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Shell House Showcase: Corsini Palace Grotto, Florence

In 2019 we were fortunate to be shown around the Corsini Palace on the banks of the Arno by the Countess Lucrezia (the Corsini presence goes back to 1492) and quickly became aware of the flood lines from 1966 and earlier.

These had actually exposed 14th and 15th century washes which were visible, once past the statue of Venus in the entrance hall.


The prime feature of the Palace for us, set within a loggia now glassed, with chessboard forecourt to the front, is a wide, tall baroque grotto, in shell/___rocaille and tufa from 1692-8. There is a fine example of a machina teatral. A female figure sits in the heart of the grotto at back. There are some 32 varieties of Mediterranean seashells, black glass discs and calcineous deposits, broken stalactites moulded, local spongy rocks, pietra serena stone and red corals from the Indo-Pacific.



The 2017 restoration revealed a small porcupine of mortar and Turritella seashells, with scallop shells above. A giant (artificial) clam sits in the middle of the design, with putti above riding sea monsters and horses. Bacchus, satyrs and cherubs also feature in robust even grotesque poses.


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