The History of Palazzo Tolomei
The history of Palazzo Tolomei is inextricably linked with that of the marvellous and unrepeatable moment of the FLORENTINE RENAISSANCE.
The first owners of the Palazzo were the Taddeis, an ancient patrician family of Florence. Fine wool merchants and bankers, as well as business associates of the Medici family, the Taddeis are most well known for hosting the artist Raffaello Sanzio in 1505. To thank the Taddei family for their hospitality, the great Raffaello painted them the "Madonna del Prato", today found in the collection of the Kunsthistorische Museum of Vienna and the "Holy Family", better known as the "Tondo Taddei," today in the National Gallery of Scotland. Michelangelo also worked for the Taddei family and sculpted the "Tondo Taddei" , currently found at the Royal Academy of London.
For unknown reasons, the fortune of this family began to decline and Antonio Taddei, owner of the Palazzo in the 1500's, left his descendents deep in debt.
In 1564 the Palazzo was sold to the Baglioni family from Perugia and passed from owner to owner until 1620 when it was purchased by the Del Chiaro family. It is thanks to this family, and in particular to the very refined and ambitious man Leon Battista del Chiaro, that we find the decorations which we still admire today in all of their splendour.
Although Leon Battista Del Chiaro was a very wealthy and famous merchant, he wanted to increase the prestige of his family through an important wedding. The bride was the daughter of the noble Florentine Marquis Giovan Giorgio Ugolini, of illustrious and ancient ancestry. For this special event, the most famous artists of the time were called to decorate and renovate the Palazzo in Via Ginori; Alessandro Gherardini and Giuseppe Nicola Nasini , famous and highly sought after painters, were commissioned to paint the frescoes in the splendid halls and salons; Giovan Battista Ciceri was responsible for the plastering and decorations on all the floors of the Palazzo including the splendid frames and door coverings; Giovanni Baratta was given the commission to make the statue of Diana which still today welcomes the visitors in the 14th century courtyard, as well as the statue of the Hercules on the main stairway of the Palazzo.
On the evening of May 27th, 1645, at the end of the wedding festivities, Leon Battista del Chiaro led his bride Maria Ugolini into the luxurious Palazzo and we can only imagine the surprise and emotion the bride must have felt as she walked through the magnificent hallways and opulent bedrooms of her new home.
As luck would have it, as is recorded in a note in the genealogical history of the family, it was this "noble lady" who would cause the economic ruin of the family. She forced her husband to keep a lifestyle which was entirely above his financial means: parties and balls, clothing and decorations of only the highest level, waste and whims. The couple did not have children and had to sell off the furnishings and paintings in order to maintain this capricious lady in luxuries. Upon the death of the last brother of the family Del Chiaro, Pier Giovanni, in 1664, the Palazzo was sold to Neri Tolomei, who had long been interested in its purchase. The Del Chiaro family had died out and with it, an era in which art and pomp were sovereign.
The Tolomeis were also a rich merchant family; so wealthy that already by the end of the 1300's they had commissioned an elegant tomb for themselves in the lovely church of Santo Stefano al Ponte, right in the heart of Florence where the family worked as silk merchants. The most famous member was Piero Tolomei, son of Guccio Tolomei, well known for a "spicy" adventure spoken about in those days. It seems Guccio was sent on an important political mission but neglected his duty preferring instead to spend his time with a "fair maiden." After this episode however, the luck of the family Tolomei continued to rise, along with their wealth. The Medici family protected them and at the height of their prosperity, they purchased the Palazzo in Via Ginori for the meager sum of 425 scudos. It was surely a Palazzo in need of renovation, but if we think that just two years later the noble lady Margherita Frescobaldi , the bride of Neri Tolomei, brought a dowry of 3000 scudos, we realize how very little was paid for the Palazzo. This wedding was a sign of the power of the Tolomei family. They restored and embellished the Palazzo even more, especially in the bedrooms and in the smaller halls, giving it the effect we still admire today.
The 1700's were a period of wealth and honor for the Tolomei family and in 1823, another Neri Tolomei married the princess Luisa Corsini, daughter of Prince Tommaso.
After so much success, however, came the decline: in 1850 the Palazzo was sold to the Marquis Giovanni Garzoni Venturi and immediately after, the Tolomei family died out.