In spring, the works for the Hall of the Wardrobe of the Palazzo Vecchio museum, commonly known as Hall of geographical maps, which will return to its former glory thanks to a restoration by 500 thousand euros which involves the recovery and enhancement of furnishings, systems, geographical maps and the huge globe that dominates the center of the room. Globe and geographical maps, with the exception of some maintenance interventions dating back to the XNUMXs, had never been restored with modern techniques.
The project, developed by the Technical Services-Factory of Palazzo Vecchio, was given the go-ahead by the municipal council on the proposal of the councilor for culture Tommaso Sacchi and will be financed thanks to a donation from the foundation Friends of Florence under the program Florence I Care which aims to create partnerships with private individuals for the restoration of cultural and public interest assets. Overall, the works will last a year and the room will remain open, even if partially, during construction.
“The Hall of geographical maps - said the commissioner Sacchi - is one of the most precious rooms in the Palazzo Vecchio museum. The marvelous globe in the center is one of the largest and most ancient that has come down to us almost entirely intact. Now we will take care of it thanks to the generosity of Friends of Florence and we will enhance the whole room from floor to ceiling and to the wardrobes on the walls where about fifty papers on oil plates depicting the whole world known in the time of Cosimo I are placed ".
“For almost twenty years Friends of Florence wishes to carry out the restoration of the Hall of geographical maps and the globe, not only for the scientific and artistic importance of the works, but also because, here among the walls of this room in Palazzo Vecchio, there is evidence of how the known world was at the time of Cosimo I. - underlined Simonetta Brandolini d'Adda, President of Friends of Florence -. It is a fascinating and highly necessary project to safeguard an environment so unique in the world. We thank the donor for their support for the project and the many projects of Friends of Florence "
The Hall of geographical maps, located on the third floor almost at the end of the exhibition itinerary, is one of the most visited rooms in the Palazzo Vecchio museum and consequently is subject to considerable wear. In particular, both the disconnected floor and the lighting and technological systems that are now inadequate for the museum itinerary and for the enhancement of the maps and the 13 artistic wall cabinets that contain them need urgent restoration.
The cards, 53 oil paintings on wood that offer a detailed representation of lands and seas known at the time of Cosimo I, embellished with a myriad of gilded inscriptions, refined scrolls, Medici feats and fantastic creatures, will be detached and restored in the adjoining room that it already hosted the restoration of the putto that decorates the Terrace of Juno on the third floor of the museum, recovered a year ago again thanks to Friends of Florence. The globe, on the other hand, is too large to change rooms (it has a circumference of over two meters), and will be moved within its headquarters as the work progresses. Visitors who will be inside the museum during the construction sites will be able to 'peek' between the scaffolding as already happened with the restoration of the Hall of Elements a few years ago.
At the time of the Priors, the room now known as the geographic map room did not exist, as evidenced by the traces of the windows of the neighboring Chancellery visible on the wall to the left of the entrance. When Duke Cosimo I de 'Medici moved into the palace, the neighboring premises formed the Guardaroba district, where all the movable goods of the court were kept. This room was later built by Giorgio Vasari (1561-1565), at the request of Cosimo, to fulfill the dual function of the main room of the Wardrobe and the cosmography room.
The design of the new room, developed by Vasari with the collaboration of the cosmographer Fra 'Miniato Pitti who, after an initial coaching, gave his role to the Dominican Egnazio Danti from Perugia, who was finally succeeded by the Olivetan Stefano Bonsignori, provided for: ceiling, paintings depicting constellations; along the walls, large wooden cabinets, with geography tables on the doors and images of the fauna and flora of the respective territories on the bases; above these, busts of princes and emperors and three hundred portraits of illustrious men. Finally, in the middle of the room, two large globes should have appeared from above in a scenographic way, at the opening of the central squares of the ceiling, the celestial one, remaining suspended in the air, the terrestrial one, falling to the floor. The idea of representing the whole world known in the mid-sixteenth century in one room reflected Cosimo's interest in geography, natural sciences and commerce. However, he also betrayed the intention of celebrating the duke as ruler of the universe, in the role that was allegorically attributed to him by the association of his name with the Greek word “kosmos”.
The ambitious project remained partly unfinished. Dionigi di Matteo Nigetti created the walnut wardrobes (1564-1571) which would house, first tapestries and other vestments, then objects in silver and gold and finally ancient weapons. Of the 53 geographic tables completed, 30 were painted by the Dominican Egnazio Danti (1564-1575) and 23 by the Olivetan monk Stefano Bonsignori (1575-1586). Twenty-seven were taken from Ptolemy's Geographia (1564nd century AD), updated according to modern authors, and the others, including those of America, from various more recent sources. Egnazio Danti also created the large terrestrial globe (1571-1510) which, however, was placed elsewhere and brought back to its original destination only in the last century. At the center of the wall in front of the entrance was the Clock of the Planets by Lorenzo della Volpaia which from 1570 was kept in the adjacent Sala dei Gigli. Of this spectacular clock, which was destroyed in the XNUMXth century, there is a modern reconstruction in the Museo Galileo in Florence. Cristofano dell'Altissimo finally began to paint portraits of illustrious men to be placed on the wardrobes, copying them from the famous collection of Paolo Giovio in Como. In XNUMX the portraits were already more than two hundred, arranged in three rows, but in the following decade they were moved to the corridor of the Galleria degli Uf ﬁzi, where they can still be seen today.
The spectacular globe in the center of the Hall of Geographical Maps, with its approximately 220 cm in diameter, is the oldest large globe that has survived to this day, built with great ingenuity in years in which the construction technique of this kind of scientific instruments was still far from being developed and codified. The first documentary news on the globe dates back to the beginning of 1564, when from a letter sent by Giorgio Vasari to Giovanni Caccini on January 29 we learn that the latter had sent him the "appamondo" from Pisa by river.
The globe was created by friar Egnazio Danti who had already dealt with 30 geographical tables and was certainly not yet finished in 1568, when Giorgio Vasari described it in the future in the Lives of the academics of drawing: [in one of the "two great balls, each arms three and a half high "] the whole earth will go distinctly, and this will be lowered with a winch, which will not be seen, down to the bottom, and will rest on a balanced foot, which, firm, will see all the boards that are around in the pictures of the armariums and they will have a mark on the ball that they can be easily found ”. It is very likely that the terrestrial globe, once completed, was not placed in the Hall of the Wardrobe, as it was not mentioned in the inventories of the palace of 1570 and 1574. It could therefore have been immediately placed in Palazzo Pitti where it is present. in an inventory of 1587. Together with the other scientific artefacts of the Uffizi Gallery, in 1775 it passed into the Museum of Ancient Instruments annexed to the Specola in Florence and only in 1958, after other vicissitudes, did it reach its original location in the Sala delle Carte Geografiche of Palazzo Old.