is also similarly related to Florentine painting of the 1430s. For this reason it is normally dated at around the same period as the Carnesecchi Tabernacle. The gentle image of the Virgin is placed against a reddish brocade backdrop, creating a very elegant and courtly mood; she offers a flower to the plump little Child. Here, too, the lighting contributes peaceful intimacy to the scene.

Domenico Veneziano, Madonna and Child, 1435-37, Berenson Collection, Florence

In his large tondo Adoration of the Magi there is a sumptuous display of ornament, and the figures clothed in fanciful garments are placed in a deeply receding and realistic landscape.
Domenico Veneziano most certainly knew the paintings of his predecessors. The landscape in his Adoration of the Magi dating in 1438-1439 is similar to Gentile da Fabriano’s landscape as painted by Masaccio. The position of the holy family, the first king and the suit is similar to those in Masaccio, it is actually their mirror projection. The painting as a whole also reminds us of the mirror because of its shape which is – also a novelty – round.

The same painting shape was also used by Sandro Botticelli in one of his early variations of the same motif, in the so called London's Adoration of the Magi which is time vise (1470-1475) much older than Domenico Veneziano’s.

The man with a falcon among magi is supposed to be Piero de’ Medici. Falcon was his personal emblem. Peacock was a personal emblem of Giovanni di Cosimo de’ Medici.
In a letter from Domenico Veneziano to Piero de' Medici, dated from Perugia in 1438, where he likewise resided for many years, he mentions his long connection with the fortunes of the Medici family, and begs to be allowed to paint an altar-piece for the head of that house. Between 1439 and 1441 he painted his masterpiece of the Adoration of the Magi.

Adoration of the Magi, about 1440, Berlin, Staatlische Museen, Gemaldegalerie

During the middle decades of the fifteenth century, the bust-length profile portrait enjoyed a remarkable popularity among the patrician classes of the Florentine republic. The Florentines used such stern and schematic self images to project a sense of their social status and civic responsibility and to convey to posterity an eternal vision of republican and family virtues. A rare, early example of this Florentine profile type is the Chrysler Museum portrait of 1440-55.

The Latin inscription on the ledge at bottom identifies the sitter as "Michele Olivieri, Matteo's son," who was a member of a prominent Florentine merchant family. Though neither Michele Olivieri nor his father Matteo appears to have held high office in the Florentine government, Michele's grandfather, Ser Giovanni, served as prior in the city in 1349. The sitter's ceremonial attire — he wears a white, pleated doublet with fur collar, a rose-colored cape and a loosely tied, salmon-red turban — confirms his lofty social standing and helps to date the painting to the years after 1440.

The pendant profile portrait of Matteo Olivieri is today in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Rediscovered by scholars in the early 1930s, the Oliveri pendants have been compared to three other, comparably designed Florentine male portraits (Musee des Beaux-Arts, Chambery; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston; and another in the National Gallery of Art). The pendants were attributed early to Paolo Uccello (1397-1475), but more recent writers have placed them within the sphere of Domenico Veneziano. Some Florentine profile portraits were posthumous productoins, idealized evocations of departed family members.

The Olivieri pendants served a similarly commemorative function. At the time these portraits were made, Michele was roughly sixty-five years old and Matteo already dead, yet both are portrayed as young men. The paintings were intended, then, as timeless "memory images" of father and son, which may have taken their place in the Olivieri's own portrait gallery of illustrious family members.


Domenico Veneziano (attributed to), Portrait of Michele Olivieri, c. 1440-55, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia
The portrait of Matteo Olivieri is among the first from the Renaissance. During the late Middle Ages, depictions of individual donors had often been included in religious paintings, but it was not until the early fifteenth century that independent portraits were commissioned. The earliest ones are, like these, simple — even austere — profile views. Very likely, they were influenced by portrait busts and the profile heads on ancient gems and coins, which were avidly collected by Renaissance humanists. The popularity of the independent portrait was spurred by a new focus on the individual and an appreciation of individual accomplishments—a new conception of fame.

Probably, the portrait is of Matteo Olivieri — his name appears on the ledge — and was originally paired with one of his son Michele, who may have commissioned both works. Though painted long after Matteo had died (he left a will in 1365), the portrait depicts a young man, as did the portrait of his son, who must have been at least sixty-five when the works were painted. Most portraits were probably commissioned as commemorations of the deceased by families who wished to remember them in the prime of life. As Renaissance art theorist Alberti noted, a portrait "like friendship can make an absent man seem present and a dead one seem alive."[°]

In a subsequent phase the painter reveals his interest not only in the artistic language of Filippo Lippi but also in the sculptures of Donatello and Luca della Robbia. The sculptural qualities of the figures, as well as an increasing attention to ideals of classical beauty, characterize the Madonna of the Rose Bower in the Muzeul de Arta in Bucharest, sometimes assigned to the artist's earliest activity in Florence, but more likely executed during his second stay in Florence. The frescoes painted between 1439 and 1445 in the Florentine church of Sant Egidio are now lost; praised by Vasari as the most splendid undertaking in painting in Florence after the Brancacci chapel, the cycle was begun by Domenico and the young Piero della Francesca, who was then his workshop assistant, continued by Andrea del Castagno, and completed by Alesso Baldovinetti in 1461.


Matteo Olivieri (?), 1430, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Santa Lucia de’ Magnoli Altarpiece


Domenico Veneziano, Central panel from Santa Lucia de' Magnoli Altarpiece (detail)
Domenico Veneziano, The Madonna and Child with Saints, central panel from Santa Lucia de’ Magnoli Altarpiece, c. 1445, tempera on wood, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Probably in the second half of the 1440s Domenico painted his masterpiece, the altarpiece for the church of Santa Lucia dei Magnoli, which represents, within a complex architectural setting, the Madonna and Child with four saints (now in the Galleria degli Uffizi) and related stories in the predella, dispersed among various museums. Probably very soon after this piece, a seminal work in the development of Florentine painting after mid-century and particularly important for artists such as Giovanni di Francesco, Alesso Baldovinetti, and the Master of Pratovecchio, Domenico painted the Madonna and Child in the National Gallery of Art in Washington and some other works which are documented but do not survive: two marriage chests done in Florence between 1447 and 1448 for Marco Parenti, and a standard, painted for the Compagnia di Sant Antonio Abate in Arezzo in 1450.

The work, signed and dated about 1445, comes from the Florentine church of Santa Lucia dei Magnoli and shows the Madonna enthroned with Child among the saints (left to right) Francis, John the Baptist (whose face is the self-portrait of the painter), Zenobius and Lucy. The sacra conversazione is placed in a completely Renaissance architectural setting, where the perspective study get perfection with the foreshortening of the floor. The natural light and the absence of gold on the backgrond of the picture, make this altarpiece one of the first achievements of the new Renaissance art.

The traditional tricusped frame of Gothic triptychs is transformed in the Magnoli Altarpiece into an elegant loggia decorated with lovely marble intarsia. Sheltered by this construction stands the throne, with the Madonna and Child and four saints. Each one of these characters has his own physical and moral individuality, conveyed not only by the very sculptural relief with which the beautiful faces are drawn, but also by the precise position they hold within the space so clearly defined by the architectural structure.

If we compare this painting with the Berlin Adoration of the Magi, painted about five years earlier, we can see how Domenico's palette has changed: the dark and bright colours in the Berlin tondo, a legacy from Gentile and Pisanello, have been replaced by lighter colours and more delicate hues. But what really stands out in the Uffizi altarpiece is the presence of this pale and delicate light coming from a natural source, like an open window with a ray of warm sunlight streaming in, lighting up the peaceful composition and creating a shadow against the background, as evidence of its existence. This particular idea of lighting is Domenico's greatest debt to the art of Fra Angelico, and also one of his most extraordinary and original achievements.

The strong realism of St Francis and St John the Baptist - especially the tortured image of St John - has been attributed to the influence of Castagno, but should be seen merely as a more general sign of Domenico being an artist of his times, an era dominated by the splendid sculpture of Ghiberti and Donatello. The images emphatically affirm the monumental qualities of the painter's style. St John the Baptist is extremely muscular, with powerful limbs and thick extremities; he looks out of the oainted space at the spectator, who is, in turn, drawn by John's gesture toward the enthroned Madonna. Mary and the Child turn back toward John, who is presented in full face.

Saint Lucy is shown in sharp and magnificent profile on the extreme right, while Zenobius turns easily in three-quarter view, balancing John in importance, for both are patron saints of Florence. Veneziano does not forget the late Gothic element which reappears, for instance, in the precise description of all details of the brocade of St Zenobius's elegant cope.

The Magnoli Altarpiece had five predella panels which are now in the museums of Washington, Cambridge and Berlin. They were probably originally arranged in the same order as the saints appear in the main panel, that is: The Stigmatization of St Francis, St John in the Wilderness (both in the National Gallery, Washington), Annunciation, St Zenobius Performs a Miracle (in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) and the Martyrdom of St Lucy (in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin).


The Madonna and Child with Saints
, central panel from Santa Lucia de’ Magnoli Altarpiece, c. 1445, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The detail shows St Francis and St John the Baptist.

The detail shows St Zenobius and St Lucy

Domenico Veneziano, Annunciation (predella panel from Santa Lucia de’ Magnoli Altarpiece), c. 1445, tempera on wood, 27 x 54 cm, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Saint John the Baptist in the Desert and Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata are from one of Domenico's major works, a large altarpiece in the church of Santa Lucia de' Magnoli in Florence, the Santa Lucia de’ Magnoli Altarpiece. They formed part of its predella, the lower tier of small scenes that typically illustrated events in the lives of the saints who appeared in the larger central altar panel above.
Domenico's John the Baptist is unusual. Earlier artists had shown him as an older, bearded man with matted hair and clad in animal skins. Here, though, we see a youthful John at the very moment he is casting off the fine clothes of worldly life for a spiritual existence. His graceful figure, nude and modeled like an ancient statue, is one of the first embodiments of the Renaissance preoccupation with the art of ancient Greece and Rome. The figure is convincingly three-dimensional because the tones Domenico used for his flesh are graduated, one color blending continuously into the next. The landscape around the saint, however, belongs to an earlier tradition. Its sharp, stylized forms increase our appreciation for the desolation John is about to embrace in the stony wilderness; they dramatize his decision and give his action greater significance.

Fra Carnevale, like Piero della Francesca, was deeply influenced by the light-washed colors of Veneziano's paintings.


The Stigmatization of St Francis (predella 1),
National Gallery of Art, Washington


A Miracle of Saint Zenobius

Domenico Veneziano (ca. 1410–1461)
Tempera on wood
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge


Martyrdom of St Lucy (predella 5)
c. 1445
Tempera on wood, 25 x 29 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Saint John the Baptist in the Desert,
The National Gallery of Art, Washington
A Miracle of Saint Zenobius, set in Florence in the Borgo degli Albizzi, shows Saint Zenobius resuscitating a dead youth whose grieving mother had discovered his body when she returned from a pilgrimage. Like Saint John the Baptist in the Desert (cat. no. 22a), this picture formed part of the Saint Lucy Altarpiece. Its high-pitched drama offers a contrast to that scene. Veneziano exploited the possibilities offered him by the five predella scenes to demonstrate his mastery of the rich language of Renaissance painting. Note the way the figural action is staged in the foreground and the way the perspective focuses attention on the screaming face of the mother. The empty street punctuated by the eaves of the palaces helps create a mood of urgency. Only Donatello used perspective in a comparably emotive way.
The Annunciation is the most successful of Domenico's experiments in rendering outdoor light: the pale morning light fills and defines the space of the courtyard, and the cool light on the broad plane of white wall heightens the sense of moment and loneliness in the two figures.

Domenico Veneziano, St John the Baptist and St Francis
Domenico Veneziano, St John the Baptist and St Francis (detail) , 1454, detached fresco, 190 x 115 cm, Museo dell'Opera di Santa Croce, Florence
The evolution of Domenico Veneziano's style after the Magnoli Altarpiece is evident in the Santa Croce fresco, Saints John the Baptist and Francis, the artist's last known painting. Originally in the Cavalcanti Chapel, next to the choir in the church of Santa Croce, the fresco was removed from the wall in 1566, when the choir was torn down as part of the modernization project directed by Vasari. In 1954, for the exhibition called Four Masters of the Early Renaissance, the two saints were detached once again and placed in the museum of Santa Croce, where they still are today.

The two full-length figures are shown under a trompe l'oeil barrel vault; they are very similar, both in form and in the pale colour tones, to the figures of John and Francis in the Magnoli Altarpiece, except that they are much more solidly modelled and the drawing is stronger, elements that most art historians attribute to the influence of Castagno's painting. And Vasari had actually attributed the fresco to Andrea. This change in Domenico's later works can probably be interpreted as an attempt to incorporate all the more recent developments in Florentine painting, which was at the time moving towards the linearism of Filippo Lippi and Andrea del Castagno. The Santa Croce saints are therefore to be seen as an example of how the artist succeeded in interpreting the influence of contemporary art, further evidence of the consistency of his stylistic development.

St John the Baptist and St Francis, 1454, Museo dell'Opera di Santa Croce, Florence

Domenico Veneziano | National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
[°] The Early Renaissance in Florence | National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
"To distinguish clearly, after the lapse of nearly five centuries, between Uccello and Castagno, and to determine the precise share each had in the formation of the Florentine school, is already a task fraught with difficulties. The scantiness of his remaining works makes it more than difficult, makes it almost impossible, 42 to come to accurate conclusions regarding the character and influence of their somewhat younger contemporary, Domenico Veneziano. That he was an innovator in technique, in affairs of vehicle and medium, we know from Vasari; but as such innovations, indispensable though they may become to painting as a craft, are in themselves questions of theoretic and applied chemistry, and not of art, they do not here concern us. His artistic achievements seem to have consisted in giving to the figure movement and expression, and to the face individuality. In his existing works we find no trace of sacrifice made to dexterity and naturalism, although it is clear that he must have been master of whatever science and whatever craft were prevalent in his day. Otherwise he would not have been able to render a figure like the St. Francis in his Uffizi altar-piece, where tactile values and movement expressive of character—what we usually call individual gait—were perhaps for the first time combined; or to attain to such triumphs as his St. John and St. Francis, at Santa Croce, whose entire figures express as much fervour as their eloquent 43 faces. As to his sense for the significant in the individual, in other words, his power as a portrait-painter, we have in the Pitti one or two heads to witness, perhaps, the first great achievements in this kind of the Renaissance."
Bernard Berenson, The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. With An Index To Their Works, p.42

Art in Tuscany | Giorgio Vasari | Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects | Domenico Veneziano

[1] The earliest certain document concerning Domenico is a letter written by the painter from Perugia on 1 April 1438, addressed to the twenty-two-year-old Piero de' Medici. Its contents, in which the artist, at the time busy painting frescoes in the Umbrian city, offers his services to the son of Cosimo the Elder, indicate clearly that he was on familiar terms not only with that illustrious family (whom he could have met during the Medici's exile in Venice between 1433 and 1434), but also with the Florentine art world. This circumstance, as well as the confidence in the use of Brunelleschian perspective and the reflections of Donatello's art evident in Domenico's earliest known works, suggest that he probably arrived in Florence a few years before 1438 and completed his artistic training there.
[2] There seems to be no real justification in trying to find elements derived from Gentile da Fabriano in his painting, as has been supposed in the past. Instead of following this great master of late Gothic painting to Florence (where Gentile was active between 1420 and 1425), Domenico could instead have come to Tuscany with Filippo Lippi when the latter returned to Florence around 1435 after a stay in Venice. Although his narrative contains some episodes based on pure fantasy, Vasari's dual biography of Domenico Veneziano and Andrea del Castagno (Vasari, ed. Milanesi, 2 [1878]: 667-682) remains fundamental for the reconstruction of both artists' activity.
[3] Art historian, critic, and, as he preferred, connoisseur, Berenson was a Lithuanian Jew who established an impressive reputation as an authority on Italian Renaissance painting. "The Drawings of the Florentine Painters" and "The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance" are among his better known works.
A widow with two children and also a writer, Mary was a Philadelphia Quaker who addressed her husband archaically. Reporting to him on their home's refurbishment, she wrote, "So thee sees the main things (except the electricity) are done." When construction went awry: "Thee wd. rage at the way the red fire-place is put up."
For Berenson, she was sometimes a catalyst, often a goad who collaborated with him on his written work, and patiently assisted in endlessly revising his lists of Italian paintings. They shared a penchant for extravagance, acquisition, and a tendency to overlook each other's infidelities.
In A Legacy Of Excellence William Weaver has rendered a graceful drawing of privileged turn-of-the-century life. His perspective is the Villa I Tatti in the vineyard strewn hills between Florence and Fiesole. Once the Berenson's home, it is now the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. Recent color pictures as well as archival photographs enhance this well documented history, while exquisite reproductions of Berenson's art collection add to its luster. When first leased by the Berensons, I Tatti was modest compared to its imposing villa neighbors. Previous tenants eschewed modern conveniences; there was only one bath, no electricity or telephone. Mary engaged 40 workmen to begin rudimentary improvements, hoping to provide Bernard with a salubrious atmosphere in which to study and collect. Apparently she succeeded. He amassed photographs and books - his Fototeca eventually held 300,000 items, his library 50,000 volumes. Works by Giotto, Sasseta, and Lorenzo Lotto were included in his art collection.
With an income derived largely from commissions on art sales, Berenson was employed by the English art dealer Lord Duveen to give his seal of approval to the Renaissance paintings Duveen sold to monied Americans, notably Frick, Kress, and Mellon.
Weaver, a thorough author as evidenced in Marino Marini, overlooks a significant aspect of Berenson's connoisseurship: the substantial sums he earned in the picture trade later brought Berenson's impartiality into question, resulting in the downgrading of many of his attributions.
Nonetheless, when the villa's 20th century owner, a wealthy English eccentric, died childless, the cash strapped Berensons obtained a loan to purchase the estate only through the intervention of an American friend.
Once they owned the villa, Mary engaged architects to plan further refurbishing, as well as the building of magnificent formal gardens. In years to come I Tatti would be visited by Edith Wharton, Walter Lippman, Yehudi Menuhin, Adlai Stevenson, Gertrude Stein, who, as Mary put it, swam in a nearby artificial lake "clothed only in her own fat," plus a host of that era's literati and glitterati.

Often separated during World War I, Mary stayed at the villa while Bernard worked and romanced in Paris, where he had become friends with Matisse, Gide and Proust.
Postwar unrest in Italy presaged the rise of fascism, which Bernard vehemently and vocally opposed. His stance caused him to be considered untrustworthy by many Italian intellectuals and some influential Americans. Expulsion from Italy seemed probable, but it did not occur.
In late summer of 1944 war again reached Florence. Bernard wrote in his diary, "Our hillside happens to lie between the principal line of German retreat along the Via Bolognese and a side road...We are at the heart of the German rearguard action, and seriously exposed." Miraculously the villa was unharmed by its German occupants.
While Mary wanted the villa and its 75 acres left to her children, Bernard was adamant that their beneficiary be his alma mater, Harvard University. Although Mary persistently derided his dream of "a lay monastery of leisurely culture" as "a wayside inn for loafing scholars," he bequeathed the villa and grounds, his library, and works of art to Harvard.
Initially, the University was somewhat daunted by his demanding bequest. Native Florentines viewed their new neighbors unenthusiastically, dismissing them as more "anglo-beceri" (becero literally meaning boor), as earlier Tuscan based English and American cliques were known. That was to change with the disastrous flooding of 1966.
Members of the national and international art communities selflessly responded when an irreplaceable portion of the world's art history was jeopardized. I Tatti became a focal point of that aid. Art experts performed herculean salvaging tasks - delicate glass negatives from the Uffizi's Gabinetto Fotografico had to be rescued from the muck. It took over a week for the 30,000 slides to be bathed then laid out to dry.
An air-lift of enormous drying-machines organized by Harvard's Renaissance art historian saved countless books and documents from the Biblioteca Nazionale. I Tatti housed as many art experts as possible; others were guests only long enough for a hot bath.
The Center's dedication to minimizing the flood's devastation altered its image in the minds of many Florentines who had previously viewed it with a shrug. Strangers became colleagues and friends. Today, fifteen students are nominated annually to study at I Tatti, while according to a stipulation in Bernard's will, the library is open free of charge "for all students of Italy and other countries." Scholars from dissimilar backgrounds walk together along impeccably raked gravel paths, where they "speak the same language; the language of the Italian Renaissance." Bernard Berenson's dream came true.

Bernard Berenson; Clarendon Press, 1932. Subjects: Painters--Italy, Painting, Renaissance ...between Fra Angelico and Domenico Veneziano .

William Weaver , A Legacy of Excellence: The Story of Villa I Tatti, ABRAMS, March 1997.

Villa I Tatti | The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies |

Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies
Via di Vincigliata 26
50135 Florence, Italy

Art in Tuscany | Bernard Berenson

Holiday accomodation in Tuscany | Podere Santa Pia | Artist and writer's residency



Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia, garden view, December

Siena, duomo

Hidden away from mass-tourism, discover a piece of Italy which remains largely unchanged both nature and lifestyle-wise. The peacefulness of the countryside, the various unique villages and the friendly atmosphere will no doubt pleasantly surprise you.Podere Santa Pia is located in the heart of Tuscany, nestled in the Maremma hills, just below the Monte Amiata mountain range. It is a hallowed destination like no other, combining the beauty and history of Tuscany in a tranquil setting. Nestled on a rural hillside in the province of Siena in central Tuscany, Podere Siena is old farming cloister, located along the historic Via Francigena, the medieval pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome. The Via Francigena was first mentioned in the 3rd century and is Europe's oldest route of pilgrimage. After leaving England, it winds for roughly 600 miles through Arras, Rheims and Lausanne before reaching Tuscany and some of Italy's most beautiful landscapes.
Hospitals, abbeys and churches were built for pilgrims to stop along the way, as well as bridges to ease trade between Italy and northern Europe.
Those interested in exploring the Tuscan part of this ancient road should start south of Siena, along the Via Cassia and into the Val d’Arbia towards Isola d’Arbia. Just outside town is the church of Sant’Ilario, which was a popular stopping point for pilgrims on their way to Rome. After about 10 kilometres there is Buonconvento, a small hamlet that was once a strategic outpost of the lands governed by the Republic of Siena.

Of the many lodgings that existed for pilgrims, some still survive today as agriturismi, or farmhouse residences. Towards Montalcino, the Abbey of Sant’Antimo is definitely worth a stop, before arriving at the Medieval town of San Quirico d’Orcia. The renowned thermal baths at Bagno Vignoni are not far from here.

After Bagno Vignoni the road continues towards the fortresses of Castiglion d’Orcia (Rocca Aldobrandesca) and Rocca d’Orcia, with its magnificent Rocca a Tentennano. Still further south stands Monte Amiata, with its chestnut forests. The most important town on Monte Amiata is Abbadia San Salvatore, where there is also the Abbey of San Salvatore. The Via Francigena leaves the region of Tuscany here and continues towards Rome, often including sections of the Via Cassia.

Another itinerary along the Via Francigena runs through Val d’Elsa, an area of Tuscany that is particularly rich in castles and ancient churches. Starting at Siena, take the Via Cassia towards Monteriggioni into the Pian del Lago, where there is the imposing Castello della Chiocciola castle.

San Quirico d'Orcia
Bagno Vignoni


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