A reverie of stone and colors, in the Buontalenti Grotto

Grotta del Buontalenti, Giardino di Boboli, Firenze - Buontalenti Grotto, Boboli Gardens, Florence

Entrance to the Bruontalenti Grotto

When he was only a child, Bernardo Buontalenti (1531-1608) miraculously survived the collapse of his home in Florence. The architect, painter, sculptor and set designer who would go on to create the magnificent Grotto named after him in the Boboli Gardens, “One day, still a young boy, saw the home where he lived in with his parents crumble around him. But the heavens loved him so much that the ruins covered him without harm, and left a slit through which he could find nourishment” (translated from C. Guasti, “Belle arti”, Sansoni, Florence 1874).

Perhaps Buontalenti’s experience seeps through his work, because visiting the first of the three rooms that make up the Grotto – decorated with frescoes by Bernardino Poccetti – might give you a feeling of impending collapse. One book, published at the time when the splendid mannerist structure was built (between 1583 and 1593), stated “It is an admirable thing to contemplate the kind and bizarre fantasies Bernardino Poccetti painted in this cave by order of the Grand Duke Francesco […] He shows the ceiling as if about to ruin. Different animals come out through the cracks and tears: snakes, birds, satyrs – and many plants look so real and so natural that in truth they are both pleasant and terrifying, because it really seems like the building is about to crumble to the ground” (translated from “Le bellezze della città di Fiorenza”, Florence 1591).

The Buontalenti Grotto – originally designed by Giorgio Vasari – is one of Italy’s most beautiful “fantastic caves”: a type of mannerist architectures that represented natural cavities with a creative twist, using limestone agglutinations and water games.

The Grotto is also home to various sculptures, including the four “Prisons” by Michelangelo (currently replaced by copies, with the originals being kept at the Galleria dell’Accademia), “Paris and Helen” by Vincenzo de’ Rossi and the “Fountain of Venus” by Giambologna.

Photos via: ©Massimo, ©tyle_r, ©Antonio Acuña, ©it.pinterest.com, ©HEN-Magonza, ©www.sk8nbike.com

December 6, 2016

A reverie of stone and colors, in the Buontalenti Grotto