The elegance of Ammanati’s Grand Hall Fountain

Bartolomeo Ammannati, Fontana di Sala Grande, Firenze, Museo del Bargello – Fountain of the Grand Hall, Florence

Fountain of the Grand Hall. From the left: Temperance, Arno, Ceres, Castalia, Flora; above, Juno

Florentine sculptor and architect Bartolomeo Ammannati (1511-1592) started creating the Grand Hall Fountain in 1555 for Cosimo I de’ Medici, Duke of Florence and Grand Duke of Tuscany. He conceived it as an allegory of “Florentia”, highlighting Cosimo’s good government.

The Grand Duke hoped to enrich the Hall of the Five Hundred in Palazzo Vecchio with a majestic monument in celebration of the first great aqueduct in Florence being built – an important and innovative infrastructure that reinforced Cosimo’s public image as a prince that cared about the needs of his citizens and the beauty of his city.

The fountain had a “noble social function” in the eye of the Florentine prince, as art historian Giulio Carlo Argan has explained. And Ammannati “interpreted the historical situation in which Italy’s courts were in the second half of the century, and the Medici court in particular.”

According to Argan, it was “a regression: devoid of any real political power, these courts became artificial bodies in which conservatism, religious conformism and the defense of privileges merged with exterior modernity and false freedom in license. Morals came down to nothing but customs, social behavior, etiquette and social convention.”

“Ammannati deeply felt this crisis in values,” Argan explains. “So he transformed the natural ideal of beauty into the social ideal of elegance” (translated from “Storia dell’arte italiana”, Sansoni, Florence 1968).

The fountain he created symbolizes the “Creation of water” with figures representing six divinities: the Arno, Ceres, Juno, Flora, Castalia and Prudence. It never made it to Palazzo Vecchio: instead, it first decorated the Boboli and Pratolino Gardens, and later was taken apart and brought to the National Museum of Bargello, where in 2011 it was put back together in its magnificent, mannerist elegance.

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December 14, 2016

The elegance of Ammanati’s Grand Hall Fountain

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