The great new palaces looked like imposing cubes of carfully
worked pietra forte ashlars. "Florence is the city of
rustication" (J. Burckhardt, 1878). The ground floor was
blocky in form, with enormously heavy walls and small windows
with iron grates. The presence of a porticoed court around which
the life of the house revolved and which illuminated the internal
rooms was fundamental. The design of the facade became something
to entrust to the most outstanding architects. Great attention to
design ensured a new grandeur thanks in part to the introduction
of ornamental motives taken from the classical world. The
carefully designed stone facing was also adopted on the upper
floors, replacing the rubblework so common in the Middle Ages, or
at the most covering the rubblework with plaster.
The custom of simulating the regular ashlar work in sgraffito on
the plaster, later extended to include rich decorations (putti,
garlands, mythological scenes), was introduced between the end of
the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century, and
quickly spread. Some of the most interesting still extant
examples of the first half of the century (more or less restored)
are, in chronological order: the facade on Via Maggio of Palazzo
Ridolfi; the facades on the courtyard of the Palazzo Da
Uzzano-Capponi, in Via de' Bardi; the facades on Via Ginori and
on the courtyard of Palazzo Gerini; the facade on Via
Michelangelo Buonarroti of Palazzo Lapi; the facade on Borgo S.
Croce and on the courtyard of Palazzo Spinelli. The use of
sgraffiti in religious architecture was rare, but did exist as
witnessed by the facades of the large cloister of S. Croce, possibly hy Bernardo
Rossellino and Brunelleschian in its general architectural lines.
It must in any case he recalled that the principles of
Brunelleschi and Alberti tended to eliminate wall decoration.
Moreover the pictorial cycles of the period when present are to
be found in old churches. According to Alberti, courtyards,
cloisters and porticoes were the only places suitable for this
type of decoration.