It's a great feeling to be able to wander along Via del Proconsolo and see the wonderful sixteenth century sculptures of the Bargello Museum through a window you get the urge to go inside and immerge yourself in the atmosphere of medieval Florence which been recreated in the courtyard of Palazzo da Francesco Mazzei during the mid-nineteenth century. Admire the stairway and the beautiful loggia and the coat of arms of the podest the magistrates who governed the city.
The Michelangelo room, visible from the outside only, is adjacent to the courtyard and if you like sixteenth century Florentine sculpture, you must take a look. Collections of works by Michelangelo, Giambologna, Benvenuto Cellini, Vincenzo Danti, Jacopo Sansovino and Baccio Bandinelli are all displayed here.
Go back out to the courtyard and climb the stairs to the higher level for more sixteenth century sculpture, such as a collection of highly-detailed bronze statues of animals by Giambologna: a peacock, an eagle, an owl, a barn owl and even a turkey; one of the first depictions of this exotic, American bird. What a delightful sight it would have been if they had actually been collocated where they originally were meant to be
in a grotto with various waterfalls and fountains inside the Villa Medicea di Castello!
From here one may access the solemn and monumental hall of the General Counci, or Donatello's hall (sala di Donatello) where many of the artist's work is displayed, such as the Marzocco, the lion symbolising Florence. This is the original sculpture and a copy is on display outside the Palazzo Vecchio. Also on display in the sala di Donatello are the Atys-Amor, a winged cupid standing on top of a snake and St. George, who was removed from the faade of the Orsanmichele together with its aedicule and substituted with a copy.
The armoury is on the second floor, containing examples from the Medici collection among others and Andrea Della Robbia's cheerful glazed terracotta collection taken from his bottega fills another room with colour. The last room, where medals are displayed, remained closed for 30 years after one of Pisanello's medals was stolen in 1930. Approximately 1000 examples are on show here and most of these are commemorative coins with faces, buildings or important events on them, like a small gallery of portraits and images of the city from past times.
Mighelangelo's Bacco on the ground floor rarely goes unnoticed and The General Council hall on the first floor is home to Donatello's David bronze created in 1440, who is depicted quite differently from Michelangelo's world-famous example. In the same room stand Ghiberti and Brunelleschi's panels of the sacrifice of Isaac, which were both presented as candidates for the Baptistery's second door Ghiberti's more classical version in line with the times was chosen his competitor's, which was more innovative in its depiction. The two busts in the room, of a young boy and a gentlewoman, by Desiderio da Settignano are worth admiring.
Arabic artwork, ivory, maiolicas (Italian blue and white tiles) are displayed on the first floor. This is also where you can visit St. Mary Magdalene's Chapel frescoed by Giotto's workshop and containing a portrait of Dante, which many believe is the work of Giotto himself.
The collection of Renaissance bronzes is worth a visit, among which are those of Antonio Pollaiolo, Hercules and Antaeus and Benvenuto Cellini's Ganimede.
Hercules' statue is depicted crushing the giant Antaeus, gathering strength from the Earth which enables him to suffocate the giant. Handsome Ganymedes, unable to resist Zeus' beauty as
he appears in the form of an eagle, is depicted as he is kidnapped by Zeus. The Verrocchio room is beautiful and contains an example of David, recently restored and very different from Donatello's version, and the 'Dama col Mazzolino', which means Lady with a bunch of flowers, a marble statue renowned for her exquisite hands and the painstaking detail of the various layers of her dress.
The Bargello is and remains one of my best museums in Italy, it gives me a real travel in the past…in a glorious Italian past!
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