The Apennine Colossus: A Marvel in Villa Demidoff

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The Appennino (Italian: Colosso Appenninico), a 35-foot-tall sculpture located in Villa Demidoff, part of the former Villa Medici at Pratolino, 7 miles north of Florence, Italy, is a stunning masterpiece. Created by the Flemish artist Giambologna between 1579 and 1580, the Appennino personifies the Apennine mountain ranges and is sculpted in such a way that it appears to be on the threshold between man and landscape, with its smooth skin merging into the rough terrain. The Appennino also features a shaggy beard made of stalactites.

Giovanni Bologna, Appennino, 1579

Giovanni Bologna, Appennino, 1579

Giambologna carved the Appennino holding the head of a monstrous beast, causing water to flow from its mouth into a fish pond. The Appennino is not just a sculpture, it is also a building that houses a network of grottoes with frescoes of muscular men and precious ore, as well as shells, corals, pearls, and crystals adorning the walls. The Appennino also includes two working fountains and a chamber for a small orchestra in its head. A fireplace was also located in the head, producing smoke when lit through the Appennino’s nose.

The Appennino in 1911.

The Appennino in 1911.

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Appennino sliced and split.

Appennino sliced and split.

Section of Appennino. Illustration by P. van der Ree.

Section of Appennino. Illustration by P. van der Ree.

Villa Demidoff, which houses the Appennino, is located 10 kilometers north of Florence at the base of the Apennine mountain range, with a rectangular square called the Prato del Appennino in front of the giant statue. The Villa di Pratolino fell into disrepair after the death of Francesco de’ Medici and his wife Bianca Capello and was eventually demolished in 1822. In 1872, the estate was sold to the Demidoff family, who built their own villa on the property. The Villa Demidoff was purchased by the Province of Florence in 1981 and is now open to the public.

Address:
50036 Pratolino,
Metropolitan City of Florence,
Italy

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