L.12 Triumphal Arch Dedicated to Hope

Triumphal Arch Dedicated to Hope, for the Entry of Leo X into Florence, 30 November 1515


Canto de’Bischeri, Florence (Fig.Bischeri; Fig.Bischeri marker).

Record of payment for this temporary arch by Rosso is contained in Florence, State Archives, Otto di Pratica. Deliberazioni e partiti, condotte e stanziamenti, 11, fol. 89v-94r.

[8 Dicembre 1515]

“Item a conto di:

“Spese di ornamenti e archi fatti nella città per honorare la Santità di Nostra Signore, fiorini cinquemila novanta larghi in oro, lire ventisei soldi due denari octo pìccioli, cioè… f.CCCLXX a Francesco Granacci et altri per l’arco della Badia, et fiorini quattrocentottanta a Giovanbaptista vocato Rosso per l’arco del canto de’ Bischeri, et f.DXX a Andrea di Agnolo dipintore et Iacopo da San Sovino [fol.90 recto] per to ornamento della facciata di S. Maria del Fiore e il cavallo facto in sulla piaza di S. Maria Novella… f.5090 L.26s.2d.8 pìccioli.”1

Vasari, 1550, 797, in the “Life” of Rosso, stated that he “Fece per la venuta di Papa Leone a Fiorenza sul canto di Bischeri uno arco bellissimo.”  The same appears in Vasari, 1568, II, 205 (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 158).2  In the “Life” of Sarto, Vasari (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 24-25) described the entire entry stating that “al canto de’Bischeri ne fece un altro [arco] il Rosso, con molto bello ordine e varietà di figure.”

The location of the arch is confirmed by an entry in Archi, et spectaculi Preparati a Fiorenza per la entrata de Papa Leone xmo del anno 1515 (London, British Library, MS Harley 3462, fols. 194r-194v): “Al Canto dei Bischeri il sextodecimo, alla speranza abbigliato nel medesimo modo.”3  The same location is given by Luca Landucci in his diary (Siena, Bibl. Comunale, MS.K.XI.25, fol. 62r / modern, fol. 32r), with the following description: “La Settima fu a Chanto de’Bischeri che, non sanza amirazione a vederlo, aveva 27 cholonne piane, le quali facevano un certo quadro che passava la via che va verso San Piero, chon tanti ornamenti d’oro.  Tutte quelle cholonne avevano giù per mezzo loro un festone di certe melagrane e pine, chome s’usa, tutte dorate, che pareva una chosa più riccha che l’altre di tante buone fighure, che facevano badare ore intorno tutte queste chose, alte insino alle sommità delle chase, chon magni archi trionfali in croce chome stanno le vie.”4  To this description can be added the brief remark in the Istorie di Giovanni Cambi (ed. Ildefonso di San Luigi, III [Delizie degli eruditi toscani, XII], Florence, 1786, 84): “…dipoi al chanto de’Bischeri un altro, chera quadro con molte fighure insu tele di panno dipinte, e messi in cierti quadri di detto trionfo.”5  A general description of the arch is given in COPIA DI UNA EPISTOLA di Gualtieri Panciatichi ciptadino Fiorentino nella entrata di Papa Leone. Nella cipta di Fire[n]ze. Adi.xxx. di Nouembre. MD.XV., published by Lionardo di Neri cartolaio, Florence, 3 January 1515 [1516]: the arch was at a crossroads, and was like a high tower or testudo that did not appear as made of wood but as a very precious gem, not of white marble but of porphyry; its expert artist used the ancient Doric order, with pilasters (without leaves for ornament), not columns, and with a well understood ornamented and inscribed cornice; the form of the arch was square and compact, and it is certain that Vitruvius would have given the palm to the author of this arch [Rosso is not mentioned]; a gold plate on the pediment was inscribed: SPES EIUS IN DOMINO. L.X.P.M..6  Without mentioning Rosso’s name Bartolomeo Masi also praised his arch: “e passò dal canto de’Bischeri, ché in su detto canto v’era un altro arco, el quale arco persone lo tenevano el più bello arco che si fussi fatto in Firenze.”7  Further information is given in Guglielmo de’Nobili, Scritti e cansoni in Lode di Papa Leone Xo of around 1526 (Florence, B.N., MS Landau Finaly 183, fols. 41v-47r): the arch, gilt and worked like a gem and containing scenes resembling antique ones, was located behind the cathedral and was dedicated to green Hope; above one of the large piers (troncone) was a scene of Shadrach and his companions in the fiery furnace; above the other pier was shown Moses and Aaron turning the waters of the Nile into blood; there was also Elisha curing Naaman’s leprosy (wrongly identified as “Nabuch” [Nebuchadnezzar]); “nel arco,” perhaps indicating a group in a niche rather than a relief, and at the left, Jacob and the angel, perhaps also in a niche; above the large columns, apparently meaning on top of the arch, was a sculpted group of the Sacrifice of Isaac; on another side (banda) a scene showed Noah inside the ark awaiting the return of the dove; there were also other beautiful and pleasant ornamentations praising the Hope of Leo X.8

The information that is available on Rosso’s arch makes possible only a partial glimpse of what Rosso’s work was like.  It was located where both the Via dell’Oriuolo and the Via del Proconsolo enter the Piazza del Duomo,9 and was so placed that the axes of the two streets crossed at the center of the arch.  This siting can be gathered from Landucci’s description.  It was of enormous size, rising as high as the tops of the houses nearby, probably to accommodate the procession to pass through it.  Its four sides would have had Doric pilasters supporting a cornice, and at least one pediment, and the entire arch was painted in imitation of porphyry and was partially gilt.  Landucci specified twenty-seven pilasters, but given the need to dispose of these evenly on the four sides of the arch, this number is improbable.  A likely arrangement on the outside would have been pilasters at the corners, and one on each side of the four arches, making four pilasters on each side and hence a total  of sixteen.  There must, however, have been more, perhaps on a second level or on the insides of the arches, if Landucci’s number is to be considered as approaching some kind of true approximation.  In whatever number and arrangement, each side would most probably have had an even number of pilasters.  The gilt ornament mentioned by Landucci included swags of pomegranates and pine cones hanging down from the middle of the pilasters.  Above the piers would most probably have been set the narrative scenes – Shadrach and His Companions Meshach and Abednago in the Fiery Furnace and Moses and Aaron Turning the Waters of the Nile into Blood – and perhaps below them individual figures or groups – Elisha Curing Naaman’s Leprosy and Jacob and the Angel – the former reliefs, the latter statues in niches made out of painted cloth, as suggested by Cambi.10  Noah Inside the Ark Awaiting the Return of the Dove would seem to have appeared as a relief on the other side of the arch.  If there were only the narrative scenes and groups indicated by de’Nobili this may have been because the arch was not finished, for what he mentioned could not possibly have completely decorated this large arch.  Perhaps only one side of the arch contained the statues and reliefs, the side facing the Via del Proconsolo from which direction the procession arrived, in spite of de’Nobili’s reference to another side (banda), which could be simply the other side of the same face.  However, de’Nobili’s account could itself be incomplete.  On the top of the arch was the sculptured group of Abraham and Isaac, probably also facing the Via del Proconsolo.  The inscription given by Panciatichi would most likely have been on the entablature or on a plaque facing in the same direction, or repeated on all four sides.

As it appears that the Florentines first began to know around 21 October 1515 of Leo’s visit,11 Rosso’s arch would have been designed and constructed in no more than five weeks.  With its dedication to Hope, it was the fifth triumphal arch of a series devoted to the seven canonical Virtues, with an eighth representing all the Virtues together.12


1 The document was transcribed by Gino Corti.  It is fully published by Minucci del Rosso, 1879, 481-482, and by Ciseri, 1990, 272, Doc. XXXVII; partially in Pagnotta, 1987, 244, Doc. 12; and mentioned in Vasari-Milanesi, V, 25, n. 3.  It is slightly differently transcribed in Von Holst, 1974, 216-217, Doc. 39; see also Von Holst’s Docs. 37-38 for Granacci’s participation in the decorations for this entry.  Franklin, 1994, 297, Appendix A, DOCUMENT 8, transcribed the part of this document that pertains to Rosso, commenting that the 480 florins must have included materials. Waldman, Louis A., Baccio Bandinelli and Art of the Medici Court: A Corpus of Early Modern Sources, Philadelphia, Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 251, 40, no. 85, fully transcribed with notes but none relating to Rosso.

2 Vasari’s statement is mentioned in Venturi, IX, 5, 1932, 194.  The entire entry is discussed in Shearman, 1975, and mentioned in Shearman, 1980, 9; the bibliography on it is given in Mitchell, Bonner, Italian Civic Pageantry in the High Renaissance. A Descriptive Bibliography of Triumphal Entries and Selected Other Festivals for State Occasions (Biblioteca di bibliografia italiana, LXXXIX), Florence, 1979, 39-43, no. III.  Mentioned also in Bonner, 1986, 12, 37, 107-108, and in Carroll, 1987, 16, 33, n. 28.  The entire entry is also discussed in Testaverde Matteini, 1988, 334-340, with a map giving the location of Rosso’s arch, which otherwise is only briefly considered, and in Ciseri, 1990, with complete documentation and maps; see also Cummings, 1992, 67-82.

3 See also Shearman, 1975, 146, and Ciseri, 1990, 173, Doc. I.

4 A full copy of the now incomplete Sienese manuscript is in Florence, Bibl. Marucelliana, MS. C. 26, with the passage on Rosso’s arch on 304-305.  This accurate copy is the source of Luca Landucci, 1883, 355-356, containing the description of Rosso’s arch, with the orthography changed and the word “tutte” toward the end missing.  See also A Florentine Diary from 1450 to 1516, translated from the I. del Badia edition by Alice de Rosen Jerris, London and New York, 1927, 282; and Ciseri, 1990, 195, Doc. IX.

5 See also Shearman, 1975, 136, n. 2, no. 7, 146, n. 32; and Ciseri, 1990, 179, Doc. IV.

6 See also Shearman, 1975, 136, n. 2, no. 2, 146-147, n. 32; and Ciseri, 1990, 224-225, Doc. XIV.

7 Bartolomeo Masi, Ricordanze di Bartolomeo Masi, calderaio fiorentino, dal 1478 al 1536, ed. O. Corazzini, 1906; passage here taken from Ciseri, 1990, 203, Doc. XI.

8 See also Shearman, 1975, 136-137, n. 2, no. 16, 146-147, n. 32; and Ciseri, 1990, 306-308, Doc. XLV.  The arch is discussed by Franklin, 1994, 3, 13, 29, 30, 265, 297, who thought the rare Old Testament subjects and the use of canvas bring to mind his later Moses [P.14] and that the project was related to Rosso’s decorations of the Gallery of Francis I at Fontainebleau.  Mention of the arch also appears in Ciardi, 1994, 18, 22, 90, n. 20, 91, n. 44, 92, n. 53.

9 On this location, see Ugo Procacci, “L’uso dei documenti…,” Donatello e il suo tempo, Florence, 1968, repeated in H.M. Caplow, “Sculptors’ Partnerships in Michelozzo’s Florence,” Studies in the Renaissance, XXI, 1974, 157; see also Pirro Giacchi, Dizionario del vernacolo fiorentino, Florence, Bencini, 1878 (reprint, Rome, 1966), 22-23, under “Bischero!”.

10 Shearman, 1975, 146, n. 32, rightly suggested that Cambi’s short description could be interpreted as indicating that there were both single figures and narrative scenes.  Shearman, 1975, 147, n. 34, interpreted payments to Giuliano Bugiardini and Piero di Cosimo (see Minucci del Rosso in n. 1) as perhaps for costumes for real persons that may have been on some of the arches of this entrata, but no such figures are actually mentioned in the various descriptions that are known.  The wording of the record of payment could indicate attendant figures, some who sang, who were associated with the themes of the arches but were not actually part of their compositions.

11 See Landucci, 1883, 279, and Agostino Lapini, Diario Fiorentino dal 252 al 1596, ed. G.O. Corazzini, Florence, 1900, 90, under entries of this date indicating that the pope would visit Florence, but expressing no knowledge of a proposed entrata, as indicated by Shearman, 1975, 149, n. 39.

12 See Shearman, 1975, 139-140, with the suggestion that the program may have been devised by Jacopo Nardi; Ciseri, 1990, 106-110, also suggested Marcella Virgilio Adriani.