The Stibbert Museum, an extraordinary collection of weapons and armor in Florence
The Stibbert Museum in Florence is the result of the passion for collecting of the man from which it takes its name: Frederick Stibbert. Housed inside Villa Stibbert, the museum is located on the colle Montughi, one of the hills that surround the historic center of Florence.
This has always been one of my favorite museums because its incredible collection of weapons and armor has always fascinated me since I was little. In my opinion it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Florence, especially if you are with children.
The story of Frederick Stibbert and the birth of the museum
The history of the museum is closely linked to that of its creator Frederick Stibbert. Son of an English colonel and a Tuscan woman, Stibbert transformed Villa Montughi, once belonging to the Davanzati family, into a sumptuous family villa before turning it into a museum.
Born in Florence in 1838, Frederick Stibbert studied in Cambridge but never forgot his hometown and always remained linked to Italy and to the family home. He was a skilled businessman and managed to enrich himself with fortunate financial activities related above all to the railway business in England. If England was his world from a working point of view, Florence was his real home and the center of his passions, starting with collecting to which he dedicated a large part of his life and his resources.
Thanks to his success, Stibbert was able to increase the family wealth considerably, thus being able to travel far and wide. In each of his travels he bought new pieces for his collection which over time grew a lot thanks to a network of informants who constantly updated him on the antiques market.
On his death, Stibbert left the villa, the park and all his collection to the city of Florence with the request to make his house a museum open to the public. Thus it was that in 1908, the Opera Museo Stibbert Foundation was established with the aim of respecting the last wishes of Frederick Stibbert and creating a house museum, similar to others that can be visited in Florence such as the Palazzo Davanzati, the Bardini Museum and the Museo Horne.
Guide to visiting the museum
Stibbert was a refined collector but more generally a great lover of art and a man of culture. When he renovated his villa, he hired the architect Giuseppe Poggi and some of the most important Florentine artists of the nineteenth century such as the painters Gaetano Bianchi and Annibale Gatti, who took care of the frescoes, and the sculptor Augusto Passaglia. The result was a remarkable example of the imaginative and eclectic nineteenth-century style in which different styles are mixed. Visiting the museum, you pass from neo-Gothic rooms to neo-Renaissance rooms and so on without ever finding one room like the other.
The collection, also the result of subsequent donations and acquisitions, has over 50,000 objects with a core of weapons and armor as well as numerous art objects, porcelain, furnishings and much more.
Armours of the Stibbert Museum
The most consistent and important section of the museum is certainly that of the armory. Displayed in different environments, this extraordinary collection has over 16,000 pieces including weapons, armor, helmets and so on. The oldest pieces date back to the sixteenth century while the more recent ones are from the late nineteenth century. Much of the collection comes from Europe, in particular from Italy, Germany and France, but there are also numerous pieces from the Middle East and Japan.
The heart of the armor collection is found in the fantastic “Sala della Cavalcata” (Cavalcade Room) where you can admire an evocative procession of Italian and German knights with their sparkling armor.
A room decorated with Moorish incrustations, which looks like something out of “One Thousand and One Nights“, houses the Islamic armory with the Ottoman Turkish knights dating back to the sixteenth century. Part of this collection, in particular the Indian pieces, was probably purchased by Frederick’s grandfather who during the second half of the eighteenth century held the position of commander of the forces of the India Company and Governor of Bengal.
Porcelains, costumes, furnishings and works of art
Stibbert’s collection does not end with armor but continues with an important collection of porcelain, costumes, furnishings and works of art of various kinds. Among the most important pieces stand out some paintings including a Madonna by Sandro Botticelli, two saints from the Polyptych of the Camerino Cathedral made by Carlo Crivelli and other works by Domenico Beccafumi, Neri di Bicci, Pietro Lorenzetti, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Alessandro Allori.
Another good reason to visit the Stibbert Museum are its samurai. The museum boasts the largest collection in the world (outside of Japan) of Japanese samurai armor and weapons. The Japanese armory has a total of 95 complete armours, 200 helmets and 285 long and short swords (katanas and wakizashi), as well as many other accessories including tsuba (saber guards) which are present in large numbers.
Park and garden of Villa Stibbert
When he renovated the villa, Stibbert also had the park redesigned which, based on a project by Poggi, was transformed according to the canons of the English garden. The result is a romantic park with temples, caves and water features. According to the nineteenth-century fashion, here we find elements of various inspiration such as the Hellenistic Temple with its dome covered with majolica tiles, the Egyptian Temple, which fits into the furrow of the mania for Egypt of those years, and the Limonaia which it is in neoclassical style.
Events and weddings at the Stibbert
The Limonaia of Palazzo Stibbert has been renovated and set up to host various kinds of events, public and private, and in particular parties and gala dinners. The Salone delle Feste is instead the ideal venue to celebrate a wedding, especially if combined with the garden of the villa.
The Stibbert Museum is located in Via Federigo Stibbert, 26 in Florence.
The museum is open every day with the exception of Thursdays at the following times:
Monday – Wednesday: 10 am – 2 pm
Friday – Sunday: 10 am – 6 pm
The museum is closed on these days: January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, August 15th and December 25th.
The visit to the museum always takes place through a guided tour with a museum escort. Tours depart every 30 minutes.
The price of the full ticket is 8 euros, 6 euros the reduced price for children up to 12 years and 2 euros for schools and the handicapped.
For more information on the Stibbert Museum and to book a visit, I recommend you visit the official website.