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A Private Chapel as Burial Space : Filippo Strozzi with Filippino Lippi and Benedetto da Maiano in Santa Maria Novella, Florence
By Takuma Ito
Bulletin of Death and Life Studies, Vol. 7 (2011)
Introduction: Chapel decoration as burial space in Renaissance Florence had two distinct tendencies, apparently opposing but not necessarily mutually exclusive. On the one hand, there was a growing demand for spatial coherence in religious buildings, especially in churches newly built in the Renaissance style, such as San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito. Chapels in these churches indeed generally entailed commissioning a few choice objects, such as an altarpiece or a painted window, and the funeral monuments were rather modest, comprised in many cases only of simple tomb-slabs. Chapels with a greater degree of spatial independence, on the other hand, permitted the patrons to develop highly personalized burial settings. One such example is the Sagrestia Vecchia in San Lorenzo, where Cosimo de’ Medici had a sarcophagus installed under the table at the center of the space as a funeral monument for his parents. In traditional gothic churches, too, family chapels, especially those in transepts, were decorated with lesser regard for the cohesion and unity of the church structures, and often involved sumptuous funeral monuments. In this latter context, murals with traditional narrative scenes continued to maintain prominence. Filippo Strozzi’s chapel in Santa Maria Novella typologically belonged to this category, which included some other important examples from the same period, such as the Sassetti Chapel in Santa Trinitia.