By Anthony Miller 6:20 pm PST
Title: Self-portrait. Giovanni da San Giovanni. Date: 1616. Medium: painting. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Giovanni da San Giovanni (Giovanni Mannozzi), Italian painter and draughtsman. He was the most distinguished of the artists working in fresco in 17th-century Florence. An eccentric personality, he was attracted by the charm and informality of northern art and by a satirical approach to classical themes.
Born in San Giovanni Valdarno, Giovanni da San Giovanni trained under Matteo Rosselli. Mannozzi started the decoration of the Sala degli Argenti in the Palazzo Pitti and planned decorations at Villa Petraia. His biography was featured by Filippo Baldinucci.

Room of Giovanni da San Giovanni, 1635, fresco, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence. (Photo:

He went to Florence in 1608 to study in the workshop of Matteo Rosselli, where he learnt both fresco and oil painting techniques and drew extensively.
In 1615 he painted two ceiling canvases of Putti Supporting the profile of Michelangelo for the Casa Buonarroti and in the same period frescoed a choir of musician-angels for the dome of the Church of the Ognissanti in Florence. He also painted five lunettes showing scenes from the Life of St Francis in the cloister of the Ognissanti. His masterpiece is said to be frescoes in the chapel of the Palazzo Rospigliosi-Pallavicini in Pistoia. While escaping Florence during the plague, he painted some frescoes in the lunettes in the Santuario della Madonna della Fontenuova in Monsummano Terme. On the left internal wall of the chorus of the church of San Bartolomeo in Cutigliano, is a canvas of Mannozzi’s the Circumcision (1620).
In 1616 his frescoed decoration of an Allegory of Florence (destroyed) on the façade of Cosimo II de’ Medici’s house in Piazza della Calza won him unexpected and lasting fame. His early works also included several tabernacles, made for patrons in the town and in the surrounding countryside. The Virgin and Child with Saints (1616; Florence, Via Faenza) and the delle Stinche Tabernacle, a Gentleman Distributing Alms among Prisoners (c. 1616; Florence, Via Ghibellina), survive.

Giovanni da San Giovanni was commissioned in 1635 to decorate this room commonly named after him The stucco ornaments are actually painted, but evoke a sense of opulence and wealth.

The particular stylistic characteristics of Giovanni da San Giovanni’s painting are his extremely elegant drawing, creative fantasy, skill in organizing the scenes in a theatrical manner, fine handling of the lighter tones, and the originality of the play of light from below upwards that lend his frescoes a charm that is almost eighteenth-century.

Fame Showing the Wandering Philosophers to Tuscany and Munificence

Fame Showing the Wandering Philosophers to Tuscany and Munificence, c. 1635, fresco, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence. (Photo:
Fame Showing the Wandering Philosophers to Tuscany and Munificence, c. 1635, fresco, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence. (Photo:

La imagen muestra parte de la decoración al fresco de la Sala de Giovanni da San Giovanni. La llegada de poetas y filósofos a la Toscana después de su “expulsión” del Monte Parnaso es una alusión a la caída de Constantinopla en manos de los turcos en 1453. después de lo cual Lorenzo el Magnífico ofreció refugio en Florencia a los eruditos griegos que huían de la capital oriental. Son reconocibles las figuras de Empédocles sentado, lamentándose por la pérdida de libros, así como Aristóteles y Platón. La alegoría semidesnuda de la Toscana, de pie detrás de la Munificencia, recibe a los vagabundos que la Fama alada le recomienda.


Allegory of the Marriage of Vittoria della Rovere with Ferdinando II de’ Medici, 1637, fresco, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence. (Phpto:

The picture shows the ceiling fresco in the Room of Giovanni da San Giovanni. In 1637, Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, married Vittoria della Rovere, last heir of the Dukes of Urbino, whose extraordinary dowry of art objects enormously enriched the already conspicuous outstanding Medici collections.


Aurora   was the sister of Helios, the sun-god. Every morning she rose from her bed leaving  her aged husband Tithonus still sleeping, and led Helios into the heavens. She was a popular figure in seventeenth-century Baroque ceiling painting. Giovanni da San Giovanni’s painting was originally at centre ceiling of a room in Pucci Palace in Florence, as can be seen from the much foreshortened figure of Tithonus.




Original publication: Arts in Tuscany