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 The Stibbert Museum 


Address: Via Stibbert, 26
The Stibbert Museum is very important in understanding the taste and mentality of that curious period the second half of the nineteenth century. Frederick Stibbert collected a wide variety of objects in his Villa at Montughi and came from the refined world of writers and men of letters, English art amateurs and others who entered the life of Florence, bringing with them such a diversity of interest. One of the villa's main features is the use of fantastic wall coverings in leather, with floral decoration possibly from Spain or Germany: these were bought by Stibbert during his many travels. When the original villa became too small for the collections, various additions were made by good artists such as the architects Giuseppe Poggi and Gaetano Fortini or the sculptor Passaglia. The beautiful park surrounding the villa was rendered one of Florence's loveliest and was opened to the public along with the collection in 1884.
 
In 1906 the collection passed to the city. It has sixty rooms containing objects of every description and source. Thus we find next to a fine Dutch seventeenth century piece, an Italian sixteenth century chests and a baroque console with some beautiful eighteenth century Lombard chest. Among the most precious objects of the collection are several fifteenth century chests, two attributed to Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439-1502): there are also Neo-classical pieces, notably the remarkable table in bronze and malachite made for Jerome Bonaparte.
 
Paintings too are found in the rooms stuffed with sumptuous objects, and, unusually for Florence, the collector's taste inclined away from primitives to Dutch paintings and still-life. The museum also has unexpected collections such as its brass and silver basins, used daily by Stibbert and picturesquely displayed without regard for period or source. Stibbert was also interested in textiles and costume, and collected clothes of both sexes, above all eighteenth century and those decorated with lace.
 
The main reputation of the museum is of course connected with its arms collections. Their number, variety and rarity is strilking and they represent every type from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. European arms dominate, notably of Italian fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but also included are oriental. Persian, Indian, Indonesian and Islamic examples. Not only do these show great technical skill, but are also rich in magic and religious significance. In an oriental room which shows the effect of the East on the Europe of the last century, is a cavalcade of horses and riders fully equipped in a way fully redolent of Stibbert's exotic tastes.
 
All interests are satisfied in this museum, whose exhibits range from snuff-boxes to "posate", all acquired during journeys in Europe and the East, at sales, from private collections and the homes of ancient families; the one unifyng factor is the skill with which they were selected.


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