Archives for December 2014

The unswaddled bambino

blog bambini 6One of my favourite buildings in Florence is the Ospedale degli Innocenti, the Foundlings Hospital, designed by my hero Filippo Brunelleschi, architect of the miraculous dome of the cathedral of Florence. It is one of the first, if not the first, classical building of the Renaissance. Calm, beautifully proportioned, brilliant.

Blog bambini 5When it was finished in the 1440s, there were 12 blank roundels in the spandrels, the spaces between the arches, and in 1487, forty or so years after Brunelleschi’s death, these were filled with the famous ceramic bambini of Andrea della Robbia (Well, ten of them were; the final two, copies of the originals, weren’t put in place until 1845!)

Each bambino is unique. Seven are tightly swaddled , while in two the swaddling clothes are sagging below the waist or knees.

But in bambino number 7 (pictured above, and top left of the four to the left here) the swaddling clothes are untied and falling away; the infant’s feet are unbound. Nobody knows why Andrea della Robbia did this, but there’s a theory, to which I like to subscribe, that the unbound clothes represent the child’s transition from the stigma of being an unwanted, foundling child, to the liberation, the new life provided by the hospital, which incidentally still cares for children more than five centuries after it inauguration.

You can see the Ospedale degli Innocenti if you come on our wonderful Florence Add-on before your holiday at the mill.  You’ll stay in the same classical piazza (Santissima Annunziata), in the historic hotel Loggiato dei Serviti, built almost a century later in the same style as Brunelleschi’s masterpiece. For more details, please click here. Here’s a view of the Ospedale from the front door of your hotel.Blog bambini 1 Piazza_SS_Annunziata_Firenze_Apr_2008