The famous Veduta della Catena (Chain Map) displayed in the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace), in the exhibition section ‘Tracce di Firenze’ (Traces of Florence), is a huge, 19th-century pictorial reproduction of a xylograph housed in the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) in Berlin: a 15th-century prototype attributed to Francesco Rosselli. Its name is derived from the padlocked chain that frames the map.
The drawing, an important source of information on the urban layout of Florence in the latter part of the 15th century, is the first known example of such a detailed topographical depiction of the whole city, including its buildings and dense road network. Despite the date inscribed on the 19th-century painting (Florence circa 1490), the view can be dated back to around 1471, based on the presence of the ‘sphere’ atop the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and the completed façade of the basilica of Santa Maria Novella, and also to 1482 based on the absence of the dome on the basilica of Santo Spirito. The artist in the foreground on the right, drawn from behind in the act of sketching the city walls, enables us to establish the viewpoint of the bird’s-eye-view painting, situated to the north-west of the city, in line with the bell tower of the church of Monte Oliveto.
Although drawn with topographical objectivity, and with modern intentions of realist perspective, the representation of the urban layout has been slightly altered by modifications introduced by the artist, such as placing the large dome of the cathedral in the center, as the symbolic cornerstone of the city, and showing the main façades of the most important buildings.
During the period that Florence was the capital of Italy, the palace housed the Chamber of Deputies and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Today it is the Town Hall of Florence and a museum that charts the history of the palace using the evidence contained in the building itself, and the decorative furnishings of its sumptuous rooms. Among the most significant works it houses are Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes, Bronzino’s paintings in the Chapel of Eleanor, and the lavish ornaments in the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred), where you can also see the famous sculpture The Genius of Victory by Michelangelo.