By Costanza Beltrami

Bernardo Barbatelli, known as Bernardino Poccetti, was possibly born on 27 August 1548 in San Marino di Valdelsa, near Florence. He spent most of his life in the latter city, where he was known as “Bernardino delle Facciate” (Bernardino of the Façades). Façades decorated with grotesques and architectural motives in sgraffito were particularly popular in sixteenth-century Florence. Poccetti’s Palace of Bianca Cappello (c. 1579–80) is an impressive example of the technique. He also contributed to the decoration of the Buontalenti Grotto (1555) in the Boboli Garden, a park decorated with artificial grottoes, sculptures and fountains by some of the most prominent artists of the Medici court.

The artist was also important as a painter of religious frescoes. He realized a cycle of the life of St. Dominic for the Great Cloister of S. Maria Novella (c. 1582–4), and scenes of the Martyrdom of the Apostles for the courtyard of S. Pier Maggiore (c. 1585–90), where he unified painting, sculpture and architecture.

Poccetti’s compositions can often be connected to works in other media. His frescoes in the Capponi Palace (c. 1583–7) draw on 132 tapestry cartoons realized by the Flemish draughtsman Joannes Stradanus for Palazzo Vecchio. In turn, he designed painted models for semi-precious stone inlays produced in the Medici’s jewellery workshop (later known as the Opificio delle Pietre Dure). Moreover, some of his most successful designs were turned into prints by engravers such as Jacques Callot.

Fascinating information on Poccetti’s work, personality and death survives in a seventeenth-century biography written by the Florentine historian Filippo Baldinucci.

References: Paul C. Hamilton. “Poccetti, Bernardino.” Grove art Online. Oxford art Online. Oxford University Press,; Gunter Schweikhart and Charles Avery. “Façade decoration.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.

Façade, c. 1579–80, fresco, Palace of Bianca Cappello, Florence

Façade (detail), c. 1579–80, fresco, Palace of Bianca Cappello, Florence

Vault fresco (detail), c. 1583-93, Grotta del Buontalenti, Giardino di Boboli, Florence

Cycle of the life of St. Dominic, c. 1582–4, fresco, Great Cloister of S. Maria Novella, Florence

Martyrdom of St Peter, c. 1585–90, courtyard of S. Pier Maggiore, Florence

Vault decoration, c. 1583–7, fresco, Sala Grande, Palazzo Capponi, Florence

Grotesque ornament and a view of Florence (detail), c. 1583–7, fresco, Sala Grande, Palazzo Capponi, Florence

Unknown artist after Bernardino Poccetti, landscape, 1608, hard stone inlay. Florence: Museo dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure. Photo credit: Web Gallery of Art

Jacques Callot after Bernardino Poccetti, Inferno According to Dante, 17thcentury, etching. Cambridge MA: Fogg Museum. Photo Credit: Harvard art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of William Gray from the collection of Francis Calley Gray

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