Palazzo Strozzi

Florence, 1489-1536

 

BACKGROUND

 

Patron

The banker Filippo Strozzi commissioned the palace as a residence for his sons.  Its size and the provisions in his will for its completion suggest that he also considered it to be a monument to the importance of the Strozzi family, who, like the Medici family, operated a large banking business with branches in many cities.

 

Filippo, who had managed a branch of the Strozzi banking business in Naples, moved to Florence after an exile order against his family was lifted in 1466.

 

Dates

The Palazzo Strozzi was begun in 1489.  The eastern half was essentially finished by 1505, but the western half remained incomplete when work all but ceased in 1536.

 

 

CONSTRUCTION HISTORY

 

1474: Filippo began acquiring property for a palace in 1474.

 

1489: The cornerstone of the palace was laid on August 6, 1489.  Its construction was under the supervision of Benedetto da Maiano.

 

1490: Il Cronaca became head mason early in 1490.

 

1491: When Filippo died in May of 1491, the ground story was under construction.

 

1493: The courtyard was begun;  it was completed c. 1536.

 

1495: The second story was begun in April of 1495, and by the end of the year, construction had progressed to the top of the third-story windows.

 

1501: The east façade, its cornice, and parts of the adjacent facings were in place by 1501.

 

1505: In 1505, Lorenzo Strozzi, Filippo's son, moved into the palace's eastern half, which was completed the following year.

 

1507-33: Little was done to complete the western half of the palace until the 1530s.

 

1533-36: Alfonso, Filippo's eldest son, resumed efforts to finish his half in 1533.  Work ceased in 1536 after Alfonso's brother, Filippo the Younger, led an unsuccessful uprising against Medici rule, which had become hereditary after Charles V granted the Medici rulers ducal status.

 

 

BASIC DESIGN

 

Comparison with the Palazzo Medici

The Palazzo Strozzi follows the type defined by the Palazzo Medici  in having three stories, graduated rustication, a crowning cornice, and round-topped biforate windows resting on string courses.

 

Refinements such as using carefully shaped stones and aligning ground-story windows with the upper-story windows made the Palazzo Strozzi more regular than its model.

 

Symmetrical Plan

The palace was conceived as two matching halves, which would accommodate Filippo's sons.  His eldest son, Alfonso, inherited the western half and his younger sons, Lorenzo and Filippo, inherited the eastern half.

 

Both quarters share common spaces like the courtyard and main portals along the palace's long sides.

 

At each end, a vestibule leads to a deep loggia facing the courtyard, and from it, a wide scala leads up to the private quarters.

 

The Palace as an Autonomous Entity

The palace was conceived as a unified three-dimensional entity whose site was surrounded by streets and a piazza.  Although the long sides were four bays wider, the same design governed all four facings.  One of the long-side facings was not finished.

 

The concept of the building as a freestanding unity became more standard in the next century as exemplified by the Palazzo Farnese, whose core structure was designed by Giuliano da Sangallo's nephew Antonio.

 

 

ATTRIBUTION

 

Inconclusive Documentary Evidence

The designer of the Palazzo Strozzi cannot be determined from the building's financial records.

 

Giuliano da Sangallo

Giuliano da Sangallo is known to have made the first model of the Palazzo Strozzi.  Because of the clarity and coherence underlying the palace's design and the similarity of its organization and detail to Giuliano's other work, he is widely accepted as its designer.

 

The palace's organization resembles that of the Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano, which also has private areas at the corners and a cross-shape of communal areas at the center.

 

The Palazzo Strozzi is similar to one that Giuliano designed for the Gondi family around the same time.  The faces of the stones of the Palazzo Strozzi are rounded and varied in width like those of the Palazzo Gondi.

 

Benedetto da Maiano

Benedetto da Maiano seems to have been the supervising architect in 1489 when the palace was begun.  He is often credited with its design due to his initial supervision of the project and to the attribution of the design to him in Vasari's Lives.

 

Filippo Strozzi employed Benedetto da Maiano as both an architect and as a sculptor.  Benedetto's work in the latter category included a marble bust of Filippo and Filippo's tomb in the Strozzi chapel in Santa Maria Novella.

 

Before Filippo moved to Florence from Naples, he would probably have known Benedetto's brother Giuliano da Maiano, who worked for King Ferdinand.  (Giuliano had been recommended for the post of court architect by Lorenzo the Magnificent, whose correspondence with the King of Naples included architectural matters.)

 

 

IL CRONACA

 

Nick-Name of "Il Cronaca"

Simone di Pollaiuolo (1457-1508), an architect of some note, is best known by his nick-name Il Cronaca, which means "The Chronicle."  This name refers to the detailed knowledge of Roman antiquities that he acquired during a ten-year period in Rome between 1475 and 1485.

 

Work at the Strozzi Palace

Il Cronaca became the head mason six months after the palace was begun.  During his years of supervision, he made many important contributions to the final form of both the palace's façade and its courtyard.

 

Changes to the Façade

Il Cronaca was responsible for several differences between Sangallo's model and the final palace.

 

Taller stories. Il Cronaca made the stories taller to better accommodate the vaulting.  

 

Deeper cornice. To maintain balance after increasing story heights, Il Cronaca redesigned the crowning cornice, making its top members project further and giving its profile a concave curve instead of the straighter, slightly bulging shape of Sangallo's model. 

 

Addition of frieze. To fill some of the upper wall of the third story, Il Cronaca added a frieze and an architrave, making the crowning cornice into a full-blown entablature.  This was the first time that a frieze had been used below a crowning cornice and in scale with it.  (Alberti's use of friezes on the Palazzo Rucellai included only narrow friezes within abbreviated entablatures that were used as string courses.) 

 

Shallow rustication on third story. Il Cronaca also changed the third-story masonry from flush joints to a slightly rusticated form.

 

Changes to the Courtyard

Il Cronaca made substantial changes to the courtyard of the Palazzo Strozzi.

 

Absence of ornament. Instead of using applied ornament like sgraffito, which had been used at the Palazzo Medici, Il Cronaca relied on the forms themselves and the trims isolating them to provide an aesthetic basis.

 

Square windows. Instead of repeating the biforate window design used on the façades, Il Cronaca used square windows like those used on Roman palaces.

 

Arcaded ends. Instead of using window walls on all four facings of the courtyard on the piano nobile, Il Cronaca used arcades on the ends.  

 

 

 

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