FABBRINI, Giuseppe Antonio
(b. ca. 1740, Firenze, d. ca. 1795, Firenze)

View of the Segretaria del Granduca

Villa Poggio Imperiale, Arcetri, Florence

Of all the Medici villas in the environs of Florence, Poggio Imperiale has the most imposing site and is also closest to the Palazzo Pitti, which became the official residence of the grand dukes in 1561. The property came into the possession of Cosimo I de' Medici in 1565. From 1618 Maria Magdalena of Austria, the wife of Cosimo II de' Medici invested a great sum on improvements made under the direction of Giulio Parigi. In 1624 the property was officially named Poggio Imperiale with reference to the grand duchess's imperial lineage. The lineage was also featured in the ambitious pictorial program of the public rooms and bedrooms which lay on the ground floor. However, the villa was stripped of its precious furnishings and art treasures from the seventeenth century under the Habsburg-Lorraine regency (1737-65).

The decoration of Poggio Imperiale started again under the reign of Peter Leopold (1747-1792) who succeeded his father as Grand Duke of Tuscany when his eldest brother became emperor as Joseph II in 1765. This decoration was intended to set a new artistic direction and propagate new standards of taste: Neoclassicism.

Three rooms in the south wing were frescoed in 1768-72 by Tommaso Gherardini and Giuliano Traballesi with the collaboration of Giuseppe del Moro, one of the best Tuscan perspective painters of the time. It was followed by the decoration of five rooms in the west wing in 1773-78. Here the frescoes were executed by Giuseppe Maria Terreni, Giuseppe Gricci, Giuseppe del Moro, Giuseppe Antonio Fabbrini, and Tommaso Gherardini.

The Segretaria del Granduca is the most important room of the grand duke's official rooms in the west wing. In this room the meetings between the sovereign and the secretaries who oversaw the business of government were held. The pictorial program of the decoration, executed by Giuseppe Antonio Fabbrini, a pupil of Anton Raphael Mengs, is appropriate to that function.

On the four walls of this modest-sized rectangular room, the young ruler Pietro Leopoldo's reform program is presented in the form of dignified mythological -allegorical overview of all aspects of life touched by the grand duke's good government. On the end wall opposite to the window, the personifications of Scientia, Pax, and Abundantia pose as three majestic women before a prospect that opens out to a view of a harbour in which a trading ship is being unloaded. The arts are solemnly evoked in the two larger wall paintings. On the left Apollo, Pegasus, and the nine Muses, furnished with their traditional attributes, are arranged in a barren landscape enlivened by a single tree. On the right-hand wall painting the personifications of the fine arts, with their titulary god Mercury are depicted. The panel on the fourth and narrowest wall is devoted to religion: a priest and a Roman matron stand next to an altar, performing a ritual offering. The ceiling painting represents the ruler's apotheosis: The Young Ruler is Presented to Tuscany by Athena.

Images showing the decorations of the various rooms in the Villa Poggio Imperiale can be viewd on the respective pages of Tommaso Gherardini, Giuliano Traballesi, Giuseppe del Moro, Giuseppe Maria Terreni, and Giuseppe Antonio Fabbrini.