The Renaissance from the Orient, at the Castle of Sammezzano
The beautiful complex of the Castle of Sammezzano has recently been sold on a provisional basis to a company from the United Arab Emirates, who offered 15.4 million euros for it at a newsworthy auction.
‘Todos contra nos. Nos contra todos’ (“Everyone against us. We stand against everyone”): this was the motto of Marquis Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona, who between 1853 and 1889 designed and built the castle in Reggello, in the province of Florence.
Obviously not the obliging kind, the Tuscan aristocrat has attracted in the two centuries since his birth a large number of admirers who praise his eclectic mind, certain of his outstanding intellectual ability. He is described – regardless of his actual education – as a botanist, engineer, and architect. He also was an entrepreneur, a bibliophile, and a politician, serving as representative of the Kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1867.
Certainly, only a great mind could design, fund, and build a castle like this: a colorful phantasmagoria of vaults, niches, and columns inspired by those in the Alhambra (in Granada, Andaluisa) and the Taj Mahal mausoleum in India. The building is the fruit of the very unpopular idea that Renaissance art had deep roots in Oriental culture: the marquis wanted to merge elements from Syrian, Indian, and Moorish architecture into a grandiose structure.