Villas in the Nineteenth Century
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Villas in the Nineteenth Century book
After reaching its peak in terms of quality, size and number during the Cinquecento, the villa assumed a generally stable pattern over the ensuing centuries, with a marked slowing down and reduction in operations, leaving us with the image of the same unchanging, almost static, situation in the outlying areas that prevailed in the city. The weakening of the dynamic impetus of the Florentine entrepreneurial classes in both relative and absolute terms, and the economic crisis that struck the Grand Duchy, made more acute by the uniﬁ cation of Italy in 1861, and then when the capital was shifted to Rome in 1870, meant that reliance was chieﬂ y placed on the legacy of the great achievements of the past four centuries. Operations became limited to renovations to satisfy changing tastes and the emergent middle-class’s demands for a new dignity and social position. However, during the course of the 19th century events of a new kind emerged in this pattern of stability which are of interest in terms of forms of expression, from the architectural point of view of a building and its site, its regional context, and for the nature of the commissioners since these points throw light on the last if not truly ﬁ nal chapter concerning the impact that villas made on the Florentine area. A study of commissioners immediately reveals the “extraordinary” nature of the ensuing developments, which were encouraged by the fact that Florence had a reasonably liberal and cosmopolitan court, so that even for the normally closed circles of the local nobility, the presence of foreigners in the city was in no way unusual.1 The events we refer to were obviously limited to a certain élite and not, or only rarely, connected with local agricultural production. In fact in almost all instances the incentive of agricultural investment, although encouraged by the Duke of Lorraine, was of decidedly secondary importance to the character and social signiﬁ cance of these newly developed buildings. To analyse all the varied aspects of the story of the Florentine villa during the 19th century we shall examine the different forms and styles that were adopted, grouping them into
1 The court’s liberal attitude allowed even “problem” elements such as members of Napoleon’s family a gilded and trouble-free exile and hence several members of the Bonaparte family settled in Florence. See A. Corsini, I Bonaparte a Firenze, Florence 1961.