the casa buonarroti in florence, italy

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  The Casa Buonarroti  

Address: Via Ghibellina, 70

Bought by Michelangelo in 1508, this house in via Ghibellina was subsequently transformed, enlarged and inhabited by the artist's descendents until the late nineteenth century. The best-known of these was the artist's nephew, Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger who transformed the house into a museum to his uncle. In 1609 he bought the adjoining houses and in 1612 began the work necessary to transform it into a splendid palace, employing some of the best known painters of the time.

In the four large rooms of the first floor Buonarroti planned a decorative ensemble during the first decades of the seventeenth century; Buonarroti, a cultured man of letters, planned the programme, to be executed by artists such as Bilivert, Jacopo da Empoli, Matteo Rosselli, Passignano, Artemisia Gentileschi and Giovanni da San Giovanni. The paintings illustrate Michelangelo's life from his birth to his funeral in San Lorenzo, and include his encounters with the Popes, his plans and allegories of his virtues.

In the museum, apart from some antiques from the original collection are some early works by the master. These form the main attraction of the collection, which was opened to the public in the mid-nineteenth century by Cosimo Buonarroti and recently reorganized by its director Charles de Tolnay, one of the foremost Michelangelo scholars. On show are the famous Madonna of the Stairs, Michelangelo's earliest work, executed at fifteen while he was studying under the protection of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the slightly later Battle of the Centaurs with its many reminiscenses of antique sculpture and contemporary Tuscan work (1490-1492).

Apart from these undisputed masterpieces there are several models for sculpture attributed to Michelangelo (Hercules and Cacus, torsoes of River Gods and so on) and the wooden model for the facade of San Lorenzo made in 1517. Some of the master's drawings are also found here, including a study for the Battle of Cascina, studies of heads, a Madonna and Child and the plan of S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini in Rome.

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