- Orsanmichele, Florence
- Orsanmichele is a church in Florence that also functioned as the wheat exchange and granary. The design of the building is normally given to Francesco Talenti, Neri di Fioravante, and Benci di Cione. It was originally conceived in 1337 as an open loggia built around a tabernacle containing an image of the Virgin and Child that had effected miracles. This structure was erected on the site of the city's grain market. The upper stories were added after 1348 to be used as a granary when famine resulting from the Black Death affected the city. Located in the heart of Florence and used by the local guilds as their church, Orsanmichele became one of the pivotal centers of the city's civic and religious fabric. In its present form, the building is a typical blocklike Italian Gothic structure reflective of its civic function, the grain chutes still in situ. It is in the interior that Orsanmichele takes on an ecclesiastic form, its four-partite vaults supported by heavy piers, its windows ornamented with Gothic tracery, and its wall surfaces covered with frescoes (by Giovanni del Biondo, Niccoló di Pietro Gerini, and others). Andrea Orcagna's massive tabernacle with reliefs depicting the life of the Virgin (1359) is the church's centerpiece. It encloses a painted panel by Bernardo Daddi, his Enthroned Virgin and Child, that replaced the lost miraculous image around which the church was originally built. To fill the 14 Gothic niches that surround the exterior, a decorative campaign was initiated in 1411. Each niche was assigned to one of the local guilds, each expected to pay for a statue of its patron saint. The most important sculptors of Florence were involved in the commission, including Lorenzo Ghiberti who executed the St. John the Baptist (c. 1412-1416) for the Arte della Calimala (the Guild of Refiners of Imported Woolen Cloth), Donatello who executed the St. Mark (1411-1413) for the Arte dei Linaiuoli e Rigattieri (the Guild of Linen Drapers and Peddlers) and the St. George (1415-1417) for the Arte dei Corazzai e Spadai (the Guild of Armorers and Swordmakers), and Nanni di Banco who contributed the Quattro Coronati (c. 1411-1413) for the Arte dei Maestri di Pietra e Legname (Guild of Stone and Woodcutters).
Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. Lilian H. Zirpolo. 2008.
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