In Piazza Santissima Annunziata stands a grand bronze equestrian statue of Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (b. 1549/ r. 1587-1609). It is the work of Giambologna (1529-1608) and his star pupil, Pietro Tacca (1577-1640).
The grand duke sits astride his horse, baton in one hand reins in the other. His horse stares straight ahead, but Ferdinand turns to the right and looks across at the 16th century Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai. Why?
In his poem 'The Statue and the Bust' Robert Browning (1812-89) relates the legend of how Ferdinand, while riding through the piazza, caught the eye of a young woman as she was staring out of a window of the palazzo.
The two fell in love at first sight, but there was a snag; both were married. And so nothing happened. However, many years later the unrequited lovers decided to mark that special moment by the creation of two statues, he on horseback in the piazza, while she had a bust of herself placed in the room in which she had been standing when she espied the grand duke.
The first stanza of the poem reads:
There's a palace in Florence, the world knows well,
And a statue watches it from the square,
And this story of both do our townsmen tell.
Robert Browning lived in Florence with his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning from 1846 until her death in 1861.
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