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The Colossus of the Apennines

Culturalmente Imparando

Housed in the fascinating setting of Villa Demidoff, in Tuscany, a huge statue immediately captures the attention of every visitor. The Colossus of the Apennines is a stone giant 14 meters high, with a long beard and a striking pose, incredibly natural. The statue rests on a base that is actually a cave with an entrance that leads inside the work itself[1]. The ornamental technique that characterizes the giant gives the illusion that the Colossus is coming out of the pond and is somehow "alive" thanks to the lichens, moss and mud that partially cover the work. It was created by the Flemish sculptor Jean De Boulogne (better known under the pseudonym of Giambologna) around 1580[2].

Given the magnificence of the stone giant, which greatly enriched the already splendid estate, legend has it that at the time someone said: "Giambologna made the Apennines but he regretted having done it at Pratolino". This is probably because, in the eyes of the witnesses of the time, the locality that housed the Villa and its Colossus (i.e. Pratolino) was considered too peripheral and small compared to the large and central Florence, where the statue would certainly have had greater visibility. But Giambologna left his mark there too: in fact, in the historical centre of Florence there are two of his most famous works. The Rape of the Sabine Women and the equestrian monument to Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici are both in Piazza della Signoria[3].

The history of the Villa begins with the powerful Medici family. It was Francesco I who bought the estate in 1568 and ordered the construction of the central building (completed only in 1675). The task was entrusted by the future Grand Duke to his friend the architect and sculptor Bernardo Buontalenti, one of the most important artists of the time. Buontalenti was also a set designer, painter and even a military engineer[4]. When Francesco I died in 1587, the Villa was frequented by some heirs until it fell into disrepair during the 17th century. It was only towards the end of this that another member of the prestigious family, Ferdinando, took care of the estate, restoring it and bringing it back to its lost splendour, until it passed to the famous House of Lorraine, who did not take care of it[5].

The current Villa Demidoff (located in the province of Florence) is what remains of the Villa Medicea di Pratolino complex. The building was destroyed in 1822 by engineer Joseph Fritsch on behalf of the Lorraine family. The modern name of the Villa is due to the Russian noble family Demidoff (Demidov), to which Prince Pavel Pavlovič Demidov belonged. He bought the property in 1872 after the death of the previous owner, the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold II (who had owned it since 1837)[6]. Under the new management, the entire area was renovated, modernized and transformed, making it the beautiful park that you can admire today. The ownership of the complex passed to the Provincial Administration of Florence in 1981 and many years later, in 2013, it was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site[7].

[1] https://www.greenme.it/viaggiare/italia/colosso-dell-appennino-scultura-montagna/

[2] https://www.dailybest.it/viaggi/colosso-appennino-statua-gigante-segreto-firenze/

[3] http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/giambologna_%28Enciclopedia-Italiana%29/

[4] http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/bernardo-buontalenti_%28Dizionario-Biografico%29/

[5] https://www.vanillamagazine.it/il-colosso-dell-appennino-la-gigantesca-statua-dimenticata-alle-porte-di-firenze/

[6] https://ecobnb.it/blog/2016/06/meraviglia-colosso-appennino-pratolino-firenze/

[7] https://www.discovertuscany.com/it/mugello/parco-di-pratolino.html


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  • L'Autore

    Mario Rafaniello

    Mario Rafaniello Vice Responsabile della rubrica “Culturalmente Imparando”. Partecipa anche all’entusiasmante progetto “Japan 2020” e si interessa di arte, cultura e letteratura.

    Laureato in Giurisprudenza e laureando in Relazioni Internazionali. Attualmente collabora con diversi portali online.

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