Thursday, May 7, 2015

Foundation Salvatore Romano Florence Italy



Dear Art Lover,
Santo Spirito refectory Salvatore Romano museum Florence Italy glass window

     After another delicious meal at the Osteria Santo Spirito on La Notte Bianca in Florence, I was surprised to see a door open beside the Basilica di Santo Spirito.  In all the years that I lived in that neighborhood, I had not seen that door open.  [But to be fair, I am not often outside of my home studio during the day.]  So, my friend and I ventured inside.  The museum, the MVSEI CIVICI FIORENTINI to be exact, was free that night because of all of the festivities.  And the staff did say that the building was under restoration for about the time that I lived in the zona Santo Spirito.

     This is the home of The Salvatore Romano Foundation (Fondazione Salvatore Romano) and the building is called the Old Santo Spirito Refectory.  Salvatore Romano [1875-1955], an antiques dealer who started off in Napoli (Naples), donated about 70 art objects, mostly stone, for permanent exhibition here in Florence in the memory of his father.  

     Salvatore was the son of a ship owner and sea captain.  He went to Genoa to study naval engineering and discovered his interest in art objects.  He began to deal in violins after returning to Naples and later brought them to Florence, the then favored city for museum directors and foreign collectors.  In the early 1920s, he moved to Florence.

     He branched out into all sorts of antiques, but ended up favoring sculpture, particularly stone.  He traveled widely throughout Italy to acquire the objects from their places of origin and he became known for leaving them as he found them, instead of restoring them.  Many of his acquisitions are now housed in important museums in Europe and America.

     As you can see from my images of my visit, there are many medieval stone pieces in this collection and by his will, they must remain here.  He even arranged most of the pieces himself, as director of his own museum until his death.  He is also entombed in the Refectory.

     The building itself was constructed by the Friars of Saint Augustine in the latter half of the 13th century.  The friars ate their meals here and the building was somehow spared when the church was destroyed by fire. It is believed to have fallen into disuse by the 16th century and was rebuilt.  By the 19th century, there was a large hole in the wall [today filled in], which explains the loss of the lower parts of the grand fresco I show you in my images.  

Santo Spirito refectory Salvatore Romano museum Florence Italy
So, I ask you, "What is the man in the white plaster seeing?"
Santo Spirito refectory Salvatore Romano museum Florence Italy fresco
Fresco by Andrea di Cione (Orcagna) and his brother Nardo
  
     This refectory and the one in Santa Croce are the oldest Florentine refectories decorated with a Crucifiction scene, as well as a scene of The Last Supper.  The Santo Spirito fresco was created by Andrea di Cione, aka Orcagna, with his brother Nardo.  The dates are likely between 1360 and 1366.  A coat of arms included in the fresco tell us that the family of Cambi di Napoleone commissioned the work.

    The Santo Spirito complex became a part of the Italian State in 1866 and the refectory was given to the city of Florence.  In 1894, the sculptor Raffaello Romanelli leased the space to house his plaster models and used it as a workshop.  After he died, the idea of a museum was born.  The fresco was restored by Amedeo Benini and his sons.  Restoration of the refectory started in 1936 and ended sometime between 1941 and 1944.  It surprised me to read that since Florence was bombed a lot by the Germans during WWII.   

     Romanelli Studios still exist on nearby Borgo San Frediano.  The artist’s plaster models were removed from the Refectory to make space for the collection of Salvatore Romano.  Enjoy!

     Happy Birthay, John B! 

Peace,

Kelly

~ Kelly Borsheim, sculptor, painter, writer, teacher
Santo Spirito refectory Salvatore Romano museum Florence Italy
Santo Spirito refectory Salvatore Romano museum Florence Italy

medieval stone carving Salvatore Romano museum Florence Italy

Santo Spirito refectory Salvatore Romano museum Florence ItalySanto Spirito refectory Salvatore Romano museum Florence Italy
Santo Spirito refectory Salvatore Romano museum Florence Italy fresco

Santo Spirito refectory Salvatore Romano museum Florence Italy
Santo Spirito refectory Salvatore Romano museum Florence Italy
Santo Spirito refectory Salvatore Romano museum Florence Italy tomb


2 comments:

Gene P. said...

Thanks for the excellent free Tour in words and photos! I noted the expressive stone portrait with your hand at base. Gene P.

Kelly Borsheim said...

Haha.. that hand is only for a size understanding. I am sure that funny face was originally intended to be seen at the top of a column or corner of a ceiling. See the tilt on it? As if he is looking down.
Thanks,
Kelly

Gadget

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