Paradoxplace Tuscany Photo Galleries

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About Paradoxplace

 

The building that launched Renaissance Architecture and saved many abandoned children

 

BRUNELLESCHI'S SPEDALE DEGLI INNOCENTI

 

aka - I figli di nessuno (the children of no-one)

 

FOUNDLING HOSPITAL - FLORENCE

 

Back to Paradoxplace Florence pages

 

 

 

 

Brunelleschi first catapulted to architectural fame with his design and subsequent building management in the 1420s of the Spedale degli Innocenti (Foundling Hospital) between San Marco and the Duomo in Florence.  The elegant colonnaded facade was a completely new look (as was much of the hospital design) which launched Renaissance Architecture.  Sadly it also sounded the death knell on most Romanesque and earlier stuff that ended up being demolished to make way for the Renaissance - so much so that there is now only one Romanesque cloister left in the whole of Tuscany (at Torri, west of Siena).

 

Latterly, also sadly, the Piazza della SS Annunziata has become an unloved mess of illegally parked cars and scooters, rubbish bins (and often trucklets - it seems to be a garbo trucklet garbage consolidation and social centre), wooden hoardings, drug pushers and other flotsam.  Not even a bar in sight.  The place looked better in 2005 (below) - though sadly the sun did not shine on the day we were there, but the photo does give a good idea of how the whole facade looks with less junk.

 

 

 

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Moving back to a sunny day in October 2006 (below) ....

 

 

On the horse riding towards the Duomo is Grand Duke Ferdinando I (de'Medici), captured by an 80 year old Giambologna in 1608.

 

LINK TO PARADOXPLACE MEDICI FAMILY PAGES

 

For your trivia quota - the statue was cast using bronze from canons captured from the Barbareschi during the North Africa expedition led by the Knights of the Order of St Stephen in 1607.

 

 

 

 

More evocatively, in 1487 Andrea della Robbia produced eight glazed terracotta tondi picturing infants in swaddling bands, which were set in the spandrels between the arches.  When the hospital was operational there was a sort of monster "Lazy Susan" structure (ruota di proietti) to the side of the main door, where you could place your unwanted baby in the hours of darkness and spin it off anonymously into the hospital within - a practice that was only stopped in 1885.  The blue discs on which the "tondi babies" lie may represent this sad machine.  Since 1487 more tondi have been added.  Some were replaced with copies in the 1800s, but some are original - we know not which is what - sorry!

 

If you are fortunate enough to live in Sydney, you can see two life size reproductions of the della Robbia tondi on the upper facade of the King George V building of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

 

 

Tondo of abandoned infant (Andrea della Robbia), Brunelleschi's Foundling Hospital, Florence

 

 

 

Tondo of abandoned infant (Andrea della Robbia), Brunelleschi's Foundling Hospital, Florence

Tondo of abandoned infant (Andrea della Robbia), Brunelleschi's Foundling Hospital, Florence

 

Tondo of abandoned infant (Andrea della Robbia), Brunelleschi's Foundling Hospital, Florence

 

Tondo of abandoned infant (Andrea della Robbia), Brunelleschi's Foundling Hospital, Florence

 

Tondo of abandoned infant (Andrea della Robbia), Brunelleschi's Foundling Hospital, Florence

 

 

 

Main cloister - the ruota di proietti was behind the windows next to the second column in from the left

 

 

 

View from the upstairs gallery - the star gallery exhibit is an rather over-vibrantly restored Ghirlandaio Nativity (the one in the Sassetti Chapel is what we would go for, and there you get the bonus of one of the great Florentine Renaissance Fresco cycles, the Medici family, an artist self-portrait and usually no tourists).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINK TO

The Fate of Innocents

Infant abandonment and the foundling wheel in 19th-century Italy

a paper by Mary Ann Dailey in the American Journal of Nursing, June 2011

 

For other Paradoxplace links visit the home page

 

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All original images Adrian Fletcher 2000-2014 - The contents may not be hotlinked, or reproduced without permission