This section is from "The American Cyclopaedia", by George Ripley And Charles A. Dana. Also available from Amazon: The New American Cyclopędia. 16 volumes complete..
The French, German, Dutch, and Flemish schools are also richly represented. Among the statues in the room called the tribune are the famous Venus de' Medici, the Apollino, the Dancing Faun," the Wrestlers," and the Knife Grinder." The finest paintings of the entire collection are hung in the tribune. In another hall is a series of portraits of eminent painters, chiefly executed by themselves. The gallery has also a series of busts of the Roman emperors from Caesar to Con-stantine, which is unsurpassed except in the Capitoline museum in Rome; and there are halls devoted to sculptures of the 15th and 16th centuries, original drawings of the old masters, engravings, ancient bronzes, medals, gems, cameos, and intaglios, the whole forming one of the finest collections in the world. The library is rich in autographs, letters, and portions of the works of Boccaccio, Poliziano, Machiavelli, Michel Angelo, Tasso, Alfieri, Monti, and others. The Uffizi is connected with the Pitti palace by a passage which crosses the Ponte Vecchio. This is lined with tapestries, paintings, drawings, and engravings, and in the middle of these was once a bathing room connecting with the waters of the Arno. Besides these famous collections, the city abounds in galleries, museums, and choice works of art.
The national library, formed in 1864 by the union of the Magliabecchian and the Palatine, contains over 200,000 printed volumes and 14,000 MSS.; the Marucellian 60,000, and the Riccardian 30,000 volumes'; and the Laurentian 9,000 MSS. Of the university, which was opened in 1438, nothing but the theological library is now left. There are many literary institutions, the chief of which was formerly the academy della Crusca, founded in 1582, whose object was the improvement of the Italian language. It is now incorporated with two still older societies in what is known as the royal Florentine academy. There are agricultural and fine-art academies, a medical college, an academy of fine arts for ladies, an athenaeum, an Egypto-Etruscan museum of antiquities, a museum of Italian art and manufactures, and 10 theatres. The Boboli gardens, named from a family which once had a house in the vicinity, are divided into endless walks, shady pathways, waters crowned with elaborately sculptured fountains and filled with gold fish, and groves adorned with statues, among which are a Neptune executed in 1565 by Stoldo Lorenzi, Pegasus by Costoli, four large unfinished statues by Michel Angelo which he intended as a part of his monument to Pope Julius IL, Apollo and Ceres by Baccio Bandinelli, Paris and Helen by Rossi da Fiesole, and four satyrs and a Venus by Giovanni da Bologna. The academy contains some of the finest examples of early Florentine art, illustrating the lives of the Saviour, the Virgin, saints, martyrs, and apostles, Fra Angelica's Last Judgment," with many choice works of Bartolommeo, Raphael, Andrea del Sarto, and other masters.
The Egypto-Etruscan museum was a convent in the 16th century, and is adorned with fres-coes from the pencil of Raphael. For many years it was devoted to secular uses; and in 1826, while the proprietor, a coach builder, was preparing to whitewash the walls of the former refectory, was discovered beneath dirt and coats of whitening the fine fresco of the Last Supper," in which the border of the dress of St. Thomas bears the autograph of Raphael with the date M.D.V. To this building quite recently have been transferred the Etruscan remains formerly in the Uffizi gallery. This is a most valuable collection of papyri, bassi rilievi, statues, vases, sarcophagi, bronzes, jewelry, pottery, and other relics of great antiquity. The museum of natural history was opened in 1780. Napoleon's sister, Elisa Bac-ciochi, grand duchess of Tuscany, added a school of public instruction. In 1859 Victor Emanuel founded a school for more advanced studies. The museum is very rich in palaeonto-logical, zoological, geological, and mineralogical collections, and is celebrated for its wax preparations exhibiting a complete series of perfect specimens of human and animal anatomy.
It contains also a valuable collection of physical and astronomical instruments, among them the telescopes constructed by Galileo. Attached to the building, and adjoining the Boboli gardens, are the botanical gardens, remarkable for rare plants, and for the great number of species, which have increased from 826 in 1842 to more than 120,000 in 1873. A new observatory was opened in 1871 under Donati's direction. The charitable institutions are numerous, including asylums for the blind, for the deaf and dumb, and for orphans, and an ancient association of the nobles and gentry for the relief of the sick and suffering poor.-The trade of Florence is chiefly in the produce of the surrounding country, oil, wine, and raw silk, and in her own manufactures, of which the principal are silk stuffs, straw hats, artificial flowers, musical and scientific instruments, jewelry, and fine porcelain. The climate is mild and healthy, though the winds from the Apennines cause sudden transitions from heat to cold, frequently in the same day. The city is exempt from specific diseases and epidemics. Foreigners find September, October, and November the most agreeable months for residence, and the spring months are very delightful.
The environs are like beautiful gardens, and abound in delightful places for excursions. The Cascine, which takes its name from the dairy to which the extensive pastures and pleasure grounds are annexed, is the chief park of Florence for the display of equestrian and fashionable equipages. The drives are fine,and the surrounding scenery is superb. The people are lively, polite, and intelligent, with a refinement of manner and language which extends even to the lowest classes, whose style of speech is singularly graceful, delicate, and expressive. The climate, the cheapness of living, the galleries of art, and the refinement of the people render Florence a particularly pleasant place of residence, and have attracted to it great numbers of foreigners, especially English and Americans. During the occupancy of the city by the Italian government Florence was one of the gayest capitals in Europe.-Florence was called Floren-tia by the Romans. It is supposed to have been founded by the dictator Sulla, about 80 B. C.; but it seems to have been of little importance till the later ages of the Roman empire. In 406 it was a considerable city, and was besieged by Radagaisus, at the head of a great army of Vandals, Burgundians, Alans, and other barbarians.
Stilicho raised the siege and captured and put to death the barbarian monarch. About the middle of the 6th century it was destroyed by Totila, king of the Ostrogoths. Charlemagne rebuilt it at the end of the 8th, and during the next two centuries it grew in importance, till in the 10th the people acquired the right of electing their own magistrates. The city was governed by a senate of 100 persons, with an executive of four, and afterward of six consuls. In 1207 the chief executive functions were assigned to a single magistrate called the podestd. In 1215 the Florentines began to take part in the civil war between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines which convulsed Italy. After a contest lasting for 33 years, the Guelph or papal party was beaten and expelled from the city. A few years later the citizens took arms against the nobles, defeated them, demolished their fortified palaces, and established a democratic government, with two chief magistrates, one styled the captain of the people and the other podestd, and various councils chosen from all classes of the population. The feuds between Ghibellines and Guelphs were however renewed, and carried on with varying results. In 1282 the republic adopted a new system of government, which continued unchanged for several centuries.
A long series of civil wars between the factions of the Bianchi and Neri (whites and blacks) ensued, in spite of which the city grew very rich and powerful. It became the financial capital of Europe, and its merchants carried on an immense trade with foreign countries. The population amounted to 150,000, and the armed militia, who could be called together by the tolling of a bell, were reckoned at 25,000. In 1342 Gaultier de Bri-enne, an adventurer who bore the title of duke of Athens, became lord of Florence by a coup d'etat; but after a year of cruel despotism he was deposed and driven from the city by a sudden insurrection. The anniversary of this revolution, July 26, 1343, is still celebrated at Florence. The republic was restored, and continued to flourish in spite of factions, insurrections, and civil and foreign wars, till the 15th century, when the family of the Medici obtained a controlling influence in its affairs, which resulted in the final overthrow of republican institutions in the 16th century. (See Medici, and Tuscany.) In 1849 Florence was for a short time the seat of a provisional government.
It was the scene of a revolution, April 27, 1859; and in March, 1860, the people voted for annexation to Sardinia. It was decreed to be the capital of the new kingdom of Italy, Dec. 11, 1864. Victor Emanuel and his court removed thither from Turin May 13, 1865, and on the day following the 600th anniversary of Dante's birth was celebrated. In July, 1871, the seat of government was transferred to Rome.-Of the older histories of the city, Machiavellis Istorie fiorentinc, Nardi's Storia della citta di Firenze, and Var-chi's Storia fiorentina are the most important, A "Florentine History," by II. E. Napier (6 vols. 12mo), was published in London in 1846-7, and a "History of the Republic of Florence," by Adolphus Trollope, in 1864. For descriptions of Florence see "European Capitals," by William Ware (Boston, 1851)
" Six Months in Italy," by George S. Billard (6th ed., Boston, 1858), and "Walks in Florence," by Susan and Joanna Horner (2 vols. 12mo, London, 1873).