It opened in 1444 as the first orphanage in Europe, and part of the building is still used for this purpose. UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, also has offices here. Brunelleschi’s arcaded loggia (seepp46-7) is decorated with glazed terracotta roundels, added by Andrea della Robbia around 1498, showing babies wrapped in swaddling bands. At the left-hand end of the portico you can see the rota, a rotating stone cylinder on which mothers could place their unwanted children anonymously and ring the orphanage bell. The stone was then turned around and the child was taken in. Within the building there are two elegant cloisters built to Brunelleschi’s designs. The larger Chiostro degli Uomini (Men’s Cloister), built between 1422 and 1445, is decorated with sgraffito designs of cherubs and roosters scratched into the wet plaster. The smaller Women’s Cloister (1438) leads to a gallery which has several paintings donated by children from the orphanage who went on to be successful in later life. Outstanding among these is the Adoration of the Magi (1488) painted by Domenico del Ghirlandaio, showing the massacre in the background.
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