Boboli Gardens and the Grotto of Buontalenti

The Boboli Gardens are located behind the Palazzo Pitti, the Ducal palace of Cosimo I
de’ Medici, the first of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Palazzo Pitti was originally built by one
of the Medici family’s competitors to exceed in every way their Palazzo Medici, but it was later
bought by Eleonora di Toledo de’ Medici. The hill behind the Palazzo Pitti, excavated for stone to
expand the buildings, was then turned into the Boboli Gardens, a segmented strolling garden with
statues, fountains, grottoes, water tricks and other features which became the most often copied
of the Italian Formal Gardens. Boboli’s design influenced formal gardens in the rest of Europe.

Marzocco Lion and Ancient Hercules
Fontana del Carciofo
Viottolone Side Path
Allegorical Statues

Ancient Roman Statues
David with Head of Goliath and Abundance
Fountain of the Harpies
Sacchomazzone and Jupiter

Fountain of Oceanus (Giambologna)
Fountain of Neptune (Lorenzi)
Triton Fountains (Isolotto)
Tyndareus Cracked (Igor Mitoraj)

Bacchino (Dwarf Morgante)
Dacian Prisoners (Ancient Roman)

Napoleon Bonaparte (Gerard portrait)
Ancient City Walls and Fort Belvedere

The Grotto of Buontalenti (Facade)
Michelangelo’s Prisoner and Ceres

Outer Grotto (left, center, right)
Paris and Helen (Vincenzo de’ Rossi)

Bathing Venus (Giambologna)
Mannerist Sculptures (detail, Outer Grotto)

Palazzo Pitti got its start in 1458, when it was built by Luca Pitti, a friend of Cosimo Medici the Elder. The
architect was Luca Fancelli, a pupil of Brunelleschi. The Pitti family spent a huge fortune in the construction,
but it was finally bought by the Medici family in 1549 when Eleanor of Toledo, wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici,
decided to acquire it as a summer retreat. It became the principal residence of the Medici after her death.

The formal garden was started by Niccolo Tribolo, but he died the next year and the work was assigned to
Bartolomeo Ammannati, a student of Bartolommeo Bandinelli who closely followed the style of Michelangelo
(which may have greatly annoyed Baccio Bandinelli, who was fiercely jealous of Michelangelo and Cellini).


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Links to Galleries with images of Boboli Gardens and the Grotto of Buontalenti:

Boboli Gardens
Grotto of Buontalenti

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Pitti Palace Marzocco 5630
846 x 1290 (456 KB)

The Marzocco is the Florentine heraldic lion. This Marzocco has a ducal crown, and announces to passersby and all others that this is the domain of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany. Cosimo had the property connected to the Uffizi (offices) and Palazzo Vecchio via the Vasari Corridor (it exits next to the Grotto of Buontalenti, which is shown in detail on the bottom half of this page).


Hercules Pitti Palace 5639
795 x 1290 (352 KB)

The Medici were grand collectors of ancient artifacts, and they circulated the word that if anything antique was found during construction or renovation, the Medici would buy it. This ancient Roman statue of Hercules wearing the skin of the Medean Lion near the entrance is one example of many.


Fontana del Carciofo Palazzo Pitti 5644
1500 x 1110 (526 KB)

The Ammannati Courtyard behind Pitti Palace, which connects the Palazzo with the Boboli Gardens.
Level with the windows of the piano nobile (noble level, the second floor) is the Fontana del Carciofo
(Fountain of the Artichoke), designed by Giovanni Francesco Susini (Giambologna’s assistant) and
completed in 1641. This replaced the fountain that Ammannati originally installed on the terrace
above the Grotto of Moses (openings seen below the fountain) around 1565. The channeled
rustication in the stone facade which Ammannati created for the courtyard has been widely
copied for use on other monumental buildings, such as the Palais Luxembourg in Paris.


Fontana del Carciofo Palazzo Pitti 5647
1500 x 1092 (546 KB)

The fountain is named “Artichoke” due to the similarity of the shape of the shells
seen on either side (in front of the side cherubs) to the external leaves of an artichoke.

The imposing facade of the Pitti Palace now houses a museum with the bequests
of the last living Medici, Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, the Electress Palatine. She was the
daughter of Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and died in 1743. She willed all of the personal
property of the Medici to the Florentine state, provided that none was ever removed from Florence.
It also contains the Gallery of Modern Art and the artworks collected by the successors to the Medici,
the families of Lorraine and Savoy, Grand Dukes after the extinction of the Medici dynasty in 1743.


Fontana del Carciofo Palazzo Pitti 5728
1500 x 1092 (544 KB)

Created by Giovanni Francesco Susini and Francesco Ferrucci del Tadda
(completed in 1639 and emplaced in 1641), the Fountain of the Artichoke stands
atop the Grotto of Moses, between two ramps that lead down to the Amphitheater
and on to the Boboli Gardens. It replaced Ammannati’s Fountain of Juno, some
parts of which are on display at the Bargello Museum. Cherubs play about the
edges of the fountain, and on the two sides, straddle dolphins (at lower left).


Grotticina di Vulcano Boboli 5640
1500 x 1092 (641 KB)

Created in 1617 by Giulio Parigi (who also expanded the Viottolone, seen below),
the Grotticina di Vulcano (small grotto of Vulcan) was closed off, as you can see. The
interior is decorated with stalactites and was one of the earlier garden grottoes. While
I am not able to show the Grotticina, it did give me a chance to introduce Giulio Parigi.


Boboli Viottolone 5649
795 x 1290 (562 KB)

(Cypress Alley, the Grand Boulevard)

The view down one of the side paths in the second axis created by Giulio Parigi to expand the Viottolone in the early 17th century. These paths (covered by the arching foliage) branch off in a grid pattern, and are decorated with numerous statues, ancient Roman and 16th-18th century, depicting various mythological subjects and allegories as well as contemporary subjects for both the ancient and 17th-18th century sculptures. The statues are located at each branch of the path (there are three branches that separate this part of the garden into six sections).

This is the first “side street”, formed by an oak arbor with low stone benches. At the branching you can see ahead are the first of the statues shown below: Prudence and Autumn, both allegorical statues by Giovanni Battista Caccini. Caccini was one of Giambologna’s pupils, and was most famous for restoring numerous ancient fragmentary sculptures, such as “Apollo with a Lyre” and “Hercules and the Centaur Nessus”, both at the Uffizi (see the Sculptures page).

Statues were created for Boboli Gardens from the late 16th century through the 18th century, and some ancient Roman statues are also salted throughout the Garden. Below, I will show you statues by famous Mannerist and Baroque artists such as Caccini (whose dramatic garden sculptures were always in demand); Giovanni Francesco Susini, who created the Fontana del Carciofo; Giambologna, one of the most influential Mannerist sculptors; Bartolommeo Bandinelli (who trained a number of famous artists and was a favorite of Cosimo I); and Stoldo Lorenzi (creator of the Fountain of Neptune, which served as a triumphal chariot for the marriage of Francesco I de’ Medici and Johanna of Austria in 1565 (who was the model for Giambologna’s “Abundance” below).


Prudence Caccini Boboli 5651
795 x 1290 (433 KB)

Caccini did several allegorical statues for Boboli...


Autumn Giovanni Caccini Boboli 5688
795 x 1290 (342 KB)

... as well as statues of the four seasons (1590).


Andromeda Boboli 5695
795 x 1290 (381 KB)

Andromeda, chained to a rock to atone for her
mother’s bragging. Perseus saved her from being
eaten by Cetus, a sea monster sent by Zeus.
Created by Giovanni Francesco Susini.


Modesty Boboli 5697
795 x 1290 (418 KB)

Modesty, an allegorical sculpture, holds her
hands in a defensive posture to fend off potential
threats to her virtue (meanwhile, her gown is slipping).
Also by Susini, both are from the early 17th century.


Roman Senator Boboli 5693
758 x 1290 (448 KB)


Roman Matron Boboli 5691
800 x 1290 (459 KB)

This and the Senator to the left are ancient Roman.


David with Head of Goliath Boboli 5705 M
1000 x 1600 (520 KB)

Another sculpture by Giovanni Francesco Susini.
Susini also created several small sculptures in bronze
with the same theme, designed to be viewed up close
from all angles, some of the few sculptures he signed.
His superb table sculptures are in many museums.


Abundance Giambologna Tacca Salvini Boboli 5666 M
1000 x 1600 (633 KB)

Modeled by Johanna of Austria (a very small woman), wife of Francesco I de’ Medici. Intended for a column in Piazza San Marco, this sculpture was incomplete when Giambologna died in 1608. It was completed by his pupils Pietro Tacca and Sebastiano Salvini da Settignano in 1637 and moved here.


Fontana delle Arpie Boboli 5711 M
1000 x 1600 (361 KB)


Fontana delle Arpie detail Boboli 5711
800 x 1290 (315 KB)


Fontana delle Arpie Boboli 5709
1500 x 1100 (376 KB)

The Fountain of the Harpies is most likely by Giovanni Francesco Susini, who was working with
Giambologna during the creation of the Fountain of Oceanus (shown below) and other sculptures
in the Island Basin (Vasca dell’Isola). Few of Susini’s works bear his signature, and some works
are hard to find information on, but the sculpture atop the fountain has a style similar to Susini’s.


Players Sacchomazzone Boboli 5699
1500 x 1092 (417 KB)

Giovanni Francesco Susini assisted Orazio Mochi in the challenge of turning a genre subject
suitable for painting into a Garden sculpture: two players at the game Sacchomazzone.
He turned Mochi’s model into a bronze on an oval plinth. This is the stone version.

Sacchomazzone literally means a bundle of sacks.

Two players had to keep one hand on a stone placed between them. Both were blindfolded.
They had to try to hit each other with a knotted cloth or sack in one hand (missing from the
sculpture above, it should be in the upper hand). Both ducked to avoid the blows.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Links to Galleries with images of Boboli Gardens and the Grotto of Buontalenti:

Boboli Gardens
Grotto of Buontalenti

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Jupiter Bandinelli Boboli 5734
800 x 1290 (383 KB)


Jupiter Bandinelli Boboli 5730c
960 x 1290 (406 KB)

Bartolommeo (Baccio) Bandinelli created this statue of Zeus and his thunderbolts for the Garden of Jupiter (the Roman King of the gods, equivalent to the Greek Zeus). Bandinelli imitated an ancient style in his design for this statue.


Oceanus Giambologna Boboli 5717
794 x 1290 (518 KB)

The Fountain of Oceanus combines the monumental figure of Giambologna’s Oceanus with a huge basin in granite from the isle of Elba (purchased by Cosimo I in 1548), carved by Niccolo Tribolo (the first architect of the Boboli Gardens).


Oceanus Giambologna detail Boboli 5717c
800 x 1290 (515 KB)

The original statue of Oceanus is in the Bargello Museum.
The sculptures below Oceanus represent River Gods: the
Nile, the Ganges and the Euphrates, pouring water into
the enormous basin which represents the Ocean.


Fountain of Neptune Boboli Gardens 5659
795 x 1290 (609 KB)

The Fountain of Neptune, Stoldo Lorenzi’s masterwork, was originally created as a triumphal chariot to carry the Medici to the wedding of Francesco I and Johanna of Austria in 1565. After the wedding of Francesco I to Johanna, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, it was set up in the basin.


Neptune Boboli Gardens 5661
795 x 1290 (502 KB)

 The Florentines call it “pitchfork (Forcone) fountain”. This is not just an irreverency... the use of forks originated in Western Europe at the tables of Catherine de’ Medici and spread from there to France, the noble houses of Europe, and finally to the tables of the common folk. It is a point of Florentine pride.


Fountain of Neptune Boboli Gardens 5659 M
1500 x 1290 (856 KB)

— Note the file size —

Tritons and Sirens are embedded in the moss covered rock base.
The basin area is surrounded by terraced lawns forming a U-shaped bowl,
and is directly above the Amphitheater, with a view down the hill to Palazzo Pitti.
Water raised from the Arno River to the Knight’s Garden above flow down
into the basin of Neptune and accumulate to irrigate the entire garden.


Triton Isolotto Fountain Boboli 5713
1500 x 1092 (361 KB)

One either side of the columns supporting the gate leading to the Isolotto (Islet), where
the Fountain of Oceanus is located, are two small fountains whose basins are fed by Tritons.
Triton is a mythological Greek sea-god, the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. He is the messenger
and herald of Amphitrite, and has the upper body of a human and the lower body of a fish.
Some representations of Triton show him with human arms, others with more
fanciful appendages such as those in the statues seen at Boboli.


Triton Isolotto Fountain Boboli 5715
1500 x 1092 (390 KB)

Over time, Triton’s name became associated with a horde of creatures similar to him,
called Tritons. In the stories, the Tritons were children of Triton, and acted as escorts
for the other sea-gods. Their appearance has been described in so many ways in
various sources that other than the tail of a fish and the upper body of a human,
you could probably represent them in any way you desire and still be accurate
to one story or another. Some stories describe them as aquatic Satyrs. In the
Apartment of the Elements, they can be seen in several frescoes in another
form: the combination Centaur-Triton known as the Ichthyocentaur. This is
a combination of a human upper body attached to a horse’s torso with
a sort of reptilian/fish combination tail section at the back of the horse.


Tindaro Screpolato Igor Mitoraj Boboli 5655
795 x 1290 (558 KB)


Tindaro Screpolato Igor Mitoraj Boboli 5657c
960 x 1290 (611 KB)

The only modern contemporary sculpture in the Gardens,
Igor Mitoraj’s “Tyndareus Cracked” (1998) was part of an
exhibition, and it remained in the garden after the exhibit.
He often creates statues resembling the deterioration
which occurs to classical sculptures over time.


Pegasus Costoli Boboli 5725
1500 x 1092 (546 KB)

The statue of Pegasus by Aristodemo Costoli (1865) is located next to a slope
covered with lawns that leads from the gardens back to the level of the Palazzo Pitti.


Bacchino Dwarf Morgante Valerio Cioli 5849
815 x 1290 (354 KB)

The Court Dwarf Morgante (Braccio di Bartolo)
Fontana del Bacchino (Little Bacchus)

Braccio di Bartolo was the court dwarf of Cosimo I de’ Medici. This was a relatively common profession in all of the major courts in Europe at the time, sometimes coinciding with the role as the court jester. As small people were considered to be ‘lucky charms’ (and sometimes healers), they were highly desirable in the courts, and they also represented the power of the ruler (becoming part of a collection of unusual humans, animals and objects). Today’s mores cannot be applied to yesterday’s reality. This was actually a good profession for Morgante (whose nickname was a twist on a 15th c. epic by Luigi Pulci in which Morgante was a giant who was killed by the bite of a crab).

Valerio Cioli, a pupil of Niccolo Tribolo, was restoring the Medici’s collection of ancient Roman statuary when he was commissioned to create this marble statue between 1561 and 1564. It was apparently a good likeness, according to Vasari. In 1579, the statue was made a part of the fountain.

There are several interesting points about the statue. One is that Morgante is riding the tortoise with his right hand in a similar position to that of Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue in Rome (see the Rome section). Another is the tortoise itself. One of Cosimo’s personal symbols (his impresa) is a turtle (or tortoise) with a sail, chosen to illustrate one of his mottoes: Festina lente (more haste, less speed).

It is thought that the idea was to link the three concepts, tying together Cosimo I (tortoise with a sail), Marcus Aurelius, and Morgante the giant. Regardless, Morgante did his job once again, amusing the Medici family, his guests, and now us.


Dacian Prisoner Boboli 5844
795 x 1290 (490 KB)

The statues near the entrance of Dacian prisoners
are 2nd c. AD sculptures which were originally in the
Forum of Trajan in Rome. Dressed in the porphyry
drapery which was popular in Trajan’s time, these
statues were originally installed in Villa Medici.


Dacian Prisoner Boboli 5851
795 x 1290 (446 KB)

If you look closely at the images, you can see where there are Mannerist period restorations to missing parts (note the color changes). The statues are mounted on pedestals which are also from the same period, and which contain representations of Dacian prisoners, Victories and the Dioscuri (detail below).


Dacian Prisoner Pedestal detail Boboli M
1515 x 1180 (540 KB)

The composite will open in a second window or tab.

Detail of the 2nd century AD pedestals supporting the Dacian Prisoners depict
bas-reliefs of Victories, the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux) and Dacian barbarians.
They are probably from the Temple of the Sun (built by Aurelian) or the Arcus Novus.


Napoleon Bonaparte Palazzo Pitti 5683
1052 x 1290 (583 KB)

In the Casino del Cavaliere, there is a fabulous collection of porcelain china from many of the best factories in Europe. A large number of these were gifts to the Medici from other European royalty, others were commissioned by the Duke.

Mounted on the rear wall of the porcelain museum is this painting of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon used the Palazzo Pitti as a base of operations while he was in control of part of Italy from 1797. Francois Gerard was a superb portrait painter from 1799 on, and all of the leading figures of early 19th c. Europe sat for portraits by Baron Gerard. He did a number of portraits of the Emperor Napoleon.


Napoleon Bonaparte Palazzo Pitti 5684
1013 x 1290 (572 KB)

Unfortunately, any time you are shooting paintings that are displayed in uncontrolled settings, lit by numerous windows or floor-to-ceiling glass doors such as this one, you are going to have problems with reflections. You will notice that 5683, which was shot from directly below and in front of the painting, has a nasty reflection on the lower left center, which causes a contrast issue from the center of the chest down.

I took the image above from the left in a position which offered the least distracting reflections, but there were still golden reflections around the head which seem to set his hair on fire.


13th c. Florentine City Walls Palazzo Pitti 5673
795 x 1290 (459 KB)

Ancient City Walls of Florence
(behind the Porcelain Museum)

In the late 13th century, Florence really started to expand due to the tremendous growth in merchant and financial (banking) operations. The resulting capital and available jobs brought large population growth, which settled for the most part outside of the existing city walls. Eventually, the importance of the Oltrarno area (the other side of the Arno River) and other areas outside the city walls induced the Florentines to plan a sixth set of city walls, the largest project they had undertaken. Some parts of the walls would be lightly defended, and would be primarily set up as a customs barrier. Others would be more substantial, as there were still threats to the city, both from invasion and from roaming marauders who would like to relieve Florence of as much of their wealth as possible.

This is a section of the 13th century walls that was intended to be defended. It is part of the earliest walls built on the Oltrarno side of the river, just after the original plans were completed in 1282. These walls, the sixth and most comprehensive set of city walls constructed in Florence, were over 8500 meters long, enclosing five times as much area as the current city walls at the time, and were the most expensive commitment ever undertaken by the Florentine Commune. Due to wars and the cost, these walls took a long time to build (50 years). Much of the 13th century wall was demolished in the 19th century. This section and the areas around a few gates such as Porta San Miniato is all that remains.

This section is just behind the Cypress Lanes, to the west of the Knight’s Garden (which is behind the Porcelain Museum).



Fort Belvedere from Boboli 5677
1625 x 600 (281 KB)

Shot from behind the Boboli Gardens, this is Fortezza di Santa Maria in San Giorgio del Belvedere.
It replaced an earlier version built by Michelangelo of earth and stone during the Siege of Florence (1530).
Built for Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici by Bernardo Buontalenti to protect the city (and the Medici rulers),
it protected the Pitti Palace, held the treasury of the Medici, and was the final shelter for the Medici if the city
was attacked. Passages led to the Pitti Palace and to the Palazzo Vecchio through the Vasari Corridor.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Links to Galleries with images of Boboli Gardens and the Grotto of Buontalenti:

Boboli Gardens
Grotto of Buontalenti

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Grotto of Buontalenti

The Grotta Grande (Great Cave), known as the Grotto of Buontalenti, was built in 1583-93.
The lower part of the facade was created by Giorgio Vasari, but most of the construction was
created by Bernardo Buontalenti, who received the commission from Francesco I de’ Medici.
The grotto is a Mannerist masterpiece blending architecture, fresco and sculpture in stucco
and pumice to create the appearance of an actual cave used to shelter shepherds. Inside
are three rooms, each decorated differently, with a sculpture of Paris and Helen in the
opening between the first and second room, Giambologna’s Bathing Venus in the
inner room, and Michelangelo’s Prisoners (copies) in the outer room (originals
were moved from the Grotto to the Museum of the Accademia in 1924).


Grotto of Buontalenti 5634
1500 x 1092 (578 KB)

On the far left is the exit of the Vasari Corridor, which runs from the Palazzo Vecchio
through the Uffizi (offices), across the Ponte Vecchio to end here (see the Scenery page).
Beside the entrance are two niches, containing Baccio Bandinelli’s sculptures of Apollo and
Ceres (detail of Ceres below). Above the architrave supported by two columns, you begin
to get an impression of what the interior is like. Concretions ooze out of the structure,
looking like stalactites, and the facade becomes a mosaic. On both sides of the
central opening are mosaics depicting a turtle with a sail below a Capricorn,
both personal symbols (impresa) of Cosimo I de’ Medici (a Capricorn is a
mythological creature with the head and front torso of a goat, and the tail
of a reptile or fish with a flower-like arrangement at the end. See the
Apartment of the Elements page for a close view). The Grotto was
closed. Imagine my disappointment... but... an opportunity soon
presented itself. A docent came by with a tour group and of
course, I pretended to be a part of the tour group and just
walked on in. I rapidly went through, taking photos as
fast as I could before someone realized that I was
not supposed to be a part of their group. Sneaky.


Grotto of Buontalenti Facade 5769
1500 x 1092 (854 KB)

— Note the file size —

The central mosaics, formed into two frames of colored stones and the Medici Ducal crest.
Seated atop the concretions are two women carrying branches and sheaves with shells and
wreaths in their hair, mosaics of shells, colored stone, and stucco. the one on the left wears a
shell necklace, and her bodice is (partially) held up by a shell clasp. The one on the right has
a shell belt and arm-band, with shells holding up both sides of her bodice. Note the boots.


Grotto Buontalenti Facade detail 5768
1500 x 1092 (823 KB)

— Note the file size —

The central facade mosaics. This closer shot allows examination of every detail.


Michelangelo Prisoner Grotto of Buontalenti 5818
795 x 1290 (419 KB)

Michelangelo’s Bearded Prisoner. This is a copy (the original was moved to the Accademia in 1924). The Prisoners were originally intended for the tomb of Julius II (see the Rome section). After the originals were acquired by the Medici, they were placed in the Grotto, their home for over 300 years.


Ceres Baccio Bandinelli Boboli 5738
795 x 1290 (406 KB)

Bartolommeo Bandinelli’s sculpture of Ceres (1552-56).
Bandinelli was a favorite of Cosimo I de’ Medici, and he
created several sculptures for him, as well as working on
the renovations for parts of the Palazzo Vecchio. Superb
at small sculptures, monumental works were not his forte.


Grotto of Buontalenti Left 5761
1500 x 1092 (535 KB)

Detail of the scene on the left side of the outer room of the grotto. There are stucco, pumice and
colored stone sculptures of a Shepherd and his dog, two peasant women and a musician amid a
scene representing the interior of a cave, complete with trees, sheep, cows and other details.
The carved stucco work was done by Pietro Mati, the frescoes by Bernardino Pochetti.


Grotto of Buontalenti Right 5764
1500 x 1092 (651 KB)

Detail of the scene on the right side of the outer room of the grotto. Left is another one of
Michelangelo’s Prisoners. Directly right of the Prisoner, an embedded face peeks out of
the concretions. To the right of that, contorted, embedded bodies are writhing within the
concretions. Further right are several figures composed completely of the concretions,
as if they were absorbed by the cave. Further right are figures in various stages of
absorption including a nearly fully absorbed old man who is carrying a water jug.


Grotto of Buontalenti Center 5759
1500 x 1050 (601 KB)

Detail of the scene in the center of the outer room of the grotto. The central opening frames the
sculpture of Paris and Helen (Vincenzo de’ Rossi), flanked by two of Michelangelo’s Prisoners.
On the walls are more detailed pastoral frescoes, and figures in various levels of relief (and
various levels of absorption into the concretions). There are trees and other objects on the
walls, including a ceramic vase over the keystone of the arch. One thing that can’t be
seen is that there used to be water tricks in the cave. When it was being restored,
tracks were found for carrying water to the ceiling, where drops would fall to both
cool the cave in the hot Florentine summers, and further the illusion (plus create
interesting light refractions, which also furthered the illusion). Very creative.


Paris and Helen Grotto of Buontalenti 5774
926 x 1290 (426 KB)

Paris of Troy and Helen of Sparta are depicted in this
sculpture by Vincenzo de’ Rossi (from 1560). The sculpture
is designed to be viewed from two significant angles: from
in front (as here) and from the right, where you see it upon
exiting the inner room. left and rear views are nulls.


Paris and Helen Grotto of Buontalenti 5777 M
982 x 1600 (404 KB)

A large detailed front view of Paris and Helen.


Paris and Helen Grotto of Buontalenti 5809 M
1000 x 1600 (277 KB)

A large, detailed image of the right side view.
Balancing exposure, light and shadow was difficult.


Paris and Helen Grotto of Buontalenti 5813
795 x 1290 (240 KB)

... and a slightly different angle from the right side.


Paris and Helen Grotto of Buontalenti 5807c
960 x 1200 (387 KB)

A tight crop from a similar angle to that of the image shown above left.


Apse Grotto of Buontalenti 5792
795 x 1290 (450 KB)

The apse in the inner room of the grotto, with colored
stone mosaics and stone, shell and stucco stalagmite
concretions adding cave-like character to the architecture.


Bathing Venus Giambologna
Grotto of Buontalenti 5779 M

1000 x 1600 (407 KB)

Giambologna’s Bathing Venus is one of several he created on this theme. Jean Boulogne was Medici court sculptor for the last part of the 16th century. (See the Sculpture page).


Bathing Venus Giambologna Grotto of Buontalenti 5802 5806 M
1524 x 1200 (500 KB)

Composite will open in a second window or tab.

Many of Giambologna’s sculptures show exceptional movement, intense action, and great expressiveness.
He emulated Michelangelo in his earlier years, and the dynamic tension of his stronger pieces shows the influence.
He was the most influential of the Mannerist-period sculptors, and his works continued to be in demand after
his death (even now his small sculptures command high prices). Because of his influence, the Baroque
revolution took a long time to arrive in Florence (nearly 80 years after his death, Foggini was able
to successfully import the Baroque style to Florence). Giambologna rendered his ideal female
  form with long limbs, a very long neck, and a somewhat theatrical stance and posture.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Links to Galleries with images of Boboli Gardens and the Grotto of Buontalenti:

Boboli Gardens
Grotto of Buontalenti

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Musician Grotto of Buontalenti 5828
960 x 1290 (547 KB)


Musician detail Grotto of Buontalenti 5828c
795 x 1290 (496 KB)

This section details some of Pietro Mati’s sculptures, created from stucco, pumice and colored stones. This sculpture of a musician playing a clarinet is on the left side of the grotto between the peasant women and Michelangelo’s Prisoner.


Sculptures right center Grotto of Buontalenti 5821
800 x 1290 (461 KB)


Sculptures detail Grotto of Buontalenti 5821c
960 x 1290 (536 KB)

Sculptures of an Old Man and a Shepherd, the Old Man
nearly completely absorbed into the walls of the grotto.
Note the smiling dog cuddling up to the shepherd
in the lower right corner of the image at left.


Peasant Women Grotto of Buontalenti 5748 M
1000 x 1600 (539 KB)


Peasant Women Grotto of Buontalenti 5830
960 x 1290 (542 KB)

Two views of the Peasant Women, the left image shot
from directly in front, and the one above taken at a low
angle to emphasize the dimensionality of the bas-relief.
From the front it has the character of a Pompeii mosaic.


Old Men Grotto of Buontalenti 5835
795 x 1290 (505 KB)

From the right side of the grotto, the Old Men with a Shepherd Woman in colored red stones above left. The Old Men are nearly fully absorbed into the grotto concretions.


Old Man Grotto of Buontalenti 5758
795 x 1290 (399 KB)

Holding a water jug, the Old Man peers out at the
visitor from under his heavy eyelids, as if to say:
“If you stay here too long, you too will be absorbed”.


Shepherds and Dog Grotto of Buontalenti 5839
795 x 1290 (464 KB)

Two Shepherds and their dog sit next to a tree in front
of one of Pochetti’s frescoes depicting two people
at the edge of a forest, standing on a river bank.


Shepherds Grotto of Buontalenti 5751 M
1000 x 1600 (458 KB)

A large, detailed image taken a little earlier (when
there was a little less light). Note how the woman grows
out of the wall from a low-relief mosaic to high-relief. The
technique displayed is an extension of Donatello’s style.


Shepherds Grotto of Buontalenti 5824
795 x 1290 (505 KB)


Shepherd detail Grotto of Buontalenti 5824c
958 x 1290 (527 KB)

Another angle on this, my favorite scene in the grotto. Again, note the relief technique used to depict the woman. Also, note how stones were used to add texture to the shepherd’s hat. They even used stones to create the shepherd’s toenails.


Shepherds and Dog Grotto of Buontalenti 5838 M
1500 x 1290 (638 KB)

One final look at my favorite scene in the grotto. This is a large detail crop from a shot
taken from the same angle as the first image shown above. A masterpiece of Mannerist art.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Links to Galleries with images of Boboli Gardens and the Grotto of Buontalenti:

Boboli Gardens
Grotto of Buontalenti

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Return to the Master Index on the Florence Select page


Click the display composite above to return to the Master Index on the Florence Select page