The collection of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence consists mainly of works of art that have been removed from the Duomo and the Baptistery itself to protect them from the weather. Donatello is richly represented. The main highlights are the the original Baptistery doors, however.
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Florence
Opening hours, entrance fee and address
The address is Via della Canonica, 1 – 50122 Florence. Telephone: +39 0552302885. Opening hours: From 09.00 till 19.30 hours. Admission: Combi-ticket with Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Campanile, the Santa Reparata Cathedral and the Baptistery: 18 Euros.
History and description
The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo was opened in 1891. The coat of arms above the entrance is that of Cosimo I de’ Medici. The Sala dell’Antica Facciata del Duomo (“Hall of the Old Facade of the Duomo”) is the main sculpture room of the museum.
The major highlight is formed by the gilded bronze doors made by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Baptistry between 1425 and 1452. These can be seen in an enclosed space, but in daylight, in the courtyard of the museum. Michelangelo himself was so impressed by these doors that he called them “the Gates of Paradise”.
Also on display in the museum are a number of formelle, taken from the bell tower.
There is also a “Pietà” by Michelangelo, which the artist probably meant to be for his own tomb. Some statues of this group have been damaged, probably by a frustrated Michelangelo himself. The statue representing “Nicodemus” is a self-portrait. The rough and unpolished nature of the group of sculptures is thought to have been intentional. (“Mary Magdalene” is smooth and polished, but was finished by one of Michelangelo‘s students, called Tiberio Calcagni).
The statues of the prophets made for Giotto’s bell tower, some of which were made by Donatello, can also be seen here. The most famous are the “Bearded Prophet”, the “Habbakuk” (nicknamed “Pumpkin Head”) and the “Jeremias”.
One of the two cantorias (the balcony where the choir stands, usually near the organ) on the wall above the prophets was also made by Donatello. It is decorated with singing cherubs that dart around between and behind its columns. Donatello took 5 years (1433 to 1438) to complete the work, which measures about 3 1/2 by 6 by 1 metre. Like the less exuberant cantoria of Luca della Robbia on the opposite wall, Donatello‘s masterpiece was originally made for the Santa Maria della Fiore Cathedral.
The “Magdalena” is a multi-coloured wooden sculpture made by the artist between 1453 and 1455. Donatello‘s “Habbakuk” was taken from the Campanile. For some reason it has earned itself the nickname “Pumpkin Face” (Zuccone).
There are a number of wooden models for both the drum and the façade of the Duomo. However, none of the models would be executed. The client, Grand Duke Francesco de’ Medici, died before he could make a choice. Unfortunately, the original façade had already been destroyed in 1587, so the cathedral remained faceless until the 19th century, when the current neo-Gothic façade was built.
Brunelleschi is the architect who designed the dome. Some of the machines used to build this dome can be admired in the museum. For some reason, the architect’s own death mask is also on display. In the vestibule you can see a marble bust, (probably) by Buggiano, of the artist.
Room of the Altar
The Sala dell’Altare gets its name from a silver altar that was made for the Baptistery. It was made by famous members of the Goldsmith’s guild, including Pollaiuolo and Verrocchio.
There are two sarcophagi from the Baptistery in the courtyard.