A real treasure hunt in search of details, creativity and beauty
Giorgio Vasari was born in Arezzo on July 30, 1511; his father was a textile merchant. At a very young age, he attended the workshop of French stained-glass painter Guillaume de Marcillat and the lessons of polygraph from Giovanni Pollio Lappoli, from whom he learned the first rudiments of humanism. He later continued his studies in Florence. He was introduced to the circle of the Medici court by Cardinal Silvio Passerini, tutor of the scions of the house of Medici, the future Cardinal Ippolito and Duke Alessandro. Here he continued his training in both art and literature. In addition, he befriended Francesco Salviati, with whom he visited Rome (1531 – 1532), where he studied ancient monuments and the works of Raphael and Michelangelo.
In 1527 his father died, and he had to support the family, working as an artist in Arezzo. The tones of art in this period are troubled, partly due to the influence of the artist Rosso Fiorentino. Nevertheless, with what he earned, he was able to have a house built among the vegetable gardens of Borgo San Vito, small in size but very sumptuous, a residence now used as a museum.
After the deaths of Cardinal Ippolito (1535) and Duke Alessandro (1537), his relations with the Medici family soured; he was impatient and depressed, so on the advice of Giovanni Pollastra, he moved to the Hermitage of Camaldoli, where he made paintings for the monks. After regaining his health, he moved to Rome (1538). He received an invitation from Ottaviano de’ Medici to return to Florence to rejoin Cosimo’s service but declined. Instead, he travelled extensively in the following years: he was in Naples, Venice, Rimini, Emilia and Veneto, Florence and Arezzo. During these travels, he gathered information on Italian art and artists, which would feed into his most important work, “Le vite de’ più eccellenti pittori scultori e architettori”, a collection of biographies of artists from Cimabue to his own time. In October 1545, he moved to Rome and entered the service of Duke Alessandro Farnese; for him, he frescoed a room in the Palazzo Della Cancelleria (later called “Dei Cento Giorni”) to glorify the salient events of the pontificate of Paul III, Alessandro’s grandfather. Between 1545 – 1547, in this environment rich in cultural and literary stimuli, he began to write his work.
In 1550, after marrying, he returned to Florence and published the work, dedicating it to Cosimo I De’ Medici. Then, after staying briefly in Rome, in the service of Pope Julius III, he returned (November 1553) to Arezzo with his wife and became the favourite artist of Cosimo De’ Medici, for whom he worked as architect, painter and set designer.
In 1554 he renovated the Palazzo Della Signoria/Palazzo Vecchio, where Cosimo intended to move with the court. In 1560, Vasari was in charge of constructing a building to house Florence’s administrative and judicial offices, the Uffizi complex. In 1565, the Vasari Corridor was added, a route prepared to connect the grand ducal apartments of the Palazzo Della Signoria to those of the Palazzo Pitti, recently purchased by Cosimo and used as a royal residence. During this same period, Vasari established, under Cosimo’s patronage, the Accademia dell’Arte e del Disegno (1563), directed the renovation of the basilicas of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, and in Pisa, designed the palaces of the Order of Santo Stefano and the Palazzo Della Carovana.
In 1568 he published the second, updated edition of Lives, which included his autobiography and several biographies of the artists of the time, especially that of Michelangelo Buonarroti, who died on February 18, 1564.
In 1572 Cosimo de’ Medici entrusted Vasari with the design of the Loggias of Arezzo and the fresco decoration of the dome of Florence Cathedral, only one-third of which was completed.
He died in Florence in June 1574; his remains, in an urn, were placed under the floor of the Arezzo church of Santa Maria Della Pieve.
The Fish Lodge is located in Piazza Dei Ciompi, initially placed in the Piazza del Mercato Vecchio (now Piazza Della Repubblica). Cosimo commissioned it to Giorgio Vasari in 1568 to house the fishmongers, formerly located near the Ponte Vecchio in today’s Piazza del Pesce, who were driven out of there to make way for the loggia supporting the Vasarian Corridor. The loggia was built between 1568 – 1569. In 1699 this ancient loggia was increased by an archway on each side at the behest of Cosimo III and at the expense of the Magistrato Della Grascia, which superintended the sale of foodstuffs in Florence.
During the so-called redevelopment of Florence, it was dismantled in 1889, and an attempt was made to salvage the best-preserved parts of the structure in anticipation of its reconstruction, parts that (coats of arms, roundels with fish, capitals, etc.), thanks to Guido Carocci, were deposited in the Museo di San Marco.
It was not until 1955 that the Committee for City Aesthetics, with funds from the Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, decided to rebuild it under the direction of engineer Giulio Cesare Lensi Orlandi Cardini, at the same time which the column was similarly being relocated.
The loggia consists of a double row of nine arches on pillars (at the heads and in the centre) and columns of the Tuscan order and is covered by a succession of tiny vaulted ceilings. Its airy spaciousness is due to the use of tie rods that balance the lateral thrusts of the arches without the need for external buttresses. The corner bays and the central one are supported by pilasters of pietra serena, while the others rest on columns of the same material.
The facades are decorated with roundels depicting different species of fish, placed in the spandrels of the arches, modelled after the ancients. Eight medallions on each side commemorate the sea, fishing and related activities, in keeping with the original function of the loggia. Four coats of arms decorate the corners, while in the centre a cartouche recalls the grand ducal commission of the loggia itself. On the side facing Via Pietrapiana, starting from the side facing Sant’Ambrogio, one has:
corner shield with the coat of arms of the union of Francis I and Joan of Austria, with cartouche and inscription; central shield with the “arme” of union of Cosimo I and Eleanor of Toledo, with the golden “toson” and ducal crown, cartouche and inscription;
further shield with the arms of Francis I and Joan of Austria;
shield with the “insignia” of the magistrate of the Grascia (“staio” filled with grains of wheat with two golden ears flanked by two dolphins engulfing two oxen);
plaque with an inscription commemorating the building of the loggia and the date 1568;
additional insignia of the Magistrate of Grascia.
The inscription reads, “The fish market that until now was held, in Lenten times, by the Ponte Vecchio, now the most illustrious and most excellent Cosimo de’ Medici, second Duke of Florence and Siena, and his son Francesco, most excellent prince, had it built with much greater expense and magnificence than that with which it had been built before, so that fish from now on may be sold here. 1568”.