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A Reconsideration of Michelangelo's Unrealised Façade for the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence

  • Darin Stine

Abstract

This article reconsiders Michelangelo's unrealised façade project for the church of San Lorenzo in Florence. While surviving evidence, particularly the extant wooden model preserved today in the Casa Buonarroti, gives a good indication of the façade's planned appearance, we are still unclear about how Michelangelo intended it to attach to the church. By reassessing surviving graphic and written sources for the commission, the article argues for a reconstruction of Michelangelo's design as a narthex. It draws further support from an analysis of the intended building site on Piazza San Lorenzo, which, due to its restricted space, suggests that only a narthex construction was possible. By envisaging the façade of the church as a narthex, Michelangelo may have intended it to function as a focal point for religious and civic ceremonies that took place in the piazza.

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1 Recent studies include Ackerman, James S., The Architecture of Michelangelo, 2 vols (London, 1961), I, pp. 1120, and II, pp. 3–17; Millon, Henry A. and Smyth, Craig Hugh, Michelangelo Architect: The Façade of San Lorenzo and the Drum and Dome of St Peter's (Milan, 1988), pp. 289; Elam, Caroline, ‘Drawings as Documents: The Problem of the San Lorenzo Façade’, in Studies in Art History, 33, ed. Smyth, Craig Hugh (Hanover and London, 1992), pp. 99114; Argan, Giulio Carlo and Contardi, Bruno, Michelangelo Architect, trans. Grayson, Marion L. (London, 1993), pp. 161171; Wallace, William E., Michelangelo at San Lorenzo: The Genius as Entrepreneur (New York, 1994), pp. 974; Maurer, Golo, Michelangelo — Die Architekturzeichnungen: Entwurfsprozeß und Planungspraxis (Regensberg, 2004), passim; Cammy Brothers, Michelangelo, Drawing, and the Invention of Architecture (New Haven, 2008), pp. 106–22; Satzinger, Georg, Michelangelo und die Fassade von San Lorenzo in Florenz: zur Geschichte der Skulpturenfassade der Renaissance (Munich, 2011), passim.

2 Barbieri, Franco and Puppi, Lionello, ‘Modello ligneo per la facciata di San Lorenzo’, in Michelagniolo architetto, ed. Portoghesi, Paolo and Zevi, Bruno (Turin, 1964), pp. 834–41; Millon and Smyth, Michelangelo Architect, pp. 69–73; Ruschi, Pietro, ‘Modello ligneo per la facciata di San Lorenzo a Firenze’, in Nello splendore mediceo: papa Leone X e Firenze, ed. Baldini, Nicoletta and Bietti, Monica (Livorno, 2013), pp. 616–17.

3 Ackerman, The Architecture of Michelangelo, I, pp. 16–20, and II, pp. 9–11.

4 Ibid., II, pp. 9–10.

5 Hartt, Frederick, The Drawings of Michelangelo (London, 1971), p. 131; De Tolnay, Charles, ‘I progetti di Michelangelo per la facciata di S. Lorenzo a Firenze: nuove ricerche’, Commentari, 23 (1972), pp. 5372 (pp. 61–67); Wilde, Johannes, Michelangelo: Six Lectures (Oxford, 1978), p. 105; Argan and Contardi, Michelangelo Architect, pp. 168–69; Maurer, Golo, ‘Fatiche su carta: Michelangelo disegnatore di architettura’, in Michelangelo e il linguaggio dei disegni di architettura, ed. Maurer, Golo and Nova, Alessandro (Venice, 2012), pp. 3251 (pp. 40–41, 48); Gabriele Morolli, ‘“Di Architettura e di Scultura lo Specchio di tucta Italia”: la facciata michelangiolesca di San Lorenzo; evidenza, memoria, mistero’, in Nello splendore mediceo, ed. Baldini and Bietti, pp. 328–43.

6 Hirst, Michael, ‘A Note on Michelangelo and the S. Lorenzo Façade’, Art Bulletin, 68 (1986), pp. 323–26.

7 Ibid., pp. 325–26.

8 Elam, ‘Drawings as Documents’, pp. 109–11 and 114, n. 56; Jennifer H. Finkel, ‘Michelangelo at San Lorenzo: The “Tragedy” of the Façade’ (doctoral thesis, Case Western Reserve University, 2005), pp. 202–07; Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, pp. 58–59, republished in abbreviated form in Georg Satzinger, ‘“Le fatiche durate de lui”: i disegni per la facciata di San Lorenzo’, in Michelangelo e il linguaggio dei disegni, ed. Maurer and Nova, pp. 140–51; Finkel, Jennifer H., ‘Michelangelo at San Lorenzo: The Sculptural Program for the Façade’, in Renaissance Studies: A Festschrift in Honor of Professor Edward J. Olszewski, ed. Finkel, Jennifer H. et al. (New York, 2013), pp. 747 (pp. 36–37, n. 9).

9 See the respective studies of Satzinger, who advocates a veneer, and Maurer, who argues for a narthex, in Michelangelo e il linguaggio dei disegni, ed. Maurer and Nova.

10 Vasari, Giorgio, La vita di Michelangelo nelle redazioni del 1550 e del 1568, ed. Barocchi, Paola, 5 vols (Milan and Naples, 1962), I, pp. 5457. For the entrata of 1515, see Shearman, John, ‘The Florentine Entrata of Leo X, 1515’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 38 (1975), pp. 136–54; Ciseri, Ilaria, L'ingresso trionfale di Leone X in Firenze nel 1515 (Florence, 1990).

11 Vasari, La vita di Michelangelo, I, pp. 54–57, and II, pp. 662–78. Vasari does not specify whether the ‘Antonio da Sangallo’ refers to Sangallo the Elder or Younger. However, while previous scholarship often assumes he meant the Elder, the recent identification of a design by Sangallo the Younger, who was beginning to come into his own in both Rome and Florence, suggests he was referring to the Younger. See Hemsoll, David, ‘Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and the Façade of San Lorenzo in Florence’, in Antonio da Sangallo il Giovane: architettura e decorazione da Leone X a Paolo III, ed. Beltramini, Maria and Conti, Cristina (Milan, 2018), pp. 8396.

12 Vasari, La vita di Michelangelo, I, pp. 54–57; Tafuri, Manfredo, ‘Progetto per la facciata della chiesa di San Lorenzo, Firenze 1515–1516’, in Raffaello architetto, ed. Frommel, Christoph Luitpold et al. (Milan, 1984), pp. 165–69; Tafuri, Manfredo, ‘Raffaello, Jacopo Sansovino e la facciata di San Lorenzo a Firenze’, Annali di architettura, 2 (1990), pp. 2444; Pietro Ruschi, ‘I progetti del concorso leonine per la facciata della basilica di San Lorenzo a Firenze’, in Nello splendore mediceo, ed. Baldini and Bietti, pp. 318–27; Hemsoll, ‘Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and the Façade of San Lorenzo in Florence’, pp. 83–96.

13 Giuseppe Richa, Notizie istoriche delle chiese fiorentine divise ne'suoi Quartieri, 10 vols (Florence, 1972), V, unpaginated illustration; Davis, Charles B., ‘La grande “Venezia” a Londra’, Antichità viva, 23 (1984), pp. 3252; Borsi, Stefano, Giuliano da Sangallo: i disegni di architettura e dell'antico (Rome, 1985), pp. 472–91; Salvi, Federica, ‘Le facciate di Leone X’, in San Lorenzo 393–1993: l'architettura le vicinde della fabrica, ed. Morolli, Gabriele and Ruschi, Pietro (Florence, 1993), pp. 109–14 (p. 114); Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, pp. 19–22, 43–45; Donetti, Dario, ‘I progetti per San Lorenzo e la Firenze di Leone X’, in Giuliano da Sangallo: disegni degli Uffizi, ed. Donetti, Dario et al. (Florence, 2017), pp. 102–13.

14 Tafuri, Manfredo, ‘“Jugeum meum suavem est”’: Architecture and Myth in the Era of Leo X’, in Interpreting the Renaissance: Princes, Cities, Architects, trans. Sheer, Daniel (New Haven and London, 2006), p. 112.

15 Millon and Smyth, Michelangelo Architect, pp. 2–73; Elam, ‘Drawings as Documents’, pp. 99–114.

16 Donetti, ‘I progetti per San Lorenzo’, pp. 108–12.

17 Before Michelangelo had the existing wooden model made, he produced a new design and then entered into collaboration with Baccio d'Agnolo, who was to direct construction work, leaving Michelangelo to produce façade sculptures. Soon afterwards, Baccio produced a model of their joint scheme, although this was then dismissed by Michelangelo. See Wallace, Michelangelo at San Lorenzo, pp. 9–11.

18 De Tolnay, Charles, Corpus dei disegni di Michelangelo, 4 vols (Novara, 1975–80), IV, ff. 501r–510r. Some of the sketches Michelangelo made for the façade's marble blocks have also survived, but their fragmentary and isolated nature makes their study largely irrelevant to this aspect of the commission; see De Tolnay, Corpus, III, ff. 441r–468v, 487r–v.

19 Florence, Casa Buonarroti [hereafter CB] 51A. Scholars have based their varied interpretations on Michelangelo's inscription of la parete beside a silhouette of the façade in either elevation or profile, and on his inclusion of an irregular toothed shape drawn on the bottom-right corner of the sheet, which read as the projecting strips of masonry on the basilica's frontal wall. Elam interprets CB 51A, with reservations, as proof that a veneer façade was planned; see Elam, ‘Drawings as Documents’, p. 109. For a narthex interpretation, see Maurer, Michelangelo: Die Architekturzeichnungen, pp. 192–93.

20 The three folios in question are Florence, Archivio Buonarroti [hereafter AB] I, 157, f. 282r (De Tolnay, Corpus, IV, 502r); CB 113A r–v (Corpus, IV, 503r–v); and AB I, 158, f. 282r (Corpus, IV, 507r). The ground plans Michelangelo drew on CB 100A are omitted from this grouping due to their lack of a clear connection with the project, despite Satzinger's claim that the edge of the frontal wall is discernible; see Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, pp. 55, 101, fig. 73E.

21 Three of the plans (two on CB 113A v and one on AB I, 157, f. 280r) show the façade in an earlier design stage. Another (AB I, 158, f. 282r) shows the façade and church in outline but lacks any detail to indicate how the two would have been attached.

22 De Tolnay, Corpus, IV, p. 41 and f. 503r; Millon and Smyth, Michelangelo Architect, pp. 45–47. Elam's association of the plan on CB 113A r with foundation arches is questionable. It is the two ground plans Michelangelo drew on the verso of the sheet that are usually associated with the foundations, not the large plan on the recto, and Elam may have accidentally confused the plans or mistakenly identified the verso as the recto; see Elam, ‘Drawings as Documents’, pp. 104, 113, n. 41.

23 Dussler, Luitpold, Die Zeichnungen des Michelangelo (Berlin, 1959), p. 227; Barocchi, Paola, Michelangelo e la scuola: i disegni di Casa Buonarroti e degli Uffizi, 2 vols (Florence, 1962), I, pp. 6667; De Tolnay, Corpus, IV, p. 41; Millon and Smyth, Michelangelo Architect, p. 45.

24 Hirst, ‘A Note on Michelangelo’, pp. 323–26.

25 This is due presumably to the article's focus on elevation drawings, but one would expect Elam to address this sheet, given her rejection of the narthex hypothesis in her text; see Elam, ‘Drawings as Documents’, pp. 104, 111.

26 Finkel, Michelangelo at San Lorenzo, pp. 204–05.

27 Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, p. 58.

28 Finkel, Michelangelo at San Lorenzo, pp. 206–07; Satzinger mentions Nelli's reconstruction as an example of how the narthex might have been attached to San Lorenzo, but, unlike Finkel, does not claim it to be definitive proof; see Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, p. 59.

29 Ibid., pp. 56–58.

30 Ferri, Pasquale, ‘Di un disegno inedito attribuito a Michelangelo’, Arte e storia, XX (1901), pp. 9899; Geymüller, Heinrich von, ‘Alcune osservazioni sopra recenti studi su Bramante e Michelangelo’, Rassegna d'arte, I (1901), pp. 184–86; Thode, Henry, Michelangelo: kritische Untersuchungen über seine Werke, 3 vols (Berlin, 1908–13), II, pp. 9697; Ackerman, The Architecture of Michelangelo, II, pp. 10–11; Barocchi, Paola, Michelangelo e la scuola: i disegni dell'Archivio Buonarroti (Florence, 1964), pp. 910; Millon and Smyth, Michelangelo Architect, pp. 56–59; Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, pp. 56–58.

31 Beltrami, Luca, ‘Michelangelo e la facciata di San Lorenzo in Firenze: disegno e note inediti’, Rassegna d'arte, I (1901), pp. 6772 and 132–33.

32 Satzinger recently suggested they show the ‘first’ wooden model (now lost), based on their connection with other contemporary copies after Michelangelo's design such as the anonymous Uffizi 205A and Antonio da Sangallo's elevation sketch on Uffizi 790A: see Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, pp. 56–58.

33 Ackerman, The Architecture of Michelangelo, II, p. 10.

34 ‘q[uest]a pianta no[n] so chome si stia drento’ and ‘s[ant]o lore[n]zo’.

35 ‘no[n] so chome stia la pianta di santo lorenzo / q[uest]a è la facc[i]ata m[aestro] mi-che-la-gno-lo fiorentino’.

36 Ackerman, The Architecture of Michelangelo, II, p. 10.

37 Vasari, Giorgio, Le vite de'più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori, ed. Milanesi, Gaetano, 9 vols (Florence, 1878–85), VI, pp. 433–56.

38 Finkel, Michelangelo at San Lorenzo, pp. 204–07; Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, pp. 64–65.

39 Per la piazza di S. Lorenzo’, Arte e storia, 2 (1915), pp. 5960; Riordinamento della piazza di S. Lorenzo’, Arte e storia, 9 (1915), pp. 280–81; Giuliano De Marinis, ‘San Lorenzo: i dati archeologici’, in San Lorenzo 393–1993, ed. Morolli and Ruschi, pp. 31–36; Baglioni, Francesco, ‘Indagini archeologiche e scavi nel complesso laurenziano’, in San Lorenzo: A Florentine Church, ed. Gaston, Robert W. and Waldman, Louis A. (Florence, 2017), pp. 103–18 (p. 103).

40 Sanpaolesi, Piero, Brunelleschi (Milan, 1962), p. 76; Fanelli, Giovanni, Firenze: città antica in Toscana; atlante (Florence, 1973), p. 303, fig. 1310.

41 Valerio Tesi, ‘Il nuovo fabbricato della “Scuola dei Chierici” in piazza San Lorenzo’, in San Lorenzo 393–1993, ed. Morolli and Ruschi, p. 162; Robert Black, ‘The Scuola di S. Lorenzo’, in San Lorenzo: A Florentine Church, ed. Gaston and Waldman, pp. 356–81 (pp. 367, 372–73).

42 Elam, Caroline, ‘Il palazzo nel contesto della città: strategie urbanistiche dei Medici nel gonfalone del leon d'oro, 1415–1430’, in Il palazzo Medici Riccardi di Firenze, ed. Cherubini, Giovanni and Fanelli, Giovanni (Florence, 1990), pp. 4457 (pp. 45–47 and 51–57); Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, pp. 17–18; Jack Wasserman, ‘Monti Sancti Laurentii: Problems in the Construction of the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence’, in San Lorenzo: A Florentine Church, ed. Gaston and Waldman, pp. 257–78 (pp. 257–60).

43 Fanelli, Firenze, p. 5; Roselli, Piero and Superchi, Orietta, L'edificazione della basilica di San Lorenzo: una vicenda di importanza urbanistica (Florence, 1980), p. 83; Scampoli, Emiliano, Firenze: archeologia di una città (secoli I a.C. – XIII d.C.) (Florence, 2010), p. 207. In the nineteenth century, one Florentine scholar posited that Michelangelo had created this hill as an incline to transport buildings materials to the façade site: see Conti, Cosimo, ‘Sullo stato attuale della piazza di S. Lorenzo’, Arte e storia, 42 (1883), pp. 330–32.

44 A housing block had stood on this site previously, but documentary evidence shows it was completely demolished around March 1434 in preparation for the present basilica's construction. See Howard Saalman, Filippo Brunelleschi: The Buildings (London, 1993), pp. 152–53, 440, doc. 18. On the pavement, see Florence, Archivio del Capitolo di San Lorenzo, 2464 c. 6 iv: ‘Francesco di Piero Baccegli lastraiuolo deavere insino a questo di 28 di maggio 1484 1. centocinquanta soldi otto d. sej per braccia cinquecento quarantasette di lastrico fatto lungho la nostra piaza verso tramontano dirimpetto alle case delle Stufa di braccia ottantanove e mezo di lungheza e sei di largheza con una rivolta di verso levante di braccia dieci riquardate dandogli s. cinque d. sei del braccia. 1. 150 s. 8 d. 8.’, cited in Saalman, Filippo Brunelleschi, p. 439, doc. 14.1.

45 Sanpaolesi, Piero, Brunelleschi (Milan, 1962), p. 76; Fanelli, Firenze, p. 303, fig. 1310; Boffito, Giuseppe and Mori, Attilio, Piante e vedute di Firenze: studio storico topografico cartografico (Rome, 1973), passim.

46 For early views of Piazza San Lorenzo, see the unpaginated woodcut showing the festivities held on the piazza in Ordini, feste, et pompe fatte dal Re della Graticola, & suoi dignissimi ufitiali, nella Natività del Serenissima Principe di Toscana (Florence, 1577); the woodcut showing the proposed iconography for the funeral procession of Anna Maria Luisa dei Medici, Electrice Palatine from 1743, Florence, Uffizi, Galleria Disegni e Stampi, UA 20780F; and Giovanni Signorini's painted view, La Base di San Lorenzo priva della Statua, 1830, held today in the Museo Tracce di Firenze, Palazzo Vecchio.

47 I ricordi di Michelangelo, ed. Lucilla Bardeschi-Ciulich and Paola Barocchi (Florence, 1970), pp. 125–26. The dimensions used for these buildings in the reconstruction derive from early measured plans of the cloisters, such as the 1768 plans of the Laurentian complex conserved in Prague and Michelangelo's own sketch of the cloisters from c. 1524, as well as in-depth studies of the cloister layout. See Salmon, Frank, ‘The Site of Michelangelo's Laurentian Library’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 49 (1990), pp. 407–29 (pp. 422–25); Pietro Ruschi, ‘La canonica e i chiostri’, in San Lorenzo 393–1993, ed. Morolli and Ruschi, pp. 65–72; Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, pp. 17–18, fig. 16.

48 Roselli and Superchi, L'edificazione della basilica di San Lorenzo, pp. 24–25, 94–124, and passim; Saalman, Filippo Brunelleschi, pp. 188–93. See also Ruschi, ‘La canonica e i chiostri’, p. 68.

49 Tesi, ‘Il nuovo fabbricato della “Scuola dei Chierici”’, p. 162; Black, ‘The Scuola di S. Lorenzo’, pp. 372–73.

50 Finkel, Michelangelo at San Lorenzo, p. 206, n. 577.

51 Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, p. 16; Pedretti, Carlo, A Chronology of Leonardo da Vinci's Architectural Studies after 1500 (Geneva, 1962), pp. 124–25. For a similar reorganisation proposal for Piazza San Lorenzo, see Landucci, Luca, Diario fiorentino dal 1450 al 1516 di Luca Landucci continuato da un anonimo fino al 1542 (Florence, 1883), p. 272.

52 Barocchi, Paola and Ristori, Renzo, eds, Il carteggio di Michelangelo, 5 vols (Florence, 1965–83), III, p. 217; Wallace, Michelangelo at San Lorenzo, p. 48; Karmon, David, ‘Michelangelo's “Minimalism” in the Design of Santa Maria degli Angeli’, Annali di architettura, 20 (2008), pp. 141–53.

53 Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, pp. 64–65.

54 Milanesi, Carlo, ‘Due ricevute autografe di Michelangiolo Buonarotti ed un conto di spese concernenti alla facciata di San Lorenzo commessagli da Papa Leone X’, Giornale storico degli archive toscani, I (1857), pp. 5054; Barocchi and Ristori, eds, Il carteggio, I, pp. 292 and 319–20; Barocchi, Paola et al. , eds, Il carteggio indiretto di Michelangelo, 2 vols (Florence, 1988–95), I, p. 117.

55 Milanesi, ‘Due ricevute’, pp. 50–54.

56 ‘E per tanti paghatone a Meo fondatore per b.ª 4674 di fondamenti chavati al fondamento grosso, e per le volticiuole dove s’ànno a posare le schalee, a suo legniame, a sol. 2 e sol. 1, den. 10 il b.°, che il fondamento maggiore fu in fondo b.ª 11 ¼, e b.ª xij, e di groseza b.ª 4. L. 454. 3.’ and ‘E per tanti paghatone a Loremzo di Franc.° charettai, per b.ª 2468 di terra levataci de’ fondamenti grandi, abbattuto e saxi, a sol. j.° den. 8 il b.°, e charrettate 710 delle volticiole. L. 288. 9.’: Milanesi, ‘Due ricevute’, p. 51.

57 ‘E per tanti paghatone a Bernardo di Giovanni Pistochi e Temoi muratore, per hopere 333 di maestro a detto lavoro: a sol. 20 l'opera d'esso Bernardo et Temoi; sol. 17 e 15 le altre; et hopere 941 di manovale, a sol. 10, 9 e 8 il giorno, secondo li tempi. L. 783. 4.’ and ‘E per tanti paghatone a Francesco Chorbinelli, Giuliano del Chonparino et altri, per chosto di 34 m. di lavoro chanpigiano et nostrale, per volticiuole xviiij fatte a lo ’ntorno del fondamento grosso, su le quali à a venire le schalee, e per cierti archi fatti tra'muri, come è bisogniato; per tutto abiamo pagato. L. 396. 3.’: Milanesi, ‘Due ricevute’, p. 52.

58 Millon and Smyth, Michelangelo Architect, p. 47; Millon, Henry A., ‘Michelangelo and the Façade of S. Lorenzo in Florence’, in The Renaissance from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo: The Representation of Architecture, ed. Millon, Henry A. and Lampugnani, Vittorio Magnago (London, 1994), pp. 565–72 (p. 571); Finkel, Michelangelo at San Lorenzo, p. 204, n. 575. Elam likewise noted this possibility, although she did so with reservations concerning the location of the foundation vaults; see Elam, ‘Drawings as Documents’, p. 104.

59 For Ruggeri's full report on the restoration work (his ‘Relazione dei lavori eseguiti nei fondamenti e nel cimitero sotteraneo della basilica di S. Lorenzo, sotto la direzione dell'Architetto Ferdinando Ruggeri per ordine di A. Maria Luisa principessa di Toscana’), see Roselli and Superchi, L'edificazione della basilica di San Lorenzo, pp. 54–61; Ciletti, Elena, ‘Corsini Rome, Regency Florence, and the Last Medici Façade for San Lorenzo’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, 32 (1988), pp. 479518; Wallace, Michelangelo at San Lorenzo, pp. 62–63, 215, n. 402; Elena Ciletti, ‘The Medici Finale: the Electress Palatine, Ferdinando Ruggieri, and the Preservation of San Lorenzo’, in San Lorenzo: A Florentine Church, ed. Gaston and Waldman, pp. 646–78.

60 De Marinis, ‘San Lorenzo’, pp. 31–36; Baglioni, ‘Indagini archeologiche’, pp. 103–18.

61 While this might be true, no direct mention is made in these reports of the foundations, only that archaeologists did not locate the marbles that Vasari claimed were buried in front of the church; see ‘Per la piazza di S. Lorenzo’, pp. 59–60; ‘Riordinamento della piazza di S. Lorenzo’, pp. 280–81. It is conceivable, however, that the foundations were overlooked during the work, and are thus still in existence.

62 This reconstruction uses the generally accepted scale of 1:13.33 for the model. See Ruschi, ‘Modello ligneo per la facciata di San Lorenzo a Firenze’, pp. 616–17. Based on this scale, the new façade's width (37.99 m) would have been approximately 6 m greater than that of the church (31.90 m). Its left return — including its projecting elements — would have extended about 3 m beyond the nave's southern side wall, positioning it directly in front of the cloister's andito. A space of approximately 1 m, then, would have remained between the façade's return and the Scuola dei Chierici, which stands over 4 m from the edge of the church's front wall (4.44 m; the width of the cloister's andito). The measurements of the church's width and cloister's andito are my own.

63 For a hypothetical reconstruction of the positioning of the foundation vaults, see Morolli, ‘“Di Architettura e di Scultura lo Specchio di tucta Italia”’, pp. 331–32.

64 ‘E per tanti paghatone a Francesco Chorbinelli, Giuliano del Chonparino et altri, per chosto di 34 m. di lavoro chanpigiano et nostrale, per volticiuole xviiij fatte a lo ’ntorno del fondamento grosso, su le quali à a venire le schalee, e per cierti archi fatti tra'muri, come è bisogniato; per tutto abiamo pagato. L. 396. 3.’: Milanesi, ‘Due ricevute’, p. 52.

65 San Lorenzo's frontal wall has a width of 31.9 m. For the most recent discussion of the wooden model's dimensions and its likely scale, see Ruschi, ‘Modello ligneo per la facciata di San Lorenzo a Firenze’, pp. 616–17. Maurer has compared this hypothetical space to a bowling alley; see Maurer, Michelangelo: die Architekturzeichnungen, p. 186.

66 Ibid., pp. 62–63. For further discussion of antique and other prototypes for Michelangelo's design, see Hemsoll, David, Emulating Antiquity: Renaissance Buildings from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo (New Haven and London, 2019), pp. 232–34.

67 Ildefonso di San Luigi, Delizie degli eruditi toscani, 24 vols (Florence, 1770–89), XXII, p. 31; Moreni, Domenico, Continuazione delle memorie istoriche dell'ambrosiana imperial basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze, 2 vols (Florence, 1816), I, pp. 164–65; Trexler, Richard C., Public Life in Renaissance Florence (New York and London, 1980), pp. 96, 423, 504–05; Cox-Rearick, Janet, Dynasty and Destiny in Medici Art: Pontormo, Leo X, and the Two Cosimos (Princeton, NJ, 1984), pp. 3334.

68 Cianfogni, Pier Nolasco, Memorie istoriche dell'ambrosiana real basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze, ed. Moreni, Domenico (Florence, 1804), p. 157; Moreni, Continuazione delle memorie istoriche, I, pp. 184–88, and II, pp. 456–57, doc. XL. A similar plenary indulgence was offered after San Lorenzo's first renovation in the eleventh century, which granted a reduction of three years and forty days to time spent in purgatory to anyone visiting the church on the anniversary of its day of dedication, 9 January; see Cianfogni, Memorie istoriche, pp. 70, 199–200, doc. 1.

69 For Medici burials at San Lorenzo, see Moreni, Domenico, Pompe funebri celebrate nell'imperiore real basilica di San Lorenzo dal secolo XIII a tutto il regno Mediceo (Florence, 1827), passim, with a chronological list on pp. xiv–xix. See also Strocchia, Sharon T., Death and Ritual in Renaissance Florence (Baltimore, MD, 1992), passim.

70 Moreni, Pompe funebri, pp. 29–40; McManamon, John M., ‘Marketing a Medici Regime: The Funeral Oration of Marcello Virgilio Adriani for Giuliano de’ Medici (1516)’, Renaissance Quarterly, 44 (1991), pp. 141; Strocchia, Death and Ritual, pp. 19–23.

71 See the woodcut of 1577 titled ‘Ordini, feste, et pompe fatte dal Re della Graticola, & suoi dignissimi ufitiali, nella Natività del Serenissima Principe di Toscana’, discussed by Borsook, Eve, ‘Art and Politics at the Medici Court II: The Baptism of Filippo de’ Medici in 1577’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, 13 (1967), pp. 95114.

72 Richa, Notizie istoriche, V, pp. 44–57; Il Tesoro di Lorenzo il Magnifico: i vasi, ed. Detlef Heikamp and Andreas Grote (Florence, 1974), pp. 183–87, doc. XXIII; Wallace, William E., ‘Michelangelo's Project for a Reliquary Tribune’, Architettura, 17 (1987), pp. 4557 (pp. 45–46).

73 Federica Salvi, ‘Michelangelo Buonarroti e la tribuna delle reliquie’, in San Lorenzo 393–1993, ed. Morolli and Ruschi, pp. 115–18; Wallace, ‘Michelangelo's Project’, pp. 45–57; Mussolin, Mauro, ‘La Tribuna delle Reliquie di Michelangelo e la controfacciata di San Lorenzo’, in Michelangelo architetto a San Lorenzo: quattro problem aperti, ed. Ruschi, Pietro (Florence, 2007), pp. 183236 (pp. 184–85).

74 Herzner, Volker, ‘Zur Baugeschichte von San Lorenzo in Florenz’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 37 (1974), pp. 89115 (pp. 100–102); Roselli and Superchi, L'edificazione della basilica di San Lorenzo, pp. 125–32; Mussolin, ‘La Tribuna delle Reliquie’, p. 185.

75 Mussolin, ‘La Tribuna delle Reliquie’, pp. 184–85.

76 Hirst, ‘A Note on Michelangelo’, p. 325; Satzinger, Michelangelo und die Fassade, p. 59, n. 82.

77 Salvi, ‘Le facciate di Leone X’, p. 111; Morolli, ‘“Di Architettura e di Scultura lo Specchio di tucta Italia”’, pp. 331–32.

78 ‘e chiamasi contento e sodisfatto da me, come è detto, di tutti e’ danari ricievuti per detta facciata di San Lorenzo e d'ogni altra cosa che io abbia avuto a far seco insino a questo dì dieci di marzo 1519: e così mi lascia in mia libertà e disobrigo che io non abbia più a rendere conto a nessuno di cosa che io abbia avuto a far seco o con altri per suo conto’: see Milanesi, Gaetano, Le lettere di Michelangelo Buonarroti (Osnabrück, 1976), p. 581.

79 Chapman, Hugo, Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master (New Haven, CT, 2005), p. 158.

80 Elam, ‘Drawings as Documents’, p. 111.

81 Barocchi and Ristori, eds, Il carteggio, II, pp. 218–21; Condivi, Ascanio, The Life of Michelangelo, ed. and trans. Wohl, Alice Sedgwick and Wohl, Hellmut (University Park, PA, 1999), p. 63; Wallace, William E., ‘San Lorenzo 1520’, in San Lorenzo: A Florentine Church, ed. Gaston, and Waldman, , pp. 427–49.

A Reconsideration of Michelangelo's Unrealised Façade for the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence

  • Darin Stine

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