Palazzo Davanzati in Florence

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The interesting museum of Palazzo Davanzati in Florence

Overlooking the Piazza Davanzati in Florence, Palazzo Davanzati is an excellent example of a fourteenth-century Florentine residence. In fact, few ancient residential buildings have been restored with the care of Palazzo Davanzati. Visiting the palace you will find a perfect replica of a fourteenth-century Florentine private home. This is a very interesting and particular museum so I can only recommend you to visit it.

History of the building

Built by the Davizzi family in the mid-fourteenth century, it belonged to the Davanzati family from 1578 to 1838, the year of the suicide of the last heir, Carlo. At the beginning of the twentieth century the building became the seat of the literary magazine Il Leonardo and in 1904 it was bought by the antiquarian Elia Volpi. It was he who restored it and furnished it in the fourteenth-century style, giving life to the Museo della Casa Fiorentina Antica (Museum of the Ancient Florentine House) which opened in 1910. During this period the building acquired considerable international fame: many wealthy travelers and collectors from all over the world visited it in search of inspiration for furnish their homes. Subsequently, in 1916, Volpi decided to sell all the furniture in the building at an auction in New York. This event helped to spread the neo-Renaissance taste in the United States.

Passed by other hands during the first half of the 20th century, the building was finally purchased by the Italian State with the aim of opening a new Museum of the Ancient Florentine House. With the creation of the new museum, Palazzo Davanzati was enriched with furnishings, now for domestic use and works of art from Florentine galleries, the Bargello Museum and private donations.

Palazzo Davanzati in Florence
Palazzo Davanzati (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)

Exterior of the palace

The very particular sandstone facade was considered inelegant because it was too narrow and high. It is characterized on the ground floor by an ashlar facing and three arcades, while the three upper floors have five large windows with lowered arches. On the top floor we find a beautiful loggia. Among the decorative elements, the shield with the Davanzati coat of arms stands out in the very center.

Palazzo Davanzati Museum

The real show, however, is inside: in fact, here you can admire the comforts and luxuries, but also the small moments of everyday life, which characterized the existence of a wealthy Florentine family, complete with kitchens, lounges, bedrooms and studios, richly frescoed and decorated as evidence of their influence and power.

The visit to the museum of the ancient Florentine house of Palazzo Davanzati

The visit begins with a large atrium covered by cross vaults that opens towards the courtyard, from which you have an extremely interesting view of the stairs, the galleries, the balconies of the tall building. Here, with the exception of the short sample of pieces housed in the atrium, the real museum itinerary begins: you can admire an ancient Lombard chest from the seventeenth century and a contemporary chest, as well as what remains of the late Gothic decorations on the walls.

First floor

A stone staircase leads us up to the first floor where we find the Great Hall, the Sale dei merletti e dei ricami, the Sala dei Pappagalli, the Studiolo and the Sala dei Pavoni.

In the great hall on the first floor, the glance is entrusted to the two large tapestries and the back with grotesques, as well as three busts of Roman emperors made in glazed terracotta by Benedetto Buglioni. Here there are numerous works of art and furnishings such as the Madonna del libro (Ferrara school), the Madonna della Misericordia attributed to Marco della Robbia, the Bust of a child attributed to Antonio Rossellino, a Madonna and Child, which is probably the work of a young man Brunelleschi, an inlaid cabinet of the fifteenth-century Florentine school, a stucco bas-relief, a Bolognese “armarium” and above all a “delivery table” painted with a representation of the game of the owl by the master of the famous Cassone Adimari.

The most well-known area of ​​Palazzo Davanzati, however, is the Sala dei Pappagalli, originally probably a dining room and a true jewel of the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance; its frescoes are very rich, imitating tapestries and draperies with an ornamental parrot motif.

In these rooms you can admire the first collections of furnishings and objects of common use of which the Museum of the Ancient Florentine House is rich: in a room adjacent to the first hall (Sala dei merletti e dei ricami) you can find interesting collections of embroidery, needle and spindle laces, as well as the “imparaticci” which were used to learn the technique of embroidery.

In the Sala dei Pappagalli, on the other hand, inside the cupboards and display cabinets, there are precious Umbrian, Tuscan and Lazio ceramics from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

In the Studiolo there are some pictorial works starting from the Triumviri who interrogate the oracle and the Story of Susanna by Scheggia. In the center of the room we find a Florentine coin cabinet from the 16th century and a bronze statue of the Medici Venus attributed to Massimiliano Soldani Benzi.

The first floor ends with a visit to the Sala dei Pavoni, which also takes its name from the motif of the frescoes on the walls; noteworthy are the Genoese bed, the Lombard cradle, the Tuscan prie-dieu and the triptych by Neri di Bicci.

Second floor

On the second floor there is still a bedroom, recently restored and frescoed with medieval love stories; it is almost a study on the mural painting techniques of the time, made with egg tempera and colored pigments and on a single well-smoothed plaster in a single setting, without several days of work as was usual.

The hall on the second floor houses a remarkable collection of works of art which also includes four extraordinary Flemish tapestries with the Stories of David and Bathsheba (15th century), three decorated ceramic plates from Urbino and various other works of art.

The dining room stands out for its collection of salt cellars and that of majolica plates from Castelli, Orvieto and Viterbo.

In the second study there are to see the four painted panels with the Triumphs of Petrarch, the tabernacle with Santo Stefano by Spinello Aretino and the Initiation of Icaro which is perhaps an early work by Andrea del Sarto.

Third floor

The third and last floor once housed the kitchen (strategic position to avoid the spread of fumes and vapors and to limit damage in case of fire) and the so-called Camera delle Impannate, with the walls painted with a motif of verzieri with vases.

Opening hours and tickets for the Davanzati Museum in Florence

At the time of writing this guide, the museum is closed for refurbishment so there are no timetables and tickets to communicate. To stay updated on the upcoming reopening of the Davanzati Museum and on all other information, I refer you to the official website of the museum.

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