EMILIO BURCI (1811-1877)
TWELVE ORIGINAL DRAWINGS FOR 'VEDUTE DEL GIARDINO DEL MAR. STROZZI-RIDOLFI GIÀ ORTI ORICELLARI FLORENCE' (1832)
Pen & ink with grey washes
Each 21 x 25 cm | 42 x 46 cm (Framed)
Private collection, France
Published in 1832, the ‘Vedute’ depicted the Oricellari Gardens in Florence, formerly a monastery and known today as the Rucellai gardens (after the storied Florentine noble dynasty). The series shows the fantastical transformation of the centuries-old site in 1808 by the architect-designer Luigi de Cambray Digny (1820-1906), who had been commissioned to create an elaborate 'English' style garden by the Florentine patrician Giuseppe Stiozzi-Ridolfi. Characterised by a central axis culminating at the temple of Flora, with winding footpaths, hillocks, ponds, statues, and artificial ruins, the new arrangement adhered to a precise programme that, in its symbolism - replete with classical inscriptions - turned a walk around the gardens into a morally-edifying ‘exempla virtutis’. The most striking element of the whole scheme was the 17th century sculptor Antonio Novelli's (1600-1662) colossal statue of Polyphemus, which remains standing in the gardens today.
The twenty plates for the publication were lithographs by Teofilo Salucci, and it is possible that Burci's original drawings were given to Stiozzi-Ridolfi as a gift, with the twelve present works the only surviving examples of these known thus far. Among the various subjects in the series are the aforementioned Colossus by Novelli, the cave of Polyphemus, a Pantheon, the various small temples and the decorative flower garden.
Both the drawings and prints are valuable historical records, as the garden underwent a second redesign in 1861 by its next owner, the Princess Olga Orloff, this time under the auspices of Giuseppe Poggi. The print-series was produced in a relatively limited edition, with just a handful appearing at auction in the past two decades, and very few to be found in public institutions (there are copies are in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and the New York Public Library).
Emilio Burci produced further topographical drawings of Florence and Pisa which were reproduced in print, as well as a guide to the Uffizi Galleries. He worked almost exclusively in pen & ink with grey wash, though two large-scale oil paintings by Burci of The Arno & Piazza della Signoria appeared at Christie's, New York, in 2014.