Theme

ART AND MEDICINE IN FLORENCE
Published in October, 2020
H E K T O R A M A

 

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Venus and Cupid
 

BRONZINO AND THE WAGES OF SIN

 

 

 

Artists, statesmen, scholars, warriors, and even popes were affected by syphilis in those times. Take King Francis I of France (1494–1547). A polished man, patron of the arts, lover of knightly romances, epicurean, sensual, amiable, and an incorrigible womanizer, his compatriots have idealized him as the epitome of refined French galanterie and Gallic power of seduction. A tradition says that one day, when the king enjoyed a pleasure outing in one of the many fairyland castles that he owned in the placid countryside of La Douce France, a burning torch came loose from the brackets that held it on the wall, fell on his head, and burned his scalp. Since then, according to this story, the monarch always covered his head with a big beret; hardly ever was he seen without it. This, in fact, is how we see him in the portraits that Titian and Jean painted of him (Figure 1).

 

 

By Frank Gonzalez-Crussi

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GHIRLANDAIO, HUMANISM, AND THE TRUTH: THE PORTRAIT OF AN ELDERLY MAN AND YOUNG BOY
 

Portrait of an Old Man. Domenico Ghirlandaio

 


 

Domenico Ghirlandaio (Domenico di Tommaso Curradi di Doffo Bigordi, 1448-1494) was one of the most successful portrait painters of the Florentine Quattrocento. He oversaw a large and successful studio which included his brothers Davide and Benedetto, his son Ridolfo, and which trained many younger artists such as Michelangelo.2 The Renaissance biographer Giorgio Vasari said of Ghirlandaio that “from his talent and the greatness and the vast number of his works, he may be called one of the most important and most excellent masters of the age. . . .”; and the art historians Archibald Joseph Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle went on to comment that “Ghirlandaio’s life forms, like those of Giotto, one of the great landmarks in the history of Florentine art.1,3

 

Portrait of an Elderly Man and Child Domenico Ghirlandaio
By Vincent P. de Luise READ ARTICLE

 


 

THE BONIFACIO HOSPITAL: REFORMING PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL CARE

 

In 1369-1377 Bonifacio Lupi, mayor of Florence and Captain of the People, founded the Bonifacio Hospital (Ospedale di Bonifacio) dedicated to St. John the Baptist. In the sixteenth century, the hospital admitted patients suffering from syphilis, known as the “French disease,” spread by troops of Charles VII returning from Naples. Later the Grand Duke Gian Gastone de “Medici” (1671-1737) restricted admission to the hospital to the disabled poor and elderly; and in 1774 the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo turned it into a hospital for mentally-ill patients. He was a young man of the Enlightenment, a social and economic reformer, and his reforms included the rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents, the abolition of the death penalty, smallpox inoculation, and the humane treatment of the mentally ill. Leopoldo’s 1774 “Law on the Insane” constituted the first legal statue in Europe that ensured institutional care for the mentally impaired, and he reconstructed a wing of the Bonifacio Hospital for that purpose.1The first mentally-ill patients were admitted in 1788; some were transferred from other hospitals in the surrounding areas of Florence. To lead the hospital, Leopoldo chose the young physician Vincenzo Chiarugi (1759-1820), who had studied medicine in Pisa and later had worked at the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence.

By Panagiota Kitsantas 

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THE SPEDALE OF SANTA MARIA NOUVA IN FLORENCE

 

The spedale of Santa Maria Nuova was founded in June 1288 by Folco di Ricovero dei Portinari, father of Dante’s Beatrice, who bought some houses in the centre of Florence to receive poor people who needed help. At first the hospital could only accept men from the large crowd of people who applied to the hospital, many poor or disabled, beggars and orphans, and not necessarily the sick. This pledge to aid the needy characterized the origin of the charitable organisations…

 

By Donatella Lippi and Luigi Padeletti READ ARTICLE
 

THE DEATH OF FRANCESCA TORNABUONI

 

The details of the creation of the Tornabuoni Relief still remain somewhat obscure. Its authorship, though largely attributed to Andrea del Verrocchio or one of his pupils, is notably contested in due to the uncharacteristic crudeness of “ill proportioned” figures and “coarsely fashioned feet.”12 Nevertheless, alternative authorship hypotheses have not been substantiated; the piece is generally included—often with footnotes highlighting its ambiguous authorship—in volumes of Verrocchio’s work.

 

By Katrina Genuis

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THE FLORENTINE RENAISSANCE APOTHECARY
Image of Copies of two pages from the 1597 edition of the Ricettario fiorentino di nuovo illustrato.

 

 

The apothecaries had at their disposal pharmacopeias and art-related treatises delineating recipes for medicinals and pigments, respectively. Artists in their individual workshops developed recipes for preparing pigments using organic, mainly plant-based, and inorganic materials, e.g. minerals, byproducts of glass making, and others. A major codification of those preparation techniques was published by the Tuscan painter, Cennino Cennini, near the end of the fourteenth century or the beginning of the fifteenth century. His treatise, Il Libro dell’Arte, is a valuable compendium that also contains discussions of artistic techniques.5 After purchasing pigments from apothecaries, artists prepared them with a medium to produce the consistency of paint desired. For both apothecary and artist, knowledge of the ingredients and of the parameters involved in timing and level of grinding were crucial.

 

By Susan Brunn Puett and J. David Puett

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PIERO DI COSIMO
The death of Procris

 

. . . when eighty years old, he became so strange and eccentric that he was unbearable. . . . He would not allow his apprentices to be about him, so that he obtained less and less assistance by his uncouthness. . . . The flies annoyed him, and he hated the dark. . . . He abused physicians and apothecaries, saying that they made their patients die of hunger, in addition to tormenting them with syrups, medicines, clysters and other tortures, such as not allowing them to sleep when drowsy . . . and thus he went on with these most extraordinary notions, twisting things to the strangest imaginable meanings. . . . After such a curious life he was found dead one morning at the foot of the stairs, in 1521

 

By Giorgio Vasari

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DOCTORS AND ILLNESS IN BOCCACCIO DECAMERON

 

 

Giovanni Boccaccio was born in Tuscany in 1313, the illegitimate son of a merchant of Certaldo, who launched him on a commercial career hoping he would follow in his steps. Sent to Naples for that reason, he soon abandoned commerce and the study of canon law, and began instead to write stories in verse and prose. He mingled in courtly society, and his house became a center of literary activity. During this period he formed a lasting friendship with Francesco Petrarch, who introduced him to the world of classic authors. At the time, not only Petrarca, but many others of the intellectual establishment, looked up to the Greeks & Roman writers, poets, and thinkers. They thought that the Greeks (Aristotle in particular) had gone further in logic, philosophy, and science than they had themselves. This kind of conversion was considered a beacon of renewal and progress, in contrast to the still dominant medieval spirit.

 

By Maria Sgouridou

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