L.9 The Arms of Leo X


Fresco, SS. Annunziata, Florence.

Vasari, 1550, 797, in the “Life” of Rosso: “Dipinse medesimamente sopra un’altra porta, l’arme di Papa Leone con due fanciulli, oggi guasta.”  Vasari, 1568, 205 (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 157-158): “Dipinse medesimamente sopra un’altra porta, che entra nel chiostro del convento de’servi, l’arme di Papa Leone con due fanciulli, oggi guasta.”

Shearman, 1960, 154, identified Vasari’s statements with the following:

DOCUMENTS: A.S.F., Conv. Sopp. 119 (SS. Annunziata), no. 705 (Libro del Camarlingo, Entrata e Uscita, October 1512 to 1516), c. 175 r.:

20 September 1515: “A muraglia adì decto lire quaranta dua, sono che tanti ne decti a giovanni batista dipintore per dipignere l’arme sopre la porta a sua ispese, portò contanti.”

Carroll, 1987, 15, 16, 33, n. 20, mentioned.  Franklin, 1994, 20, 21, 296-297, Appendix A, DOCUMENT 7.1

Shearman believes that Vasari’s statement can also be related to the following undated entry by Padre Eliseo Biffoli in his Notizie delle cose memorabili del Convento e Chiesa della Nunziata… (A.S.F., Conv. Sopp. 119, No. 59, c. 8 v.): “Questo medesimo [Rosso] dipinse que’2 fanciulli che sono sopra la porta de Chiostro de’ morti a’ piedi dell’arme del Duca.”  (Mentioned by Colnaghi, 1928, 236, without reference to Leo X, assuming the date 1513 although no date appears in the margin of Biffoli’s entry.)

Again according to Shearman, Leo X’s arms would have already deteriorated by 1550 and would have been refurbished and the arms themselves replaced with those of Francesco I who was Grand Duke when Biffoli wrote.  The position of these arms over the door leading to the chiostro de’morti was a relatively prominent one at the left of the long front of the Annunziata, and in 1515, just before Leo X’s first visit to Florence, the placement of his arms here would have been most appropriate even with the Medici arms already over the arch of the porch of the main entrance to the church (see below).  This location of Rosso’s fresco seems to be what is meant by Vasari’s phrase in 1568 that the arms were “sopra un’altra porta, che entra nel chiostro del convento de’Servi.”  If he had intended to specify a location in the atrium Vasari would probably have named the “cortile” of the church, as he does when writing of Rosso’s Assumption.  Both Vasari and Biffoli speak of two accompanying “fanciulli.”  It should also be noted that in 1568 Vasari says Leo X’s arms were “over another door,” which seems to refer back to his only shortly preceding reference to the arms of Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci that were executed in 1513 over the door of the Pucci Chapel (L.8).  When mentioning this work in 1568, Vasari adds that Pucci was made a Cardinal by Leo X.  Hence, it is very possible that if the Pucci arms were over the exterior door to the Pucci Chapel at the far right end of the front of the church (and not over the entrance from the atrium), then the arms of Leo X would have been a kind of counterpart to them at the far left of this front.  If this was the case then the two “fanciulli,” which from Biffoli’s words would seem to have been supporting the arms above them, were probably designed with reference to those of Pucci’s arms. According to the view of the façade of the church in Ridolfo Ghirlandaio’s Annunciation in the Palazzo Vecchio, the arms of Leo X would have replaced some other decoration above the door, perhaps another coat-of-arms.

Rosso’s work was probably destroyed when the façade of the church was remodeled in 1601-1604 (Paatz, I, 1940, 68, 78, 142, n. 72).

For a drawing in the Louvre that Berti, 1983, 55, 56-57, Fig. 56, attributed to Rosso and identified as for the lost arms of Leo X of 1515, see RD.33.


1 Franklin, 1994, 273, n. 86, states that the document is noted in the last insert in ASF, Corp. RS, 119, vol. 59, fol. 8v and in the memoriale in this volume marked 5, fol. 23r.