Borrani Odoardo, The Pazzi Chapel – The Cloister of Santa Croce in Florence

1,885 - 1,887; watercolour on paper
cm. 64,5 x 49
Signed bottom left: “OBorrani”. On the back of the paper, bottom left, in pencil: “OBorrani La Cappella dei Pazzi”
Inventory: AH02012AFC
Provenance: Finarte, Auction 515, Rome, 29 October 1985; Rome, Istituto Bancario Italiano (IBI) Collection (until 1991)

The work comes from the Istituto Italiano Bancario (IBI) Collection for which it was purchased on the antique market. It depicts the “first cloister” of the Florentine basilica of Santa Croce (overlooked by the Pazzi Chapel, and adopts a similar viewpoint, albeit located on the opposite side of the cloister, to a drawing by the artist in the Uffizi. An analogous view is to be found in the Cloister of S. Maria Novella, a canvas that belonged to the Florentine collector Enrico Checcucci until 1928, while the Interior of Santa Croce (private collection), executed in watercolour and dated 1887, enables us to define the period in which the present work was executed.

This perspective view is brought alive by a priest in the foreground who seems absorbed in prayer; nearby, on his right, one of the tombstones on the wall has a wreath with “my mother” inscribed on it.

During the period in question the basilica of Santa Croce was, in keeping with a long-established tradition, the burial place of both religious men and prominent lay figures, including the artists, scientists and men of letters mentioned by Ugo Foscolo in Dei sepolcri. Tombstones and funeral monuments were to be found not only inside the church but also along the walls of the cloister, known as the “walls of the dead”. The external funeral monuments were removed, for the most part, during the restoration work carried out between 1869–1870 which involved the demolition of the building that connected the church to the refectory and divided up the first cloister. The restoration of the monastery complex continued in the following years, as attested by Borrani’s watercolour that includes a reference to the renovation underway in its faithful description of the façade of the Pazzi Chapel; in fact, next to the last pillar on the left there are some wooden supports, probably placed there for the reinforcement of the structure. This concern with realism characterises Borrani’s entire production; indeed, from the early paintings influenced by his fruitful association with the Macchiaioli artists to the later works, in which landscape is alternated with views of monuments, his research always centered on painting from life.

Sources:Archivio Fondazione Cariplo, Pratiche Ex IBI. Opere d’arte. Fald. 1/2, scheda carico opere d’arte IBI n. 1256


Dipinti del XIX secolo, Asta 515, Finarte, Roma, 1985, n. 208, p. 71, ill. (Il chiostro di Santa Croce a Firenze);
Paola Zatti, Odoardo Borrani, Il chiostro di Santa Croce a Firenze, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 32, pp. 96-97, ill. p. 96

Laura Casone
Credits © Copyright 2009 by Fondazione Cariplo. Tutti i diritti riservati.
Esclusivamente i contenuti della collezione online di sono disponibili secondo una licenza CC BY-SA