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 Museum of Palazzo Davanzati 


Address: Via Porta Rossa, 13
The Davanzati Palace, built by the Davizzi around the mid-fourteenth century, passed to the Davanzati at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and remained in their hands until 1838 when it was divided up into flats and suffered severe damage. Early in this century it was bought and restored first by the antique dealer Elia Volpi and then by Leopold Bengujat who tried to restore something of its original flavour with theatrical gusto. The most important feature of the building is its architecture, a unique example of a domestic building of the fourteenth century which reveals the transition from the medieval tower house to the Renaissance palace. Its facade consists of three arches, originally open for use as a shop, and a sixteenth century open loggia in place of the usual medieval machicolations at the top of the building. The interior is on three similarly planned floors, with an enormous saloon for receptions, dining rooms, nuptial chambers and "agiamenti" or lavatories, a rarity in elegant houses of the period. The interiors all have terracotta floors and wooden ceilings, some of them painted and original, while the walls are either frescoed in typical fourteenth century domestic fashion or fitted with hooks to hang cloth or animal skins.
 
The recent restoration of the museum takes account of the house's excellent preservation and emphasizes its domestic nature in an attempt to reconstruct the appearance of a Florentine house of the past with furniture and household utensils from the fourteenth to nineteenth centuries. The bedrooms for example have their chests full of linen and in the reception saloon a rare cabinet painted by a Sienese artist of the sixteenth century. Inside the cupboards of the dining rooms are Cataggiolo plates and a fine collection of old ceramics and eighteenth century hand warmers.
 
Much space is devoted to household activities, notably those of the women. In the kitchen for example are displayed not only the utensils in daily use but also working instruments like the loom, warping machine, and the spinning wheel, all of which reveal aspects of life in the house. Also with this end in view a section devoted to lacework has recently been added.
 
Apart from sheltering beautiful furnishings of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, certain rooms of the museum such as the old cellars have been set aside for the display of archaeological remains of all kinds such as the 1966 exhibition of flood-damaged objects or recently, the exhibition of Cafaggiolo ceramics brought to light by excavation all of which make the museum a centre of lively cultural activity.


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