Velluti family, the lords of the Palazzo
The Velluti family came from the Florentine peasant. Their coat-of-arms was composed by a shield divided horizontally, above golden and under red, with three circles or wheels at the bottom. According to some scholars, it would have been native to the city of Semifonte that was destroyed by the Florentines.
In the early 200s, the Vellutis bought houses and foundations in Borgo San Jacopo.
They then extended their possessions on the vast plots of land still to gardens that extended to the Church of the Santo Spirito. In this area, they built new houses that formed the block between the current Via Toscanella, Via de’ Velluti (originally Via del Tanfura) and Via de’ Vellutini (originally Chiasso de’ Loci).
These houses communicated with each other and with those of the families of the affiliated Consorterie, all linked for kinship or political relationships. In the event of wars or riots, they could ensure easy defence, blocking the narrow surrounding streets and escaping through courtyards and interior secret passages.
On the first floor in the apartment named “Clarice” there is a room which preserves an almost intact fourteenth-century decoration. This so-called “madornale” room is characterized by a painting with fake drapes woven with red and blue rhombus motifs. It has changed over time to become greenish, framed by bands in which realistic budgies in profile are depicted, green with paws red.
In the area above, there is a beautiful fake architecture motif with trefoil arches, among which are painted shield crests with lilies and crossed keys. Perhaps, they are blazons of families linked to the Velluti family for consortium or weddings, enclosing an alternating sky on a red background and blue, with green saplings with fruits in the foreground.
They depict a hortus conclusus, where the fruit trees are typical of the secret gardens of the time such as pomegranates, oranges, tangerines, cedars and other citrus fruits. But, it wasn’t just decorative and naturalistic motifs since the saplings meant the “Garden of love”, a typical profane courteous theme of that time.
The original houses in Via de’ Velluti are characterized, on the outside, by a motif that has always made them famous in Florence: on the corner with Via Toscanella there is in fact a bas-relief in serene stone depicting a large lion passing through left with the S-shaped tail. The lion, unfortunately acefalo, constituted a shelf, the first of eight, which had to support an embryonic canopy and coppi with function of shelter for the family of the Velvets and for the consorts, thus transforming the cross of roads into a kind of open courtyard . From the presence of this element would have derived the name of “Canto dei Quattro Leoni” with which the cantata is known i.e. the intersection of Via de’ Velluti and Via Toscanella.