Palazzo Vecchio recently began offering a new tour designed by a Marist Italy graduate student in the Museum Studies MA program. The new tour examines the collection given to the Palazzo Vecchio in 1928 by an American scholar and collector, Charles Loeser. The work of the current interns, Caitlin Healy and Olivia Sicignano (both MA 2012-13 students) are in an effort to connect the Palazzo Vecchio with the American and other English speaking visitors in Florence and engage them in a different part of Florentine history.
The Charles Loeser collection, on display in the mezzanine in the palace, is located at the end of the traditional percorso of the palace. These rooms, located in the old section of the palace, functioned once as government offices during the time of the Republic. After Duke Cosimo I moved his family into the palace in 1540, his mother Maria Salviati (1499-1543) took over these room but moved out only 2 years later, due to her dislike of the space. The brothers of the Duchess Eleonora moved in after Maria, and the current layout of the objects in this museum space reflects this historical use as a living space. Loeser did not want his works to be displayed as objects in a museum, but rather arranged in a way to evoke a true Renaissance home.
Today, the tour focuses on this specific section of the palace, but the works discussed reference not only the life’s work of Charles Loeser but their history and relationship with the palace. One example is the Portrait of Laura Battiferri by Agnolo Bronzino. Bronzino was the family portraitist for Duke Cosimo I. Laura Battiferri, friends with the duchess, dedicated her first book of poetry ‘Primo Libro delle Opera Toscane,’ to her. Charles Loeser was the first to identify the sitter as the Renaissance poetess as the book the woman holds is specifically a book of sonnets by Petrarch dedicated to his muse, Laura. Other highlights of the Loeser donation include a small wax sculpture by Giambologna, Madonna and Child by Pietro Lorenzetti, a marble angel by Tino di Camaino, and a fresco sketch by Giovan Battista Naldini.
Caitlin Healy, a 2012-13 MA student, spent her summer internship researching the collection and the life of Charles Loeser. She developed a tour that highlights not only the diverse collection of artworks but also the life and contribution of an American scholar and collector in Florence. Healy says, “I’ve enjoyed learning about an interesting American expat that lived here for 38 years but is relatively unknown, compared to the more prominent expats of the same time period. His idiosyncratic collection reflects his desire to evoke a Renaissance atmosphere in his own home.”
The 40 minute tour of the Loeser Collection takes place Monday through Friday at 11 am. The tour is free with the ticket of the palace, and the tour is conducted only in English. Reservations and more information are included on the Facebook, www.facebook.com/musefirenze and the website, www.musefirenze.it .