Davanzati Museum

FLORENCE

A rare and magnificent example of a 14th-century residence in Florence, Palazzo Davanzati represents the transitional period between the medieval tower house and the Renaissance palace. The palace was built around the mid-14th century by the powerful Davizzi family of merchants and bankers, in Via Porta Rossa where resided such wealthy Florentine families as the Bartolinis, the Foresis, the Monaldis, and the Davanzatis themselves, who would later become the palace’s owners.

In 1516, the Bartolini family bought the palace and had it modernized. In 1578, Bernardo di Anton Francesco Davanzati bought the palace. The new owners lived there for about two centuries and had a 16th-century coat-of-arms with the family’s armorial bearings placed on the palace’s imposing façade. Since that time, it has always been known as Palazzo Davanzati.

The building’s strong vertical thrust indicates that it incorporated at least two tower-houses as well as other of the Davizzi family’s properties. Consisting of three floors surmounted by a covered roof-terrace, the important façade has a rusticated ground floor with three large segmental-arch openings, at one time without doors, which opened directly on to the street.

The transformation of the noble palace into a museum is owed to a hunch by the artist and collector Elia Volpi who bought it in 1904 and devoted himself to its careful restoration and furnishing. The rich collection of furniture, everyday objects, and furnishings of many kinds belonging to the Florentine interior decoration tradition was the basis for its first opening as the Museum of the ancient Florentine house.

The collection had its ups and downs and economic difficulties forced Volpi to sell it. Choosing New York for the first auction he contributed greatly to the spreading overseas of the taste for the Florentine style.

After a careful and long restoration and structural adaptation, the Palazzo Davanzati Museum is today one of the most striking and interesting places of the town’s museum heritage. Faithful to Elia Volpi’s ideas, the museum not only houses a valuable and comprehensive collection of objects, but it also bears true and interesting witness to the Renaissance Florence life style. Located on the third floor, the kitchen is not to be missed, showing us women’s domestic tasks within the family.

Short Bibliography

Museo di Palazzo Davanzati. Guida alla visita del Museo. A cura di Rosanna Caterina Proto Pisani e Maria Grazia Vaccari. Firenze, Polistampa 2011

La “Coperta” Guicciardini. Il restauro delle imprese di Tristano, catalogo della mostra a cura di R. Caterina Proto Pisani, M. Ciatti, S. Conti, M.G. Vaccari, Palazzo Davanzati, Firenze 2010.

Federigo e la bottega degli Angeli. Palazzo Davanzati tra realtà e sogno, a cura di R. Proto Pisani e F. Baldry, Palazzo Davanzati, Firenze 2009.

R. Ferrazza, Palazzo Davanzati e le collezioni di Elia Volpi, Firenze 1993.

Eleganza e civetterie: merletti e ricami a Palazzo Davanzati, catalogo della mostra, a cura di M. Carmignani, Palazzo Davanzati, Firenze 1987

Imparaticci = samplers: Esercizi di ricamo delle bambine europee ed americane dal Seicento all’Ottocento, catalogo della mostra a cura di M. Carmignani, , Palazzo Davanzati, Firenze 1986.

A. Schiaparelli, La casa fiorentina e i suoi arredi nei secoli XIV e XV, a cura di M. Sframeli e L. Pagnotta, Firenze 1983 (riedizione dell’edizione originale del 1908).

L. Berti, Il Museo di Palazzo Davanzati, Firenze 1971

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Madonna and Child

Date: 13th century
Technique and Materials: detached fresco
Size: cm 160×105
Artist: Umbrian painter

The iconography of the nursing Madonna (Galaktotrophousa) is also derived from the Byzantine tradition, translated here into less rigid forms, accentuating the Virgin’s tender attitude towards her son. Of interest is the solution for the drape of fabric, with its small geometric patterns of horizontal stripes, which replaces the back of the throne.

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Madonna and Child between Saint Joseph and Saint Jerome

DateDate: last quarter of the 15th century
Technique and Materials: panel
Size: cm 135 (diameter)
Artist: Tuscan painter

This tondo depicts the Virgin, with a thoughtful expression, wearing a refined pearl pin in her head-dress. The forefinger of her left hand points to the cartouche held by the Child, who is sitting on a cushion with tassels. The saints are identified on the basis of their attributes: the cardinal’s hat for Saint Jerome and the staff for Saint Joseph. The painting has stylistic features that are reminiscent of such illustrious Renaissance masters, as Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, and Ghirlandaio, and reveal the hand of a minor 15th-century Florentine artist who drew on renowned examples, eclectically mixing the various components. The charm of this work is enhanced by its beautiful coeval frame, carved and decorated with a festoon motif in the Della Robbia manner and ascribable to 15th-century Florentine production, which can boast other similar examples found on famous paintings (Signorelli, Berruguete) in Florentine museums.

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Great Hall

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Madonna (or Saint Anne?) Holding a Book

Date: mid-15th century
Technique and Materials: painted terracotta
Size: cm 82 ×63 × 38
Artist: Ferrarese sculptor

From the Church of San Giovanni Battista in Ferrara, this sculpture depicts a female figure, defaced at knee level, who is holding a half-closed book in her right hand. Various iconographic interpretations have been put forward: ranging from a Madonna Holding a Book and an Our Lady of the Annunciation, to its recent identification – based on documents of the conservatory where it was located – with Saint Anne teaching the Virgin to read.

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Bust of a boy

Date: 1460 – 1465
Technique and Materials: marble
Size: cm 42 (height)
Artist: Antonio Rossellino

This work is reminiscent of the delicate heads of young boys by Desiderio da Settignano. It has been ascribed to Antonio Rossellino and dated to the 1460’s. This attribution results from the reference in the style and form to the right-hand putto holding a drape on the right of the cardinal of Portugal’s tomb in the Church of San Miniato a Monte. It is a complex work carried out by Antonio Rossellino together with his brother Bernardo and some disciples, with the participation of Luca della Robbia and the painters Piero del Pollaiolo and Alesso Baldovinetti, from 1461 to 1466. This is a beautiful example of the refined private portraiture widespread in Florence in the second half of the 15th century as well as valuable testimony to humanistic attitudes. The bust has also been interpreted in a religious key as depicting the Infant Jesus or the Infant Saint John, because of the attire, but also owing to the incompletely worked hair on the top of the head and the presence of a small hole on the nape that may suggest the previous presence of a halo.

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Madonna and Child

Date: 1402 – 1405
Technique and Materials: terracotta
Size: cm 70 (height)
Artist: the Master of di San Pietro d’Orsanmichele (Filippo Brunelleschi?)

This terracotta work represents a half-length Madonna and Child, an extremely widespread typology traditionally assigned to Lorenzo Ghiberti, of which there are many examples. Recently critics have related this work to Filippo Brunelleschi. a comparison has been suggested with those works (the full-length Madonna and Child in the Church of San Martino a Pontorme, Empoli, and the Saint Peter of the Butchers’ Guild of Orsanmichele in Florence) believed to have been created by the young Brunelleschi, who started his revolution in the field of the arts right by reviving terracotta moulding, an ancient technique that had fallen into disuse in the Middle Ages. With its still Gothic character, the Madonna and Child at Palazzo Davanzati might be among the oldest terracotta sculptures to have been carried out in Florence in the modern age. It was made using a mould from a prototype that critics have recently identified with the Madonna and Child of the Fiesole Seminary, which still retains its original colours.

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The façade of Palazzo Davanzati

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The courtyard of Palazzo Davanzati

Address

Palazzo Davanzati Museum
Via di Porta Rossa 13
Florence
Phone: 055 2388610
Website | E-mail

Tickets

Full ticket: € 2.00
Reduced ticket: € 1.00

Opening hours

From Monday to Sunday 8.15 a.m. – 1.50 p.m.

The museum is closed the second and fourth Sundays of each month and the first, third, fifth Monday of each month as well as on New Year’s Day, 1 May, and Christmas Day

Further information

One can visit the Loggia on the ground floor and the first floor (Great Hall, the Parrot Room, the Studiolo, the Peacock Room, and the two rooms with laces and embroideries).

Access to the second floor (Great Hall, Chamber of the Chatelaine of Vergy, Studiolo, Dining-room) and to the third floor (Kitchen and Bedroom of the Impannate) is organized in groups, with an accompanied visit, upon request and by appointment at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and12 p.m. on the days when the museum is open.

TO BOOK THE VISIT
Museum secretarial office, Tel.: 055 2388610,
email: museo.davanzati@polomuseale.firenze.it
(the telephone request must be confirmed by e- mail)