This room has parts of the marble wall of the new Cathedral sanctuary or ‘choir’ commissioned by Cosimo I de’Medici from Baccio Bandinelli in 1547 and completed in 1572: the first of a series of works meant to modernise Santa Maria del Fiore in accordance with the Mannerist taste of that time. A model on a scale of 1:25 recalls Bandinelli’s reuse of the octagonal shape that Filippo Brunelelschi had originally given the choir in 1436.
The eighty-six reliefs that Bandinelli and his assistants carved for the choir enclosure, twenty-four of which are shown here, represent male personages clothed in antique garb or nude. The identity of these men is unclear, but – like the figures painted forty years earlier by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling – they probably represent patriarchs and prophets of Israel and Greco-Roman heroes. The meaning of the choir sculptures was completed by the mural done on the inner shell of the dome from 1572 to 1579: the titanic Last Judgement by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari, some details of which are projected above the model. The author of the choir enclosure, Baccio Bandinelli, died in 1560 without seeing this, his major work, finished; his self-portrait, once inserted in the high altar as a visual “signature”, is shown here.
Finally, vestments of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in showcases remind us that those attending Mass in the Cathedral once saw, above the carved figures on the choir enclosure, the officiating priests in magnificent robes. In the liturgy all the arts in effect interact: architecture, sculpture, painting, embroidery, goldsmith work, poetry, song and ritual choreography.