In Eras Past
From the high Renaissance to the turn of the 20th century
Since its beginnings, the Villa il Palmerino has maintained strong connections with cultural hubs in the centre of Florence, in spite of its distance from the city. One of the earliest published accounts of the property appears as a footnote in a nineteenth-century critical edition of Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects (1568). The annotation highlights the early connection between the villa and Florence’s cultural heritage. Gaetano Milanesi, in his commentary on the “Life of Luca Della Robbia”, provides a brief biography of the brothers Agostino and Attaviano di Duccio to correct Vasari’s erroneous claim that the two artisans were brothers of Della Robbia.
While Agostino achieved greater critical acclaim for his sculptures, Attaviano had a direct connection with Il Palmerino: “Attaviano [...], his brother, born in 1422, was a goldsmith by trade. From the administrative books of the Municipality of Florence, one learns that he built two gold basins for the canteen of the Signoria in 1478 ; he burnished two confectionery boxes and two coolers; he reconditioned a box for spices, two saltcellars, the cover of a confectionery box, a bowl, four forks and a spoon, two saltcellars [sic], and a candlestick. For the chapel of the palazzo [Palazzo della Signoria], he brightened up a censer. He possessed a farm that was later called Il Palmerino and later, Villa PierUccioni located near the Affrico stream. At his death, it became the property of his nieces Lorenza and Margherita, daughters of his brother Agostino, the first married was married to Leonardo Nelli, and the other to Bernardo Palmerini.”
These links to the artistic and economic success of the city continued when the property passed under the control of the Ordine di Santo Stefano, an order that many have argued was a primary force in shaping a new brand of Florentine aristocracy in the early modern period (Angiolini 1-12). When the Order was suspended, Il Palmerino became property of the Frati Minori Conventuali di Santa Croce in Florence, an order of friars that also played a key role in the city's religious life (Baroni 59-60). With the passage of civil reforms passed in the mid-nineteenth century that triggered the suppression of religious orders in Italy, the property passed into state hands and was subsequently sold at auction to Count Pier Luigi Uguccioni.
Not long afterwards it was sold again to Count Pio Resse, who was the owner when Vernon Lee’s family began to rent the villa in 1889 (ASF 59). Under Count Reese, restoration of Il Palmerino was entrusted to architect Corinto Corinti, who, as a sidebar, was keenly interested in documenting the historical neighbourhoods that were eventually demolished during the late-nineteenth century's demolition of Florence, which Vernon Lee would advocate against with all the power of her pen. After the Resse family’s sudden departure from Florence, Il Palmerino was sold at auction to Oreste Loni. It was Lomi who would sell the property to Lee in 1906 (ACP Contracts 876).