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Florence circa 1900: The Photographic View

The Cathedral Facade

Although the start of works to construct the Florentine Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore dates back to 1296, the façade remained unfinished until the 16th century and was demolished in 1587. In the following years, on the occasion of the solemnities, the Cathedral was merely covered by pictorial decorations of the façade and only in the 19th century were new proposals to complete the façade discussed and the relative international competition announcements also published. However, neither the competition of 1861, in which 42 architects participated, nor the second, in 1864, were successful. Only the third competition, in 1865, produced a winner, namely Emilio De Fabris (1807-1883), who started the construction of the façade in 1871, which was then completed by Luigi del Moro (1845-1897) following the death of De Fabris. The official inauguration by King Umberto I, nonetheless, only took place on 12 May 1887. The article "Storia delle otto facciate" traces the history of the Cathedral's façade, starting with Arnolfo di Cambio up until its completion. Alongside reproductions of some contributions to the competition, drafts of which are now in part displayed in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo and range from strictly linear styles to spirited eclecticism, the images document the state of transition between 1870 and 1883. They portray the Cathedral at different times: with the pictorial decoration of the façade, after its removal, and just before the start of construction of the neo-Gothic façade (with the barriers of the building site already assembled). Lastly, a colour lithograph shows the completed façade.


"Storia delle otto facciate" by Giuseppe Baccini, 1887, Lithographie 62 x 43,7 cm, Inv. Nr. 94252/1

Project of the facade by Niccolo Matas dated 1843 with the subsequent addition of a grid, end of 19th century, lithograph 55.2 x 44.3 cm, inv. no. 94247

Campanile and Cathedral after removal of the painted façade and before the start of construction of the neo-Gothic façade, photo: unidentified photographer, circa 1871, albumen print 23.6 x 17.8 cm, inv. no. 108889

Campanile and Cathedral after removal of the painted façade and before the start of construction of the neo-Gothic façade, photo: unidentified photographer, circa 1871, albumen print 23.6 x 17.8 cm, inv. no. 108889

Project of the Cathedral façade (no. 2: "E come l’un pensier dall’altro scoppia…") from the first competition of 1861/62, photo: Pietro Semplicini, 1862/1863, albumen print 46 x 32 cm (mounting board), inv. no. KHI library: L 640 (RARO)

Project of the Cathedral façade by "Archeologo Buscone, Milano" (no. 3: "L'Orbo") from the first competition of 1861/62, photo: Pietro Semplicini, 1862/1863, albumen print 46 x 32 cm (mounting board), inv. no. KHI library: L 640 (RARO)

Project of the Cathedral façade (no. 32: "Alla Giustizia si renda omaggio…") from the first competition of 1861/62, photo: Pietro Semplicini, 1862/1863, albumen print 46 x 32 cm (mounting board), inv. no. KHI library: L 640 (RARO)

Project of the Cathedral façade (no. 36: "Volenti nil difficile") from the first competition of 1861/62, photo: Pietro Semplicini, 1862/1863, albumen print 46 x 32 cm (mounting board), inv. no. KHI library: L 640 (RARO)

Campanile and Cathedral with the façade unveiled in 1887, Stabilimento Litografico Benelli e Gambi Firenze, end of 19th century, chromolithography 69.5 x 51.5 cm, inv. no. 94244

Celebration programme commemorating the unveiling of the Cathedral façade by King Umberto I on 12 May 1887, lithograph 62 x 43.7 cm, inv. no. 94252/2




© KHI in Florence | 30.11.2020 03:20:36