Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas 2023 in Florence: Discovering a Mannerist Masterwork

A sculpture attributed to Tribolo in the loggiato of Borgo degli Albizi 15

 Well, the old doorman at Borgo degli Albizi, Alberico, would place illumination in the shape of a shooting star every Christmas on this sculpture in the covered courtyard of a Renaissance building where my office is located.  He identified the author of the work as no less than Michelangelo.

I always took that attribution with a grain of salt; however, a visit by art historian Jonathan Nelson earlier this year solved the mystery.  "There's a Tribolo near the entrance," he stated authoritatively.
The name sounded familiar: indeed Tribolo (aka Niccolò di Raffaello, 1500-1550) was a Florentine artist, sculptor and architect, most famous for the initial design of the Boboli Gardens and for his layout of the Medici Villa di Castello, with its terraces, fountains and grottoes.  He was also an assistant to Renaissance artist Andrea Sansovino (1467 - 1529), the name that Andrea Contucci was known by since he came from the Tuscan village of Monte San Savino.  Funnily enough, that was also Alberico's home town before coming to Florence

What was Tribolo's connection, if any, to Michelangelo?

A court artist of Grand Duke Cosimo de' Medici, he was sent by his employer to Rome to try to persuade the Renaissance genius to return to Florence and finish his work on the Laurentian Library, to no avail.  The commission was completed by Tribolo himself, together with Vasari and Ammannati, based on Michelangelo's project sketches.

Some of Tribolo's drawings were to be erroneously identified as being by Michelangelo by art historians in the 17th and 18th centuries, a sure sign of his influence.

So Alberico wasn't so far off.  After Dr. Nelson shed light on the centuries-old mystery, the current person at the door, Rosie, finally took up his old tradition of illuminating the sculpture, this time at its base.

Buon Natale!

reporting live from Beautiful Florence

                                                                 -- Rosanna