From the Fleur de Lys to the David - The Supremacy of Florence: Civic Identity and Classical Symbols

From the Fleur de Lys to the David - The Supremacy of Florence: Civic Identity and Classical Symbols

In this atypical exhibition the Academy of Fine Arts, seat of Michelangelo's David the most widely known symbol of Florentine civic identity, displays also the less known ones: works of art originally commissioned to decorate the public buildings

In this atypical exhibition the Academy of Fine Arts, seat of Michelangelo's David the most widely known symbol of Florentine civic identity, displays also the less known ones: works of art originally commissioned to decorate the public buildings of Florence which housed the powers running the city: the halls of the various ‘Arti’ or Guilds, Palazzo Vecchio - once Plazzo dei Priori - and the city gates and walls.

This exhibition offers visitors a new key to understanding the work of art themselves, by underscoring the importance of images in the propaganda and communicating strategy of the political and economic groups which ruled the city in the era of the Commune before the rise of the Medici Family changed the city for good from both a political and an aesthetic stand-point.

The dividing line between sacred and secular is often hard to be detected. For instance in the Palazzo dei Priori, one was just as likely to encounter depictions of the mythological hero Hercules - on the city’s official seal - as one of the biblical king David.

A selection of rare Renaissance drawings and a fresco showing the Expulsion of the Duke of Athens, from the former Stinche prison, but now in Palazzo Vecchio, illustrates the so-called Defamatory Painting , which consisted in commissioning murals in public places to depict, often in gruesome detail, either events or individuals viewed with hostility by the city of Florence.

Imagines embodying the wealth of the city, on the other hand, were set up in the market place; Donatello’s statue of Abundance, famously atop a column in the Old Market. While the original has now been lost, we are familiar with the statue from the numerous copies produced over the centuries, the most famous today is the one located in Piazza della Repubblica.

In the late 1300s Florence also started to identify with its Poet, Dante Alighieri depicting his idealized portrait in various public places, like the Bargello and the Cathedral.

Also, the decoration of the city gates and the heraldry adorning the city walls provided the city fathers with another opportunity to celebrate Florence and its allies.

The exhibition devotes special attention to the Arti, the driving force behind the economic boom which Florence enjoyed in the era of the Commune and the true political power in the city at the time.

Membership of one of the guilds was actually a precondition for playing an active role in the city’s political life.

For the first time in two centuries, visitors will be able to admire in a single venue of the entire collection of panels depicting the guild’s patron saints, originally adorned the pillars of Orsanmichele, in the area of the Ponte Vecchio.

Until December 8th, Academy of Fine Arts - Florence