Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

(Palazzo della Signoria; 1299-1310)
   The architectural design of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, built to house the city's government body, the priori, has been attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio. The building was conceived as a fortified structure from which protrudes a crenellated tower. The main block is composed of three stories that diminish in height as they ascend, the two upper levels pierced by French Gothic windows with tracery. The block is capped by a crenellated arcade supported by corbels. To further emphasize the protective appearance of the structure, the architect rusticated the façade, a feature normally used in military architecture that consists of applying rough-cut stones to the exterior surfaces. The structure was built at a time when Guelf and Ghibelline rivalries in Florence had peaked. The Guelfs, composed of the merchant class, wrested power from the aristocratic Ghibellines, destroyed the palace of the Ghibelline Uberti family, and erected the Palazzo Vecchio on its site. They placed the Palazzo's tower off center, building it on the base of a former Ghibelline tower to denote symbolically their political triumph. That the building looks impenetrable was meant to reflect the strength of the Florentine Republic as a city capable of governing itself and maintaining order.
   See also Studiolo of Francesco I de' Medici, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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