History of Art and Architecture

Frank Toker Colloquium


Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

“Death Comes for Seven Eminent Florentines, and Harasses the Archaeologist Digging them up”

Frank Toker writes: In this talk, I will lay out the problem of understanding seven especially perplexing tombs out of the 130 graves I excavated when directing the archaeological campaign below the Cathedral of Florence. Actually, three of these tombs were easy to analyze. One (tomb number 82) was that of Filippo Brunelleschi, the first creative force in the Italian Renaissance. One (tomb 46) was the sarcophagus that carried the body of Saint Zenobius, the fifth-century founding bishop of Florence, which was moved to the Cathedral when Vikings were attacking Tuscany in the ninth century. And one (tomb 42) was the first prestige burial of the famed Medici clan, complete with gilded spurs and a magnificent sword on his chest.

But the other four tombs were truly perplexing. One (tomb 40) was a fifteenth-century slab deliberately placed in a fourteenth-century context as a kind of deception by a sixteenth-century Grand Duke. Another (tomb 78) was the one that journalists all over the world claimed was the tomb of Giotto, the finest painter of the Middle Ages. This, despite my publishing the coins alongside that body as having been minted four decades later than the death-date (1336) of Giotto himself.