“Peregrinus et Alexander fratres de Brunaccinis cives florentini”: From Rich to Noble
Musei del Bargello, Firenze
Giovanbattista Brunaccini became a silk merchant after 1520, establishing a workshop in the Via dei Servi, Florence. Although his family claimed descent from ancient Galeffi family, he was born poor, and yet he established a large estate and lived comfortably, even if he remained a silk merchant and he did not become part of the Florentine establishment. His sons, Alessandro and Pellegrino, worked alongside him, and when Giovanbattista died, they had a significant inheritance. Alessandro devised a strategy that aimed to raise his family in social terms: this tendency was also possible because of the increase of his commercial assets: in the last decades of the sixteenth century, the Brunaccini were some of the most important merchants in Florence. In parallel, Alessandro wanted to pursue this goal by real-estate purchases, and by artistic works that could spread his family prestige, as with his acquisition of the Villa La Rocchetta, near Pontassieve, and above all, the obtainment of the giuspatronato over the Cappella del Cieco Nato in the church of Santissima Annunziata. This action can be considered the target of a strategy that saw the Brunaccini’s owning a chapel – and to patronize its reconstruction – in the most important of the Marian churches of Florence, beloved by the Medicis. Their choice of the artists involved was significant. Domenico Passignano, who painted the altarpiece and planned the design – drew on the architecture of Michelangelo and Giambologna, with an ingenious use of polychrome marble. Jacopo da Empoli, who did the other paintings, also demonstrates the Brunaccini’s ambitions to elevate their status. This chapel – which became a model for many other chapels created in Florence by recently ennobled families until the eighteenth century – is a fascinating demonstration of Florentine art between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and also a clear statement of how far the Brunaccini family had risen.