This and That

Random bits of my life

Buontalenti Grotto, Boboli Gardens, Florence

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 26, 2012

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

Bernardo Buontalenti, the 16th century Florentine stage designer and architect, was also known as Bernardo delle Girandole (Bernardo of the
Fireworks). Sounds like a fun guy! He worked for the Medicis all his life, designing costumes, sets, fireworks displays, palaces, and gardens.

His three-chambered Grotto Grande in the Boboli gardens was built between 1583 and 1588. The grotto is not always open to the public. Times are posted. When I was there it was unlocked every two hours, for about half an hour at a time. Photography is permitted but the darkness of the interior chambers and the presence of crowds make it a tricky site to photograph. We couldn’t go into the third chamber, so I photographed it over the barrier.

The niches on either side of the entrance hold statues of Apollo and Ceres.

The close-up of the facade, below, was taken the first day we visited the Boboli Gardens (hence, the overcast sky and bluish tones). The other photos were taken on our second visit (sunny day!), and we showed up at one of the times when the grotto was open.

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

The first chamber is very bright because it is illuminated by a circular opening  in the painted ceiling and a large window above the columns, as well as by the columned entrance itself.

The next two photos show the painted ceiling of the first chamber.

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

The first chamber has carved pastoral scenes, decorated with paint and embedded seashells, on the left and right walls.

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

The triangular opening in the back wall leads to the second chamber, containing¬†Vincenzo de’ Rossi’s statue of Paris and Helena (1560).

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

The second chamber is much smaller than the first. It’s also quite dark and difficult to photograph. I had to brighten these photos (ISO 3200!) considerably to show the details.

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

The third chamber, which we couldn’t enter, contains Giambologna’s statue of the bathing Venus (1565).

Grotto Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence

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2 Responses to “Buontalenti Grotto, Boboli Gardens, Florence”

  1. Judy Montel said

    Phenomenal! There seem to be additional sources of light into the third chamber, am I right? I noticed with the other grottoes as well that the ornamentation is 3 dimensional? Or are there just seashells obtruding a bit from the surface while the 3 dimensional effect is done with light and shadow? Fascinating – thank you so much for the tour!!

    On Fri, Oct 26, 2012 at 9:28 AM, This and Th

    • Avital Pinnick said

      The third chamber has a round window, to the left of the statue, but most of the life was coming from the entrance. Yes, the designs are very three-dimensional! They’re probably about a foot deep in places, which is why they can create effects like overlapping sheep standing on a bluff in front of a shepherd and nymphs.

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