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Ceiling of the first room of the Grotta del Buontalenti (Cave of Buontalenti), Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

Grotta del Buontalenti: an artificial grotto in the Boboli Gardens in Florence

The Cave of Buontalenti, was built, designed and created between 1583 and 1593 by Bernardo Buontalenti (Florence 1536-1608), this cave is one of the most important places in the Boboli Gardens, is an artificial cave filled with false stalactites and stalagmites, with statues of sheep, shepherds, and Romans goddesses. The cave is one of the finest examples of mannerist architecture of the city.

The facade is a work of Giovanni Battista del Tadda, flanked by statues of Ceres and Apollo by Baccio Bandinelli, and is surmounted by the coat of arms of the Medici and by two figures representing the “peace” and “justice.” The emblem of the Medici family, a number of red balls on a golden shield, is exposed on many buildings in Florence and Tuscany.

The origins of the Medici coat of arms, whose design was changed several times over the years are not known. The ball on top is blue and is painted with lilies of France, in accordance with the privileges received by King Louis XI of France in exchange for diplomatic services received.

La facciata della Grotta del Buontalenti, Giardino di Boboli, Firenze, Italia. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

The facade of the Grotta del Buontalenti, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

The cave is formed by a series of three communicating chambers: the first chamber, with stuccowork decorations work by Pietro Mati, is characterised by pastoral scenes executed by Bernardino Poccetti (1542-1612) and it sheltered until 1924 the “Prigioni” of Michelangelo (now at the Galleria dell’Accademia, in the cave are copies).

The second chamber contains a marble statue group depicting the abduction of Paride and Elena, sculpted by Vincenzo Rossi da Fiesole (1525-1587); the third chamber, frescoed by Poccianti, has a fine fountain by Giambologna (Douai 1529-Florence 1608) depicting Venere al Bagno (Venus emerging from the water after bathing) threatened by four satyrs.

The Cave it’s located close the entrance of the Boboli Garden and in the point where is the finish of the Vasari Corridor.

Soffitto della prima camera della Grotta del Buontalenti, Giardino di Boboli, Firenze, Italia. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

Ceiling of the first room of the Grotta del Buontalenti (Cave of Buontalenti), Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

BERNARDO BUONTALENTI (Florence 1536-1608): Bernardo Buontalenti was an architect, sculptor, painter, miniaturist and military engineer, he was one of the protagonist of the Tuscan architecture in the 16th century. As superintendent of the civil and military factories in the Grand Duchy, he oversaw the fortifications of Florence, Prato, Leghorn, Pistoia, Grosseto, Siena and Elba Island.

Buontalenti also invented war equipments, mechanical instruments, automatons and ingenious apparatuses for the entertainment of guests. His most important works include the villa and the garden of Pratolino, the contributions to the construction of the Uffizi, the grotto in the Boboli garden, the Belvedere fortress, the villas of Artiminio and Cerreto Guidi, his work at Poggio a Caiano, and at the port of Livorno (Leghorn).

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