Museo Nazionale del Bargello
The Italy’s major decorative arts museum:
Among Florence’s many unique attractions is Italy’s major decorative arts museum: the Bargello in Via del Proconsolo. It is a sculpture museum, but in addition to famous works by Donatello, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, Della Robbia, it shows objects of everyday use such as jewelry, jewel boxes, chessboards, arms, sticks, combs and mirrors of inestimable value. However, this time the credit does not go to the Medici family nor to other illustrious Florentines. The decorative arts collection was born out of the “obsession” with the collecting of precious objects that two Frenchmen from Lyons, Jean-Baptiste Carrand and his son Louis, had. The passion for collecting led them to the discovery of the usages and traditions of nearly all European countries. Louis went on purchasing artifacts, but he was much more interested in majolica objects, enamels, arms, metals, textiles and paintings.
In 1881, he moved to Florence, the most sought-after destination by European and American aristocrats attracted by the antiquity oozing from the city’s every corner. However, the years of Florence as the capital of Italy sparked the surge of modernity and brought destruction, restructuring and expropriation. And so, it was easy to purchase age-old paintings, sculptures and objects for next to nothing.
Even the Bargello Museum underwent restructuring works and, in 1886, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Donatello’s birth, the name Carrand was forever associated with Florence, as he was one of the experts who took care of the museum’s set up and his pieces were added to the collection. The rarest and most admired piece is the Flabellum of Tournus, a parchment fan with carved bone handle employed in the liturgy and dating back to the Carolingian age. Louis Carrand died in 1887 and he donated his collection to Florence. The Bargello Museum had definitely changed its face: from sanctuary of medieval and Renaissance sculptures to Italy’s major decorative arts museum with no less than 3105 pieces.