And now we will return to the heart of Florence once more.
The Badia and Dante
Filippino Lippi—Buffalmacco—Mino da Fiesole—The Dante quarter—Dante and Beatrice—Monna Tessa—Gemma Donati—Dante in exile—Dante memorials in Florence—The Torre della Castagna—The Borgo degli Albizzi and the old palaces—S. Ambrogio—Mino’s tabernacle—Wayside masterpieces—S. Egidio.
Opposite the Bargello is a church with a very beautiful doorway designed by Benedetto da Rovezzano. This church is known as the Badia, and its delicate spire is a joy in the landscape from every point of vantage. The Badia is very ancient, but the restorers have been busy and little of Arnolfo’s thirteenth-century work is left. It is chiefly famous now for its Filippino Lippi and two tombs by Mino da Fiesole, but historically it is interesting as being the burial-place of the chief Florentine families in the Middle Ages and as being the scene of Boccaccio’s lectures on Dante in 1373. The Filippino altar-piece, which represents S. Bernard’s Vision of the Virgin (a subject we shall see treated very beautifully by Fra Bartolommeo at the Accademia) is one of the most perfect and charming pictures by this artist: very grave and real and sweet, and the saint’s hands exquisitely painted. The figure praying in the right-hand corner is the patron, Piero di Francesco del Pugliese, who commissioned this picture for the church of La Campora, outside the Porta Romana, where it was honoured until 1529, when Clement VII’s troops advancing, it was brought here for safety and has here remained.
Close by—in the same chapel—is a little door which the sacristan will open, disclosing a portion of Arnolfo’s building with perishing frescoes which are attributed to Buffalmacco, an artist as to whose reality much scepticism prevails. They are not in themselves of much interest, although the sacristan’s eagerness should not be discouraged; but Buffalmacco being Boccaccio’s, Sacchetti’s, Vasari’s (and, later, Anatole France’s) amusing hero, it is pleasant to look at his work and think of his freakishness. Buffalmacco (if he ever existed) was one of the earlier painters, flourishing between 1311 and 1350, and was a pupil of Andrea Tafi. This simple man he plagued very divertingly, once frightening him clean out of his house by fixing little lighted candles to the backs of beetles and steering them into Tafi’s bedroom at night. Tafi was terrified, but on being told by Buffalmacco (who was a lazy rascal) that these devils were merely showing their objection to early rising, he became calm again, and agreed to lie in bed to a reasonable hour. Cupidity, however, conquering, he again ordered his pupil to be up betimes, when the beetles again re-appeared and continued to do so until the order was revoked.