The Poggio a Caiano villa, certainly one of the most interesting building projects of the early Renaissance, was begun in 1485 by the express wishes of Lorenzo the Magnificent who chose Giuliano da Sangallo (1445-1516) to carry out the plan.
In fact, this construction presents many features of the new Renaissance architectural idea, especially in a renewed attention to classical building models and Nature.
Of particular interest is the small entrance pronaos on the first floor: with its pillars with wide intercolumniations and its glazed terracotta frieze, it adheres to the idea of the tuscanicae dispositiones as set forth by Vitruvius in the 1st century BC. Other noteworthy features are found in the large central hall which recalls the oecus of Roman villas and in the open loggia on the ground floor which runs along all four sides of the building. This latter architectural creation explicitly reveals a new attitude towards Nature. In fact the loggia opens the building towards the outdoors, inviting the natural world to take a direct part in the architectural composition. Strictly in-looking structures are abandoned in favor of forms that allow Man to achieve a new spatial and existential dimension.
At the moment of Lorenzo’s death (1492), the villa was still incomplete and it wasn’t until 1512 that construction began again, this time according to Pope Leo X’s orders. The villa didn’t undergo any further substantial modification in the following centuries; in the nineteenth century, the architect Poccianti was instructed to design a grand indoor staircase as well as two new flights of stairs outdoors in order to allow access to the terrace.
The villa’s central hall is decorated with frescos carried out between 1519 and 1521, according to the wishes of Pope Leo X (Lorenzo the Magnificent’s son). A synthesis of the most representative Florentine painting of the sixteenth century, the cycles were executed by Pontormo (1494-1556), Andrea del Sarto (1486-1531) and Franciabigio (1482-1525) who respectively painted the “Vertumnus and Pomona” rural scenes which are in keeping with the secular spirit animating the whole architectural complex; the “Tribute to Caesar”, which represents an event taken from Lorenzo’s life; and “Cicero’s Return from Exile” which celebrates Cosimo’s return to Florence. The latter two works were later touched up by Alessandro Allori ( 1535-1607) who added on to the sides and painted the other frescos in the hall.