The history of the house can be traced under the loggia, from the purchase in 1354 of the land with a farmhouse on the corner of Porcellatico to the restoration work undertaken in the middle of the twentieth century, through excerpts from Datini’s papers and research on the artistic vicissitudes and aspects linked to the new function of the building. In 1410 it became the seat of Francesco di Marco’s Casa del Ceppo dei Poveri, charity institute by will of the merchant.
In the courtyard, in addition to the sink there was a well, complete with pulley, chains and buckets. The loggia was equipped with a great table, benches and chairs; other items included barrels, casks and vats, two cloth-covered windows, wheat, barley, and a feedbag for fodder; in a cupboard, bowls for washing fruit, a bone lantern and a little lampstand.
Intense decoration work took place even in the environments outside the courtyard and loggia. The work was entrusted to Niccolò di Pietro Gerini who, after terminating the tabernacle in the garden, together with his two assistants, created a rich cycle with profane themes.
Arrigo di Niccolò, Bartolomeo di Bertozzo and Agnolo also took part in arranging the courtyard, the latter, in particular, was entrusted with decorating the vaults of the loggia with yellow lilies on a blue background and creating the false tabernacles that surrounded Gerini’s figures.
The cycle, of which only a few fragments remain, originally consisted of fourteen figures, in all probability heroes of the past, part of the iconographic tradition of Illustrious Men and Women, among whom Charlemagne, Camilla and Judith.
In the loggia, the seven Virtues with relative Vices represented at their feet, the seven liberal Arts and personifications of the four Philosophies (according to a little diffused iconography: Moral, Ethics, Physics and Philosophy).
Recent restoration of the palazzo has revealed that almost all the exterior decorations were executed “dry”.
After the two short walls had lost their decoration Filippo Lippi’s famous panel was placed on the wall behind the well in the mid XV century; it depicted the Virgin with Child graciously blessing the Buonomini del Ceppo presented by Datini himself in the presence of Saints John the Baptist and Lawrence (now preserved in the Museo Civico in Prato), as Vasari recalls: “And in Francesco di Marco’s Ceppo, above the well in a courtyard, is a small panel, in his own hand, with a portrait of Francesco di Marco, founder of the charitable institute“.
The wall at the entrance was re-decorated in false marble by two modest sixteenth century painters (Tommaso di Piero Trombetto and Michele Guizzelmi).