The Bargello National Museum (Museo Nazionale del Bargello) is the most important sculpture museum in Florence. It is housed in a building that used to serve as a barracks and prison. Works by the most famous Florentine artists (Michelangelo, Ghiberti, Donatello and the brothers Della Robbia) are on display.
Bargello Museum Florence
Opening hours, address and ticket price
The address of the Bargello National Museum is Via del Proconsolo 4, 50122 Florence. Tel. +39 0552388606. Bus: 14, 23, A. It is open from Monday to Sunday from 08.15 to 17.00 hours. Closed: 2nd and 4th Monday of the month; 1 January, 1 May, 25 December. Admission price 2014: 4 Euro (discount: 2 Euro).
History and description
Palazzo del Bargello or Palazzo del Popolo
The name Bargello was originally the name of a kind of police chief in the Middle Ages. He had his seat in the palace, which was built in 1255. It was called the Palazzo del Bargello (or Bargello for short) or Palazzo del Popolo.
In the 13th century courtyard you can see the coats of arms of the various podestà (a kind of medieval mayor) that used to rule Florence.
The 15th century Gothic staircase leading to the loggia on the second floor is decorated with bronze birds designed by Giambologna. The staircase itself was the work of Neri Fioravanti.
While the Bargello was being used as a prison, the arches of the courtyard were bricked up. They were reopened toward the 1850s. This is also when Gaetano Bianchi painted the walls below the loggia with the banners of the various and the coats of arms of the podestà.
Sculptures in the courtyard used to grace the Palazzo Vecchio and the Boboli Gardens. Highlights are Giambologna’s “Oceano”, Cosimo Cenni’s ” St. Paul’s Cannon”, allegorical sculptures by Bartolomeo Ammannati and reliefs by Benedetto da Maiano.
The former arsenal of the Palazzo del Bargello now houses some of the earliest sculptures made by Michelangelo.
The “Bacchus” (1497) was made in Rome when he was 22 years old. The classical influences are mixed with the realism, characteristic of the Renaissance: The God really looks as if he is drunk (and was therefore rejected by the client).
The Pitti Tondo is a “Madonna and Child” made in the stiacciato technique. This is one of the first works in which Michelangelo uses the non-polishing of the marble as a tool to achieve greater realism.
Another masterpiece in this room is the “Flying Mercury” by the originally Flemish sculptor Giambologna.
Salone del Consiglio Generale
The former Salone del Consiglio Generale is now the repository of a number of glazed terracotta “Madonna”‘s by, among others, Luca della Robbia, plus some of the most influential sculptures from the early Renaissance.
Donatello in the Salone del Consiglio Generale
There are no less than two David‘s, a marble version from 1408 and a bronze statue that he made between 1440 and 1450 and is considered the first freestanding nude statue since antiquity.
The Marzocco, the lion that was the symbol of the Florentine Republic, was made between 1418 and 1420.
The San Giorgio dates from 1416 and was made for a niche in the Orsanmichele Church. Beneath it there is a relief depicting the saint killing the dragon. This is the first work where he uses his stiacciato technique.
The naughty looking Cupid was made between 1430 and 1440.
Other Artists in the Salone del Consiglio Generale
When the Baptistery had to be provided with new doors, a competition was launched. The models of the “Sacrifice of Isaac” by Brunelleschi and Ghiberti (the latter would finally win) can be seen here.
On the top floor you can see a room with the glazed terracotta sculptures of the Della Robbia brothers (Andrea and Giovanni), as well as a room dedicated to Leonardo Da Vinci‘s teacher Verrocchio.