Outside the hallowed circles of art history he is not a very familiar figure, but Bernardo Buontalenti (1531-1608) was one of the big hitters in 16th century Florence.
Buontalenti's real name was Bernardo Timante Buonacorsi; he was called Buontalenti on account of his many skills (talenti). In addition to being an artist, he was also a sculptor, an architect, a stage designer and a military engineer. He is also hailed, by some, as being the inventor of gelato; there is even a flavour named after him!
As an architect, Buontalenti was fond of playing around with traditional classical motifs, as we can see in the Porta delle Suppliche (Door of Petitions), where he has taken the rounded pediment, divided it in half and re-assembled it in such a way as to create an entirely new motif.
The door, which is part of the Galleria degli Uffizi, was created during the reign of Grand Duke Francesco de' Medici (r. 1574-87). To the right of the door, there is a small stone letterbox (now sealed), which the citizens of Florence were expected to use, if they wanted to petition their leader for something or other. The grand duke was not overly fond of contact with his subjects and this was his way of reducing it even further.
Buontalenti also liked to add playful details to his buildings as we can see above the entrance to the Casino Mediceo di San Marco.
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