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Agnolo Bronzion The Brazen Serpent, Fresco Chapel of Elenora of Toldeo Palazzo Vecchio

Agnolo Bronzino
The Brazen Serpent, Fresco
Chapel of Eleanora of Toledo
Palazzo Vecchio

Hidden surprises await!

Imagine a Renaissance artist tracking progress on his fresco’s by writing notes on the frame of a door. Such is the case in one of the most underrated and least visited of Florence’s architectural treasures, the Ponte Vecchio.

Built as the seat of government for the city, the palace was completed in 1299. Its history, alone, is a fascinating overview of the city’s political challenges – a topic for another article.

Located upstairs on the main level of Palazzo is a jewel of a chapel created for Eleonora of Toledo, wife of the first grand duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I. Commissioned by Cosimo I, Agnolo Bronzino (he of much fame, including his incredible Martyrdom of St. Lawrence in the Medici family church of San Lorenzo), the chapel is an oft overlooked treasure. Cosimo favored the work by Bronzino and commissioned portraits of himself and Eleonora as well as his children.

After Bronzino completed the large fresco on the south wall, The Crossing of the Red Sea and Moses Anointing Joshua, he began work on The Brazen Serpent. He created the fresco while working around an extant door (see photo above) within the chapel.

As he worked, he recorded what I call diary notes about start and stop dates on his frescoes. On the upper right and left door frames of this doorway are the following notes, written by the master:

On the upper right door frame: (“/” indicate new line on the door frame)

Martedi/A di 6/di Sett/bre [1541]/

comincio/lastoria di/

faraone/A di 30 di/

Marzo/1542 fu fin[i]/

la lastai [a] di farone/lunedi adi

5/di giunio 154[2]/comincino/lastoria/delle se’pe

TRANSLATION: On Tuesday 6 September [1541] the story of the pharaoh was begun; on 30 march a542 the story of the pharaoh was completed. On Monday 5 June 154[2] the story of the serpent was begun.

On the left upper door frame:

A di 15../fins la [sto]/ria d’aq’ua

TRANSLATION: On the 15th…the story of the water was completed.

Within the chapel, Bronzino and his apprentices completed the Crossing of the Red Sea and Moses appointing Joshua, as well as the Brazen Serpent, hence the master’s reference to the ‘water’ and the ‘pharaoh’.

Yet another surprise, a note written in the middle 16th Century by a Renaissance master about his work. If you are able to visit the Palazzo Vecchio during a visit to Florence, be sure to stop by the door in the Chapel of Eleanora of Toledo…and be surprised.

IF YOU GO:

Palazzo Vecchio

Piazza della Signoria, Florence

Tickets:

Museum only: Euro 6.50 per person

Tower only: Euro 6.50 per person

Museum and Tower: Euro 10.00 per person

Please note below that you can also climb the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, though the hours are significantly reduced from the full museum hours.

April/May/June/July/
August/September
Every day except for Thursday: 9 a.m. – Midnight
Thursday: 9 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Following days are included: 1 April, 1 may, 2 and 24 June, 15 august
October
Every day except for Thursday: 9 a.m.- 7 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Exceptionally the museum will be open:
13-28-29-30-31 October: 9 a.m. – Midnight
November
Every day except for Thursday: 9 a.m.- 7 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Exceptionally the museum will be open:
1-2-3-10 November: 9 a.m. – Midnight
December
Every day except for Thursday: 9 a.m.- 7 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Exceptionally the museum will be open:
7-8-22-23-26-27-28-29-30 December: 9 a.m. – Midnight
(Closed on Christmas Day)

The TOWER of the Palazzo Vecchio:

Summer opening time:
1st April – 30th September
Mon/Tue/Wed/Fri/Sat/Sun
9 – 21   (no admission after 20.30)

Thursday
9 – 14    (no admission after 13.30)

Winter opening time:
1st October – 31st march
Mon/Tue/Wed/Fri/Sat/Sun
10 – 17    (no admission after 16.30)
Thursday
10 – 14      (no admission after 13.30)

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