The present facade, although attractive as a mass of light, is not really good. Its patterns are trivial, its paintings and statues commonplace; and I personally have the feeling that it would have been more fitting had Giotto’s marble been supplied rather with a contrast than an imitation. As it is, it is not till Giotto’s tower soars above the facade that one can rightly (from the front) appreciate its roseate delicacy, so strong is this rival.
The Duomo II: Its Associations
Dante’s picture—Sir John Hawkwood—Ancestor and Descendant—The Pazzi Conspiracy—Squeamish Montesecco—Giuliano de’ Medici dies—Lorenzo’s escape—Vengeance on the Pazzi—Botticelli’s cartoon—High Mass—Luca della Robbia—Michelangelo nearing the end—The Miracles of Zenobius—East and West meet in splendour—Marsilio Ficino and the New Learning—Beautiful glass.
Of the four men most concerned in the structure of the Duomo I have already spoken. There are other men held in memory there, and certain paintings and statues, of which I wish to speak now.
The picture of Dante in the left aisle was painted by command of the Republic in 1465, one hundred and sixty-three years after his banishment from the city. Lectures on Dante were frequently delivered in the churches of Florence during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and it was interesting for those attending them to have a portrait on the wall. This picture was painted by Domenico di Michelino, the portrait of Dante being prepared for him by Alessio Baldovinetti, who probably took it from Giotto’s fresco in the chapel of the Podesta at the Bargello. In this picture Dante stands between the Inferno and a concentrated Florence in which portions of the Duomo, the Signoria, the Badia, the Bargello, and Or San Michele are visible. Behind him is Paradise. In his hand is the “Divine Comedy”. I say no more of the poet here, because a large part of the chapter on the Badia is given to him.
Near the Dante picture in the left aisle are two Donatellos—the massive S. John the Evangelist, seated, who might have given ideas to Michelangelo for his Moses a century and more later; and, nearer the door, between the tablets to De Fabris and Squarciaparello, the so-called Poggio Bracciolini, a witty Italian statesman and Humanist and friend of the Medici, who, however, since he was much younger than this figure at the time of its exhibition, and is not known to have visited Florence till later, probably did not sit for it. But it is a powerful and very natural work, although its author never intended it to stand on any floor, even of so dim a cathedral as this. The S. John, I may say, was brought from the old facade—not Arnolfo’s, but the committee’s facade—where it had a niche about ten feet from the ground. The Poggio was also on this facade, but higher. It was Poggio’s son, Jacopo, who took part in the Pazzi Conspiracy, of which we are about to read, and was very properly hanged for it.