This monumental palace was built by Senator Alessandro Capponi (1644-1716). The construction started in 1701 and was completed in a few years, thanks to the unlimited economic resources available and the cultural and social experience the senator had acquired during his long stay in Rome . The palace was designed in Rome by the architect Carlo Fontana and his son Francesco using measurements sent from Florence in April 1702.
It was built by the engineer Alessandro Cecchini who directed the construction from 1701 to 1710. By 1704 the structure of the main part of the palace had been finished with the exception of the staircases and the hall on the first floor. The interior decoration began in 1703 and was finished in 1725 after several interruptions. It represents the most important cycle of painting done in Florence in the early Eighteenth century. The garden was laid out between 1736 and 1741. The main, street-side facade is measured and unostentatious. The garden facade, with its two large, protruding wings and the central section enlivened by a loggia, is modeled after Roman palaces of the same period.
The magnificence of the residence, the fame of its decorations and the rich collections it housed, made it a pole of attraction for many foreign visitors, including Cochin and Montesquieu.
When Senator Alessandro's grandson Alessandro Maria died, the palace was left to a member of another branch of the family, Pier Roberto Capponi, who in turn left it to his son Gino Capponi (1792-1876). Gino, a scholar and a political innovator, was one of the most important personalities in 19 th century Florence . He founded the Vieusseux "Antologia" and was named senator of the kingdom of Italy . During the first years of the Risorgimento Gino gave asylum in this palace to many political exiles and hosted many of the most famous Italians and Europeans of his time, including Giacomo Leopardi, Alessandro Manzoni, the historian Colletta, Alphonse de Lamartine, Massimo d'Azeglio and Giuseppe Giusti.
Gino Capponi's bequeathed the palace to his eldest daughter Marianna, the wife of Gentile Farinola from Genoa . It was later sold to the Italian American entrepreneur Egisto Fabbri who brought to the palace his important collection of works of art, which included paintings by Cézanne. The palace was later purchased by Senator Alessandro Contini Bonacossi (1878-1955). Though the property has since been divided into separate units, the palace still has much of the original decoration.
The decoration of the Capponi palace, which covers much of the ground floor, the first floor and the mezzanines, can be considered one of the most important early Eighteenth century painting cycles in Florence . It was painted during the reign of Cosimo III de' Medici and is the highest quality example of Florentine late Baroque art. Some rooms were decorated by Giovan Camillo Sagrestani and his collaborators Ranieri Del Pace and Matteo Bonechi. In other rooms the painting was done by Antonio Puglieschi, Niccolò Lapi, Attanasio Bimbacci, Francesco Botti and Giovan Domenico Ferretti.
THE STAIRCASE, THE HALL AND THE GARDEN GALLERY
The ceiling of the monumental staircase was painted by Matteo Bonechi. Though Bonechi came to Palazzo Capponi in Sagrestani's équipe, he seems to have worked independently rather than as a workshop hand. He was entrusted with several of the most important rooms on the first floor. The spectacular ceiling of the staircase, with its representation of the Olympus and stucco figures holding clipei which depict the Labors of Hercules on a gold background, is the final act of the decoration of this part of the palace. It dates from the end of the second decade of the 18 th century.
The fountain by Giacinto Manuelli at the bottom of the staircase holds ancient statues of Apollo, Mercury and Venus and is encrusted with sponges and shells. The statue of Venus was restored in 1715 by the sculptor Giovacchino Fortini. Fortini also sculpted the Capponi coat of arms in white and colored marble and the two white marble Putti above the door at the top of the stairs which leads to the hall.
The decoration of this hall, the largest one in Florence , was also painted by Matteo Bonechi. It includes an exquisite, imitation-marble balustrade, the coats of arms of the Capponi family and their relatives, portraits of members of the family and four noteworthy episodes from the history of the family, including Pier Capponi received by Charles VIII.
The well-lit Gallery overlooking the garden is also full of stuccoes. The fresco decoration was entrusted to Onorio Marinari and his young collaborator Giuseppe Rendelli, who probably worked in the Gallery between 1705 and 1707. They seem to have left the project before it was finished, since the decoration was completed by Bonechi, whose hand can recognized in the Apotheosis of Hercules on the ceiling of the Gallery.