the museum of the opera del duomo, florence

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  The Museum of the Opera del Duomo  

Address: Piazza Duomo, 9

Michelangelo: The Deposition (or Florentine Pietà) - Museum of the Opera del Duomo, Florence The Museum of the Opera del Duomo originates in the quarters which originally formed the headquarters of the Magistrature of the same name, founded at the end of the thirteenth century to supervise the undertaking of the new church of Santa Maria del Fiore. There, in a palace to the rear of the present site of the Museum, were created the sculptures designed to be placed on the exteriors of the Duomo and in particular the facade. These works show the effect of the many conflicting projects for the appearance of the Duomo, resulting in removals and changes of plan and concluding in the completion of the facade in the last century.

The present museum was founded in 1891, and since then has continued to receive the works of art removed for conservation reasons from the exterior of the Duomo and the Baptistery. The collection is thus the best guide to the various changes in Florentine official sculpture over the centuries. An outline emerges as follows, from the need felt at the end of the thirteenth century to replace the old Santa Reparata with a large new cathedral. This new Duomo was to demonstrate the moral and civic strength of the city, and so the most prominent architect of the period Arnolfo di Cambio was selected. Significantly, he also worked as a sculptor, and many of the pieces in the Museum were made by him for the facade which was unfinished at his death in 1302.

The Duomo facade remained only partially complete until 1587, when the Grand Duke had it dismantled on the advice of the architect Bernardo Buontalenti as part of an urban plan to refurbish Florence, with the idea of substituting a modern one. As it turned out, it was only completed in 1871 by de Fabris despite many plans and competitions among famous architects in diverse periods. Its appearance is far from Arnolfo's original design, and as it was impossible to gather all the original sculptures on the facade, these are preserved in the Museum.

Luca della Robbia: Cantoria Panel - Museum of the Opera del Duomo, Florence Apart from this basic group of Arnolfo works, the Museum also houses fourteenth century sculptures from the Campanile by Andrea Pisano (c. 1290-c. 1349) and pupils, together with those from the Porta della Mandorla on the right side of the Duomo. Like the sculptures of Nanni di Banco (1380/90-1421) and Donatello (1386-1466) made for the Campanile and the Duomo, the two large "cantorie" or singing galleries by Luca della Robbia (c. 1400-1482) and Donatello represent a particularly important moment in Florentine Renaissance sculpture designed for an architectural setting; they come from inside the cathedral.

Also here are found other sculptures of the sixteenth century showing the continued interest in completing the cathedral through the centuries. A recent addition is a room containing tools and working materials recovered during restoration of the cathedral and the cupola which evoke the work of the masters of Brunelleschi's period.

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