Bargello National Museum, Florence
If you're a huge fan of Donatello's sculpture, like I am, then head here! Much like the Musée de Cluny in Paris, the Bargello holds the finest examples of medieval art and statuary in Firenze. You'll see magnificent examples of statues, frescoes, insignia, coats of arms, and architecture in a gorgeous gothic palazzo setting.
I was really fascinated by the foreshortening detail on the statues (see photo), the courtyard, the way the light hit the building.
This is a nice prison to visit. I thought the Bargello an imposing structure and not the kind I expected for an art museum; then I read two different stories about the name: one is that it was at one time a prison run by Mr. Bargello and the other is that a bargello was a jailer - well.... One of the oldest and most historic buildings in Florence, it now houses works of some of Florence’s greatest artists: Michelangelo, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Cellini, Verrocchio, and della Robbia. My interest is more in the paintings and statues of these artists, but the museum also has a large collection of fabrics, bronzes, tapestries, etc., much of which belonged to the Medici family. They allow photograpy (not flash, I think) which always pleases me.
One of the things my wife and I joke about is the profusion of David statues, particularly in Florence. Michelangelo's is the gold standard as far as we are concerned, and we call the others the "Sissy Davids." There are some photos here of others - see what you think.
Admission is included on the Firenze card, otherwise it is € 4,00.
The Bargello is one of Florence’s more well-known museums. This museum dates from 1255 and has functioned as a city hall, prison, and police headquarters. Since its 1865 opening as an art museum, the Bargello has specialized in sculpture. The building contains 3 levels and there are whole rooms set aside for individual Renaissance sculptors like Donatello. In the center of the building there is a large, open courtyard with a staircase and a well. Sculptures made by famous artists such as Michelangelo, Giambologna, Ghiberti, Cellini, and Bernini can be viewed here. Costanza Bonarelli, Bacchus, David, and Mercury are among the more famous works of art in the Bargello. In addition to sculptures, coins, tapestries, weapons, Middle Eastern art, and ceramics are also displayed here. If you’re an art lover, the Bargello should be high on your list of things to do in Florence because of its extremely large Renaissance sculpture collection.
My favorite part of the Bargello was seeing the famous bronze plates created during the 1401 Baptistry door competition between Ghiberti and Brunelleschi (and three other lesser known artists). These can be found in the room with Donatello’s statues (more on these in another tip) – they are on the back wall.
These two artists were competing for the job of creating the second set of bronze doors for the Florence Baptistry. The competition set the rules that the design must be in the trefoil shape and use the Biblical story of Isaac and Abraham as its theme.
Ghiberti’s plate (show on the left) beat out Brunelleschi because of its classical elements, use of landscape, emotion, and (more importantly) it was done in one piece so it was cheaper! But don’t be too sad for Brunelleschi – not doing the doors gave him time to design and build the dome on the Cathedral. Both artists went on to become rich and famous in their own works - Ghiberti spent a lifetime working on two sets of Baptistry doors, and Brunelleschi made a name for himself with that magnificent dome.
Head downstairs to the ground floor of the Bargello and you'll find the Michelangelo Room next to where you entered the museum. This is where you will see some other statues from another famous Florentine – Michelangelo. If your time is limited and you can only visit one museum with Michealangelo, then skip this one in the Bargello and head straight to the Accademia to see his David and the slaves from Pope Leo's memorial.
At the Bargello you can see his marble Bacchus Drunk (well, isn't that how we usually think of Bacchus?) from 1498 that has that classic twisting motion that made Michelangelo famous. Bacchus lifts his wine glass up to all. Interestingly, this was an early work of Michaelangelo and Cardinal Raffaele Riario, who commissioned it, didn't like it. The statue was purchased by a banker who kept Bacchus in his backyard for many years. As Michaelangelo's fame grew, I'm sure that banker felt he'd made a shrewd business decision!
Michealangelo's Pitti Tondo from 1503 of the Madonna and Child with St. John is on the wall in its unfinished state.
There is also a bust of Brutus in the room. This is a later work (1540ish) and stands out as the only bust the famous sculptor ever did, even it if isn't finished.
David is a pretty famous guy in Florence - and Michaelangelo's sculpture isn't the only one around town. Both Donatello and Verrochio have their own earlier versions of a David housed at the Bargello (although at the time we were there, the Verrochio David was on loan to the Pitti Palace).
Cosimo Medici commissioned this piece from Donatello and it was originally meant to be placed in the Medici Palace's central courtyard. Recently cleaned, you can now see traces of the original gilding on David’s hair. This is an important piece as it represents the first free standing statue meant to be seen completely in the round.
I always wondered what was up with the hat and it has more to do with balance than with fashion (although it does go well with his boots!). And, really, what's with the feather going up his leg in the back? Most likely to add to the sturdiness of the sculpture, although it did cause a sensation in its day. The marble David is bottom heavy, creating a pin-head look; Donatello compensated for this in his bronze David with the Head of Goliath with the addition of the hat. The wreath at the bottom has some Medici symbolism with the little balls decorating the wreath.
To me, there are four important David statues in the art world - and three of them are located in Florence: Verrochio's, Donatello's, Michaelangelo's, and Bernini's (at the Bourghese Gallery in Rome). I was pretty psyched to be able to see all three Florence Davids on this trip!
Look around the Donatello Room (located on the first floor) and you will find Donatello’s two Davids – the more famous bronze one (with the floppy hat) and an earlier marble David. I always wondered what was up with the hat and it has more to do with balance than with fashion (although it does go well with his boots!). The marble David is bottom heavy, creating a pin-head look; Donatello compensated for this in his bronze David with the Head of Goliath with the addition of the hat. The wreath at the bottom has some Medici symbolism with the little balls decorating the wreath. Cosimo Medici commissioned this piece from Donatello and it was originally meant to be placed in the Medici Palace's central courtyard. Recently cleaned, you can now see traces of the original gilding on David’s hair. This is an important piece as it represents the first free standing statue meant to be seen completely in the round.
On the wall next to the bronze plates is Donatello’s original St. George and the Dragon created for the niche in Orsanmichele. While the statue is magnificent and shows emotion (a feeling of readiness before St. George kills the dragon), the relief underneath of it is actually the more important part of this piece. Here you can see the introduction to various levels of relief and the use of architecture to show depth.
Also in the room is Amore, a Donatello statue of Cupid (or is he a type of satyr with his little tail?) and some della Robbia style ceramics on the walls that were designed by students of Donatello.
There are lots of other things to see in the Bargello; we only focused on the Renaissance. Definitely worth a second trip to see the other things in this wonderful museum!
The Bargello is one of the major museums in Florence, but it is not as crowded as the Uffizi. While the Uffizi focuses on paintings, the Bargello focuses on sculpture. The building has a fortress look about it, which makes sense since it was the earliest civic building and former town hall in the 1260s. Later it became the sheriff’s house. It was extended in the 19th century when it became a museum displaying private sculptures. However, the beauty of the Bargello is that is still looks much like it did in 14th century medieval Florence.
After you pay to enter, you step into the center courtyard. Look around and you will see family coat of arms all around. There are also some symbols of the city of Florence on the walls, such as keys and wheels.
There is a lot to see in the Bargello and my time there was focused primarily on the Renaissance pieces.
Upstairs is a room with some very unique ivory pieces that date back to the Etruscan and Medieval eras – known as elite art, these pieces were from the homes of the wealthy and possibly used in their private worship at home or when they traveled.
We visited a chapel that had been used for prisoners’ last night before execution. The frescoes on the walls show scenes from the Last Judgment (makes a prisoner think about where he’s going!) and scenes from the life of Mary Magdalene as she is penitent (again, designed with the prisoners in mind). These frescoes were done by Giotto or one of his students. Sadly, they are damaged, but you can still see them and in places see the lines underneath where the artist would draw on the walls before painting. There is a unique wooden lectern that looks like a book. Various relics and Dante’s funeral mask are also in this room.
There are lots of other things to see in the Bargello; we only focused on the Renaissance. Definitely worth a second trip to see the other things in this wonderful museum!
See my other Bargello tips for specifics on Donatello, Michaelangelo, and the bronze relief plates from the Baptistry door competition.
Tuesday - Saturday: 8.15 - 13.50
2nd, 4th Sunday: 8.15 - 13.50 1st, 3rd,
5th Monday: 8.15 - 13.50
Currently, full price admission is €4 (January 2012).
The masses that mob the Accademia for a look at that big, naked guy? This is where I’d send half of them instead - if I didn’t want to screw up a very good thing. My #2 favorite behind the Uffizi, this is one of those marvelous small museums that’s big on presentation without standing three-deep to see it. The other huge bonus is the space it occupies: a 13th-century government palazzo steeped in dark, medieval charisma. Dark indeed, this forbidding pile was also Florence’s prison for a time - “Bargello” was the title of the local Chief of Police - with its more unfortunate guests condemned to final send-offs in the courtyard.
If you’re on overload from the collective miles of paintings at the Uffizi, Accademia and Pitti Palace, you will find this museum of largely three-dimensional works a welcome respite. Scattered over three floors, the sculptures, ivories, coins, armor, tapestries, ceramics, weapons and whatnot are uncrowded and beautifully displayed for 360-degree viewing where appropriate. The stars of the show are:
• Donatello’s marble and bronze Davids; the latter the more notable of the two
• Giovanni Bologna’s winged Mercury
• The panels submitted by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi in the competition for the duomo’s baptistry doors (Ghiberti won; you’ll see why)
• Colorfully enameled Della Robbia reliefs
• Michelangelo’s woozy Bacchus
• Chapel where prisoners were held before execution with remnants of frescos attributed to Giotto and his students
My favorites are some of the chubby little putti doing all the funny things that putti do but it’s all well worth the ticket price - especially to be able to enjoy a browse in relative sanity!
Some good things to know:
• The gallery is closed on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday; 2nd and 4th Monday of each month; New Year’s Day; May 1st; Christmas Day.
• Hours are limited: 8:15 -13:50 (at time of this writing)
• Galleries are handicapped accessible with lifts to the upper floors
• Large bags, backpacks and umbrellas must be checked (free)
• Entrance to the museum is covered under the Firenze Card or Friends of the Uffizi pass
The house of the National Museum, since the mid 1800's, is in one of the oldest buildings in Florence. Construction began in 1255 and was the residence of the Captain of the People, and then the residence of the head of police spies (bargello). Later, it was used as the castle of the Podesta. It was here that Dante's banishment fromFlorence was decided. The present aspect of the palace is the result of additions of 1340-1345.
Dating back to 1255, the architecture of the Bargello is somewhat similar to that of Palazzo Vecchio in the sense that they both look like fortresses; in the case of the Bargello, it makes total sense since it used to be a prison and the inner courtyard that now houses so many great sculptures was the scene of executions for about 200 years. The Bargello became a museum in 1865, which makes it one of Italy's oldest public museums. It houses the world's largest collection of Italian Medieval and Renaissance sculptures. Among the museum's most famous pieces are Michelangelo's drunken "Bacchus" and Donatello's bronze "David". I also thought the Carrand Collection, an ecclectic collection of decorative arts put together in the 19th century by Jean-Baptiste and Louis Carrand, was very interesting to see. In some cases, it was possible to look at the jewels and brooches through magnifying lenses, and it was amazing to see all the work that had gone into making something so small. There's one ring in particular I really would have liked to get my hands on...!
Admission to the Bargello is only 4 Euros and you don't need to book in advance. Open daily from 8:15 am to 5:00 pm.
This is the National Museum of Sculpture. A visit here will find such masterpieces as Bacchus by Michelangelo and David by Donatello. The building itself was originally built during the 13th Century to house military captain whose duty was to keep the peace. In the 16th century, the Medici made it the home of the "Bargello" or Police Chief. In the courtyard, executions were carried out intil the late 18th Century when they were abolished. Today, the museum is a major attraction.
Located behind the Palazzo Vecchio, on the via del Preconsolo, is the Bargello Museum (Museo Nazionale del Bargello). Housed in the stupendous Bargello Palace (Palazzo del Bargello), built in 1255, the museum contains the most wide-ranging collection of medieval and Renaissance sculpture in Italy.
On show are pieces by Michelangelo (including his first major sculpture, a drunken Bacchus, completed when he was just 22), another David (this one by Donatello) and pieces by della Robbia, Verrocchio and Ghiberti.
The National Museum has its setting in one of the oldest buildings in Florence that dates back to 1255. Most tourist groups skip it, others who stay in town only a couple of days don't include it in the list of must-see. I found this museum very important, especially for people who know something about art...
Here you can find most famous works by Donatello including bronze David, some works by Michelangelo (1475-1564): Bacchus, the relief representing a Madonna with Child, Brutus and David-Apollo. There are also bronze sculptures by Giambologna... and many more intereting things.
I found about three hours for this museum early in a morning and very gald I didn't skip it. Too bad they don't have a well printed book about the collection, I bought whatever they had.
The Museo Nazionale del Bargello bears a bit of a resemblance to the Palazzo Vecchio (primarily because of the tower), but there are a few more similarities, primarily because of both buildings' association to power and authority. The Palazzo del Bargello, sometimes called the Palazzo del Podestà, was built in the 13th century and first used as the house of the magistrate and then as a police station. This was also the site of some of mediaeval Florence's prisons and more than a few people were tortured by the well in the courtyard. Luckily, such goings-on don't occur any more in the Palazzo del Bargello. Today it is the home of a large collection of Tuscan Renaissance sculpture. The Sala del Cinquecento has some of Michelangelo's earlier works here, like his Bacco and Madonna col Bambino. The courtyard features a Giambologna statue (Oceano), while the Sala del Trecento holds more Gothic works. In the Salone del Consiglio Generale on the first floor you will find many of Donatello's works, including his Marzocco, a copy of which stands in the Piazza della Signoria. Note as well that this area used to contain the cells of prisoners. At the end of the hall is the Cappella di Santa Maria Maddalena, whose walls are decorated with frescoes because this was the 13th century workshop of Giotto before it became a place of worship. The second floor contains works from the della Robbia family collection, the most famous of which is the Fanciullo.