I love walking the streets of Paris, where you often find the names of a building’s architect inscribed on the facade. I don’t see that often in Italy, but, the other day, while traversing the city during the Orange Zone lockdown for Covid (ugh), I almost fell over when I looked up and saw Michelazzi’s name inscribed on a building very near my home in Florence. I mean, like I walk under this inscription pretty much every day, but never saw it until now? How can that be.
It was actually the snake on the drainage pipe that caught my eye. I love the iron, brass and bronze architectural accoutrements on buildings here, as a quick perusal of my blog in the past few months makes that abundantly clear. I mean, how wonderful, to think of adding a snake to this pipe! I looked up to take the snake in and there, to my surprise, was the architect’s inscription.
This Michelazzi villino or townhouse is scrunched in between two others of different eras, both more conservative in style.
As you can see, inscribed above the door way is the Roman numeral for 1915. So, the palazzo at number 72 on Via XX Settembre, Firenze, was designed by Michelazzi and completed in 1915. Now I want to know more.
Take note of the lovely details, of a pine cone motif in ironwork on the windows, and the swirl and diamond details in the terra cotta inlays. How delightful!
So who was Michelazzi? The name seemed familiar and I had to find out more.
Giovanni Michelazzi (1879-1920), was born in Rome, lived in Lucca and then Florence, where he received his diploma in architecture in 1901. It turns out he was one of the most important exponents of the Art Nouveau, which in Italy is known as the Liberty style, in Tuscany. I knew I had seen that name somewhere else.
He was the author of this Art Nouveau masterpiece, seen below, in the heart of historic Florence.
From Wikipedia, both the Italian and English versions, with some edits by me:
Michelazzi is the architect who created all the most important Art Nouveau architectural works in Florence. Yet memory of his work was almost completely lost when that style went out of fashion and some of his buildings were demolished in the 1950s and 60s. Only in the last fifty years has his story been resuscitated. Contemporary architectural critics ascribe an important place for him in the history of Italian 20th century architecture.
1911 is perhaps the golden year for Michelazzi, with the realization of his masterpiece, Casa-Galleria Vichi, with its tall, narrow façade.
According to the Wikipedia entry, after about 1912, Michelazzi changed direction in his art. His buildings from this point forward seem more Neo-Renaissance and less Art Nouveau. However, the building on my street, #72, falls in line with his Art Nouveau style.
The author of the Wikipedia article on Michelazzi stated that this change in direction is evident in Michelazzi’s Villino Baroncelli on Via Giovanni Dupre #72 in Florence. I hadn’t seen that building until yesterday, when I set off to find it. Here it is! Unfortunately, it seems to be abandoned.
There are other Michelazzi buildings in Florence that I hope to locate soon. Until then, arrividerci!