The Appennine Colossus is a statue realised by the Flemish sculptor Jean De Boulogne (1529-1608) inside Villa Deminoff, a Medicean manson in the area of Pratolino, Florence. The Colossus was built in 1580 by the sculptor as well as other artists. The representation is 14 m (46 ft) high and it is on top of a rocky formation, facing a pond.
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In the lower part of the structure there is a cavern, from which you access other compartments inside the giant, one of which being the “head room”, enlightened by the cracks of eyes and ears. The original inside of the giant included various spaces which have later on been closed. The outer look of the statue is irregular, with shapes that resemble sponges and detritus which give the illusion that the giant is about to leave the pond out of the blue.
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An old saying recites:
Jean De Boulogne made the Appennine but regretted to have it done in Pratolino (the original version in rhyme)
This huge ang great work of art earned not much fame during the centuries, becoming one of the most noteworthy sculptures to be forgotten the quickest. The saying above mentioned is one of the few known aspects of this artwork. Even to this day, the statue is a semi-unknown heritage, which would deserve more attention. Part of the little fame comes from the slightly decentered position from the Medicean path, but also because of the Villa which was destroyed in 1800.
Below: the villa and the park in a lunette by Giusto Utens from circa 1600
The main building was commissioned by Francesco I de’ Medici between the 1569 and the 1575, and it was place of extraordinary beauty. The value of the estate was 782.000 scudi. To give an idea of how that would be, that was double the amount of how the realisation of the Uffizi costed. According to the Renaissance reports, Villa Demidoff was supposed to be the longest and most spectacular of all the Medicean properties. Sadly though the mansion never got to our times as the engineer Joseph Fritsch, in 1820, blew it up with TNT under orders from the Lorena House. With their action, they deprived Italy of one of the most precious treasures of the Renaissance.
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In 1872, when “Italy was made” (as in a country as a whole), the Villa was sold to the Demidoff family, who restored a building of the “paggerie” expanding it and turning it into the main building. The gardens were taken to new majesty, trying to recover as much as possible the incomparable magnificence. In 1981 Villa Demidoff became property of the country and today it is open to the public during summertime.
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Below: the giant seen from close. Picture by Costantinus shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons