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hall of maps
January 5, 2021

The Hall of Maps in Palazzo Vecchio: the world as Cosimo I imagined it

The Map Room with one of the world's oldest globes: a priceless treasure soon to be restored

The Sala delle Carte Geografiche in Palazzo Vecchio was built by Giorgio Vasari between 1561 and 1565, at the request of Cosimo I, to serve the dual function of the main room of the Guardaroba and the cosmographic room. The design of the new room, drawn up by Vasari, provided for the following: on the sofa, paintings depicting the constellations; along the walls, large wooden cupboards with tables of geography on the doors and images of the fauna and flora of their respective territories on the bases; above these, busts of princes and emperors and three hundred portraits of illustrious men. Finally, in the middle of the room, two large globes were to descend from above at the opening of the central panels of the sofa: the celestial one, suspended in the air, the terrestrial one, descending to the floor. The Stanza was tangible proof of Cosimo's interest in geography, natural sciences and trade, but it also concealed the duke's self-celebration as ruler of the universe. The ambitious project remained partly unfinished. Of the 53 completed geographical plates, 30 were painted by the Dominican Egnazio Danti (1564-1575) and 23 by the Olivetan monk Stefano Bonsignori (1575-1586). Twenty-seven were taken from Ptolemy's Geographia (2nd century AD), updated according to modern authors, and the others, including those of America, from various more recent sources. Egnazio Danti also made the large globe (1564-1571), which was, however, placed elsewhere and returned to its original destination only in the last century. Cristofano dell'Altissimo also began to paint portraits of illustrious men to be placed on cabinets, copying them from Paolo Giovio's famous collection in Como. By 1570 there were already more than two hundred portraits, arranged on three files, but in the following decade they were moved to the corridor of the Galleria degli Uffizi, where they can still be seen today.

The world map


The spectacular globe in the centre of the Map Room, with a diameter of about 220 cm, is the oldest large globe to have survived to the present day. The first documentary information on the globe dates back to early 1564, when a letter sent by Giorgio Vasari to Giovanni Caccini on 29 January reveals that the latter had sent him 'the globe' from Pisa by river. The globe was made by the friar Egnazio Danti, who had already worked on 30 geographical plates and, once finished, it is very likely that it was not placed in the Sala della Guardaroba, as it was not mentioned in the palace inventories of 1570 and 1574. Immediately placed in the Pitti Palace, where it appears in an inventory of 1587, it passed with the other scientific artefacts to the Uffizi Gallery. In 1775, it was moved to the Museum of Ancient Instruments annexed to the Specola in Florence and only in 1958, after other vicissitudes, did it reach its original location in the Sala delle Carte Geografiche in Palazzo Vecchio.


The major restoration of the Sala delle Carte Geografiche in Palazzo Vecchio, with the famous Globe, will begin in spring. The restoration work will include the recovery and enhancement of the furnishings, installations, maps and the enormous globe. With the exception of some maintenance work dating back to the 1950s, the globe and maps have never been restored using modern techniques. The proje-ct, developed by the Palazzo Vecchio's Technical Services-Factory Directorate, was strongly supported by the Councillor for Culture, Tommaso Sacchi, and will be financed thanks to a donation from the Friends of Florence foundation as part of the Florence I Care programme, which aims to create partnerships with private individuals for the restoration of cultural assets of public interest.



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