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National Museum of Bargello


In Florence the world's most important collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture

The National Museum of Bargello is housed in one of the oldest public palaces in Florence, the first medieval building with a public purpose. The palace was first used as the headquarters of the Captain of the People and later the Podestà, later designated as a prison (from the second half of the 16th century) and residence of the Bargello, the head of city police.

In the 1800s, the palace was transformed into a large museum of Renaissance sculpture, with masterpieces by artists, such as Donatello, Verrocchio, the Della Robbia, Michelangelo, Giambologna and Cellini. Alongside these, the museum holds important collections with weapons, seals, textiles, waxes, enamels, paintings, ivories, majolica and much more.

The courtyard of Bargello Museum
The courtyard of Bargello Museum - Credit: Paolo Villa

On the ground floor is located the Hall of Michelangelo and 16th-century sculpture. In addition to four statues by the artist - Bacchus, Tondo Pitti (a relief with the Madonna and Child), Brutus and David-Apollo - you can admire works by Sansovino, Benvenuto Cellini, Ammannati and Giambologna (the Mercury).

The courtyard's imposing stairs lead to the Verone, the Loggia at the first floor, built between 1317 and 1320, walled up when it was converted into a prison, and restored in the 19th century. In the Verone are placed mostly 16th-century sculptures from fountain and garden decorations. Among them, the series of bronze animals by Giambologna, from the grotto of the Medici Villa di Castello.

The loggia leads to the Hall of Donatello and 15th-century sculpture. In the large 14th-century hall some works by Donatello are on display, including the famous David, made in bronze in 1440, perfectly harmonious Renaissance masterpiece, as well as Saint George, moved here from his niche in Orsanmichele, another version of David in marble, Atys and Marzocco, together with works by Brunelleschi, Ghiberti and Luca della Robbia.

The David by Donatello
The David by Donatello

But the museum’s collections don’t end here: you can enjoy splendid ivories from the Roman and Byzantine eras, Renaissance jewellery, medieval enamels and Venetian glass. Without forgetting to mention the section of glazed terracottas by Andrea and Giovanni Della Robbia, the bronze David and Lady with Primroses by Verrocchio and the bust of Costanza Buonarelli by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Saint Mary Magdalene chapel in the Bargello Museum
Saint Mary Magdalene chapel in the Bargello Museum - Credit: Wolfgang Sauber / WikiCommons

On the first floor there is also the Chapel of Mary Magdalene, the place where those condemned to death stopped before heading towards the gallows. The walls of the Chapel were covered with frescoes and the work is attributed to Giotto's workshop. On the entrance wall Hell is represented, while on the opposite wall, which was behind the altar, there is an image of Paradise. Here, among the chosen ones, you can spot Dante Alighieri in what is the oldest portrait of the poet. The frescoes have been heavily damaged by the changes undergone by the Chapel over time.

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Musei del Bargello
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