Florence, Palazzo Vecchio finishes restoration of Juno's Terrace, which returns to house Verrocchio's Putto

In Florence, the restoration of the Terrazzo di Giunone in the Quartiere degli Elementi in Palazzo Vecchio, made possible thanks to the Friends of Florence association, has been completed: the environment thus returns to house the Putto by Andrea del Verrocchio (Florence, 1435 - Venice, 1488), which also underwent a thorough restoration last year, and has just returned from the Palazzo Strozzi and Washington exhibitions. The restoration of the Terrazzo di Giunone cost about 60 thousand euros: the room is part of the “new rooms” that Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici had built in the aftermath of his move from the family residence to Palazzo Vecchio, the building that had housed the city’s municipal and republican government for more than two centuries.

The Terrazzo di Giunone is located in the southeastern wing of the palace’s piano nobile, and is part, as mentioned, of the Quartiere degli Elementi, intended to accommodate the court’s guests and built under the direction of Giovanni Battista del Tasso (Florence, c. 1500 - 1555) between 1551 and 1555, but soon afterwards modified by Giorgio Vasari (Arezzo, 1511 - Florence, 1574), the main architect of the transformation of the ancient Palazzo dei Priori or della Signoria into a sumptuous ducal palace. Vasari and his collaborators are responsible for the precious painted wooden boxes, stuccoes and frescoes decorating the rooms of the Quartiere with stories of the first lineage of mythological gods. The Juno Terrace, brought to completion in 1557, today looks like a modestly sized room, but originally, as the name of the room itself reminds us, it was a columned loggia overlooking the city, and was designed to accommodate a fountain in the center, and on the inner side an ancient statue of the goddess Juno. The fountain was never to be built, but the fresco in the center of the lower register of the inner wall, depicting a mock niche with a winged putto in gilded bronze pouring water from a vase, in the middle of a circular basin, with one foot above the head of a dolphin, remains to commemorate the design.

The terrace was transformed into an enclosed room as a result of later additions to the side of the palace facing Via dei Leoni. Verrocchio’s Putto with Dolphin, a work from about 1470-1475, entered here in the 20th century: it was commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent for a fountain in the Medici villa at Careggi. It remained in Michelozzo’s courtyard in the Palazzo Vecchio until it was decided between 1957 and 1959 to move it inside the museum for conservation reasons and replace it on site with a bronze copy by the foundryman and restorer Bruno Bearzi. Its present location evokes the unfinished design of the fountain that Giorgio Vasari was to have made in the center of the Terrazzo di Giunone and places it in dialogue with the similar gilded bronze putto that, in view of that work, had been painted as a “model” on the loggia’s interior wall.

The restoration of the Terrace was necessary because the frescoes decorating it had extensive repainting, numerous reconstructions and layers of glues and resins of various kinds, the result of previous restoration work. There were also lifts and falls in the paint film, detachments between preparatory layers and various fillings. In order to maintain the reading of the work, it was necessary to safeguard the reconstructions to a large extent, but without compromising the quality and chromatic matter of the original frescoes. The cleaning intervention, preceded by the preconsolidation of the decohesive flakes, required special attention: ammonium carbonate compresses applied on Japanese paper and supported by cellulose pulp, sepiolite or agar-agar gel were made. This very delicate phase allowed the recovery of the original paintings and to save, by attenuating it, the reconstructive intervention that affected fundamental pieces of the pictorial text, such as Juno’s head, part of the body and the peacocks. The stuccoes were covered with a thick layer of incoherent dust and were affected by a yellowish patina, which was also widespread on the white backgrounds of the grotesque decorations. Some molded cornices were deteriorated. Cleaning of the fat mortar reliefs was carried out with the application of Japanese paper and a neutral surfactant solution. Controlled removal of the surface-applied patination revealed several reconstructions therefore, where necessary, particularly in the thin molded cornices that had gypsum-based stuccoes, consolidation using calcium caseinate was carried out. Both old and new plasterwork were camouflaged with light watercolor glazes.

In addition, the lighting system was also renewed. On the pietra serena cornice that runs above, perimeterally to the hall, LED spotlights of small size but excellent color rendering with variable optics were installed, which greatly improved the visibility of both the pictorial surfaces and the bronze putto, and an asymmetrical LED bar that illuminates the barrel vault. The luminaires were chosen for their characteristics, depending on the surface to be illuminated and the obligatory position above the cornice.

“We are proud,” says Tommaso Sacchi, councillor for culture of the City of Florence, “that the Putto with Dolphin by Andrea del Verrocchio, one of the most famous icons of Palazzo Vecchio ever since Cosimo I de’ Medici had it placed on the fountain in the center of Michelozzo’s courtyard, is finally returning to its original home newly restored and as splendid as it once was after having flown to the United States for an extraordinary exhibition in the Leonardian year. We thank Friends of Florence and President Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda for the sensitivity she has shown toward our cultural heritage: we are honored to have her at our side in caring for our monuments and historical-artistic assets.”

“The return of Verrocchio’s Putto after exhibitions at Palazzo Strozzi and the National Gallery in Washington and its definitive relocation in the Terrazzo di Giunone just restored by our Foundation,” says Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, president of Friends of Florence, “completes a place of unique beauty and great historical and artistic value. I would like to thank on behalf of Friends of Florence, Ellen and James Morton, the entire board of the Foundation, Jon and Barbara Landau, Fabrizio Moretti, i.e., the donors who made these interventions possible, the City of Florence who offered us this opportunity, the Soprintendenza who accompanied us in our work, and the restorers who carried out the interventions on the Terrazzo di Giunone and the Putto del Verrocchio.”

Pictured: the Terrazzo of Juno in the Palazzo Vecchio

Florence, Palazzo Vecchio finishes restoration of Juno's Terrace, which returns to house Verrocchio's Putto
Florence, Palazzo Vecchio finishes restoration of Juno's Terrace, which returns to house Verrocchio's Putto

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