Armor and weapons of the Bardini Museum in Florence

Palazzo Mozzi, XIII — XIV centuries.

Praise be to you, O Breg, – you in the valley
Arno caresses for so many years in a row,
Gradually leaving the glorious city,
In whose name the thunder of Latin roars.
Here they took out anger on ghibelline
And Guelph was given a hundredfold
At your bridge, which is glad
A refuge to serve the poet today.
Sonnet by Hugo Foscolo “Towards Florence”. Translated by Evgeny Vitkovsky

Museums of the world. And it so happened that when on May 26 on “VO” my material “Stibbert Museum in Florence: knights at arm’s length” came out, there was a knowledgeable person who wrote to me that, in addition to this museum and among many other museums in Florence, there is another very interesting museum with medieval weapons and armor – the Bardini Museum. Having received this information, I immediately contacted the administration of museums in Florence and asked for what I usually always ask for: information and photos, or permission to use photographs of museum exhibits from his website. It’s just wonderful that the administration answered me, connected with the curator of this particular museum. Quite lengthy negotiations followed: what, why, where and in what form. It’s good that it’s in English. The result was an impressive stamp paper (this is the first time this happens to me!), In which I was given permission to use the museum’s photographs for an article on the Military Review. So everything that you, dear readers, will see here is used on a completely legal basis and without violating anyone’s copyright. It’s nice that in Italy, museum workers take such requests so seriously!

A real “antique” – a relief with gladiators-saggitarians from the era of Ancient Rome. Stefano Bardini Museum in Florence


So, today we will visit one of the very interesting, albeit minor, museums in Florence. Tourists, and our Russians are no exception, once in this city, first of all go to Santa Maria del Fiore, and then to the Uffiza gallery. For the same Stibbert Museum, few people already have enough strength. And the same can be said for the Bardini Museum. Meanwhile, it is worth visiting.

A plaque on the facade of the Bardini Museum, reminding that Pope Gregory X entered this building


It is located on Via de Renai on the corner of Piazza de Mozzi in the Oltrarno area and is one of the richest so-called “minor” museums in the city.
It is unusual already in that, like the Stibbert Museum, it is the “bequest” of the antiquary and the most influential collector of Italy Stefano Bardini (1836-1922) to the municipality of the city of Florence.

The Armory Hall is on the ground floor …


And it so happened that at the end of the 19th century, namely in 1880, he bought out the palazzo, where the church of San Gregorio della Pace used to be, built between 1273 and 1279 on land belonging to the Mozzi bankers, at the direction of Pope Gregory X to celebrate peace between Guelphs and Ghibellines, and turned it into a Neo-Renaissance palace. Moreover, his building accommodated not only a stunning art gallery, but also laboratories for the restoration of tapestries, which Bardini himself sold to collectors around the world. The museum contains magnificent examples of Italian furniture of the 15th-16th centuries, paintings by Donatello, Michelangelo, Pollaiolo, Tino da Camaino, fine carpets, old strings and keyboard musical instruments, and even … a small but very interesting armory.

In the premises of the museum. Staircase to the second floor

And along it are the knightly coats of arms of the famous Tuscan families …


In general, the palace turned out to be quite eclectic in all respects: stones of medieval and Renaissance buildings were used for its construction, carved capitals, marble fireplaces and stairs were arranged in it, as well as painted coffered ceilings, and there are simply a great many caissons in them.

Gallery with statues. Also the first floor. And the famous coffered ceilings …


However, the real estate complex in Bardini is not really limited to just one house. It also includes a park that stretches over four hectares on the slopes of the Belvedere hill (the famous “Bardini Garden”) and which has recently been restored and offers a magnificent view of the city. It also houses the Villa Bardini with a panoramic loggia. In a word, Bardini left a very good memory in Florence. Well, after his death in 1922, the museum was inherited by the city municipality, which is now its rightful owner. For a long time, namely from 1999 to 2009, this museum was closed for renovations, but today it is open to the public.

Terracotta “Madonna and children”


Now let’s gossip a little and first of all find out where he got the money for all the antiques he collected. And it so happened that, after completing his education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence in 1854, he began to receive large commissions as a restorer of works of art, and from 1870 he began to sell them himself. While working as a restorer, Bardini successfully removed some of Botticelli’s frescoes from Villa Lemmy, and received an order to remove frescoes commissioned by Jacob Salomon Bartholdi from Casa Bartholdi in Rome. Well, his restoration of St. Catherine of Alexandria by Simone Martini, now in the National Gallery of Canada and executed so masterfully that it is almost indistinguishable, in 1887 was called the most outstanding example of seamless restoration of its time.

Stone carving from the Middle Ages


So many famous works of Renaissance art bear the imprint of Bardini’s brush. At the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, there are about twenty works that have been placed in his hands for restoration. In particular, Benedetto da Maiano “Madonna and Child”, Bernardo Daddi and “Portrait of Youth” by Filippo Lippi. The Metropolitan Museum houses eight paintings that Bardini once owned, including the Veronese Boy with a Greyhound and The Coronation of the Virgin by Giovanni di Paolo from the collection of Robert Lehmann, as well as a Baroque portrait bust of Ferdinando de Medici. Bardini’s connections with Bernard Berenson led several of Bardini’s purchases to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston; among them are two Northern Italian stylobates supporting a column of lions and a pool purchased from Bardini in 1897. The badly damaged marble head of a curly-haired young man from the Borghese collection, used by Stanford White as a figure for the fountain in Payne Whitney’s house # 972 on Fifth Avenue in New York: in a word, he not only collected himself, but also enriched many famous museums with his restored works the world.

The famous blue background, Bardini blue, crucifix, carved wooden chests and painted ceiling caissons

Room with Renaissance furniture. On the wall of the next room is one of the famous carpets from the Bardini collection.


It should be noted that the collection of the museum, the collection of which consists of more than 3600 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, armor, musical instruments, ceramics, coins, medals and antique furniture, is very eclectic in nature. Since he bought a lot from the local ruined aristocrats, what floated into his hands, he bought. And he kept something he liked for himself, and carefully restored everything else (which increased the value of these artifacts dozens, if not hundreds of times!) And sold them to museums and collectors in Europe and America. Many famous Renaissance artworks bear the imprint of Bardini’s brush.

Well, we got to the armor. However, we have before us not only them, but also two stunning effigies – tombstones, both of which are very characteristic. The left shows us a typical Milanese armor with an enlarged left shoulder pad and a lance hook on the right; and the right one is clearly earlier than the right, a figured tarch shield and a dagger attached directly to the plate “skirt”


The National Gallery of Art in Washington has about twenty works that were given to him for restoration. In particular, it is Benedetto da Maiano’s painting “Madonna and Child”, altars and paintings by Bernardo Daddi and “Portrait of a Young Man” by Filippo Lippi. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York houses eight paintings that Bardini once owned, including Veronese’s Boy with a Greyhound and Giovanni di Paolo’s Coronation of the Virgin from the Robert Lehmann collection, as well as a Baroque portrait bust of Ferdinando de Medici. Several of Bardini’s purchases ended up in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston; among them are two Northern Italian stylobates supporting a column of lions and a pool purchased from Bardini in 1897.

Also effigy from the armory room, and very unusual in all respects …


He also had the badly damaged marble head of a curly-haired youth from the Borghese collection, used by the architect Stanford White as a figure for a fountain at 972 Whitney Payne’s house on Fifth Avenue in New York. In a word, he not only collected artifacts himself, but also enriched many famous museums around the world with his restored works.

And here is the armor on the previous photo in the niche on the left. These are armor of the 16th century with characteristic puffs for puffy trousers, decorated with engraving. Helmet – bourguignot without buff and visor.

The shoulder pads are decorated with an engraved image of an antique warrior


Some of the exhibits in this museum are simply unique. For example, there is a medieval wooden crucifix and a collection of wedding chests. And also antique carpets, including the 7.50-meter, which was used on the occasion of Hitler’s visit to Florence in 1938.

Something military, but what? Helmet … or the pommel of something …


After the death of Bardini, as is very often the case, the museum underwent significant rearrangements, which did not at all correspond to its original appearance. For example, the walls were repainted there. The magistrate did not like their color, and the old blue color was replaced by ocher. Therefore, when the restoration of the museum premises began, it was decided to restore its interiors exactly as they were during the life of Bardini himself. Interestingly, other collectors liked this color “Bardini blue” very much, on the contrary, and they copied it in their homes, which later also became museums, such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston or the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris. During the restoration, this color was restored from the old plaster on the walls preserved under new layers of paint, as well as thanks to a letter from Isabella Stewart Gardner, in which Bardini revealed the secret of his color.

Powder flask made of horn. The decline of tournament fashion, and the proliferation of firearms, in turn gave rise to a fashion for hunting. And the appropriate hunting weapon. Arquebus began to be richly decorated with bone, on the plates of which images of hunting scenes were engraved or burned. In a pair, they were accompanied by powder flasks and natrusk, which were often made from a deer horn, including a bifurcated one, in order to emphasize the “naturalness” of the product and show one’s own skill in its manufacture.


Interestingly, in 1918, shortly before his death, Bardini organized a sale in New York of some of his sculptures and furniture that ended up in American museums in this way: the Metropolitan in New York and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. However, what remained in his house in Florence was so great that in 1923 a museum named after him was opened in Florence. And, of course, the beautiful “Bardini gardens” remain his legacy.

The national weapon of the Italians of the Renaissance was the cinquedea dagger – “five fingers” (five dales), which were often carried in a scabbard behind their backs.

These are the swords with a wavy blade of the 16th century. also present in the collection of the museum

Carved fireplace, shields and the first examples of Italian cannons. For a book on the history of artillery, their photographs in large format would be of considerable cognitive value …


PS The author and the site administration would like to sincerely thank Dr. Antonella Nezi and the curator of the museum, Gennaro De Luca, for the information and photos used in this article.

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