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The Bargello Museum and Donatello's David

A museum not yet famous enough, but a must visit!

The Bargello National Museum is one of the most important Italian museums and houses masterpieces by Michelangelo, Ghiberti, Cellini, Giambologna, Ammannati.

The Palazzo del Bargello, called del Popolo, is one of the most significant medieval buildings in Florence, located in Via del Proconsolo, a few steps from Piazza della Signoria. The construction of the palace dates back to the mid-1200s with the aim of creating the new seat of the captain of the people, a figure destined to organize the government of the city of Florence, in the common spare time.


When the Medici family came to power in Florence, the Palazzo del Bargello was first used as the seat of the Council of Justice and Judges of Wheel . From 1574 under the power of Duke Cosimo I de 'Medici it was used as a prison and also provided for death sentences.

In the three centuries when the palace was used as a prison, the arches of the loggia were walled up in the courtyard, the more spacious rooms were divided with partitions to obtain a greater number of cells and the decorations and paintings were covered.

Around 1859 the prison was moved to the Murate and the restoration work on the building began. The task was entrusted to Francesco Mazzei, who tried to restore its ancient appearance by recovering and redoing the architectural aspects of the structure from scratch.

In 1865 the National Museum of the Bargello was inaugurated: on the ground floor the rooms dedicated to weapons were set up with objects from the Medici armory and some rooms dedicated to fifteenth and sixteenth century sculpture.

On the first floor the sculptures from the Salone del Cinquecento of Palazzo Vecchio were inserted.

Subsequently, the collections of applied arts arrived from the Uffizi Gallery: waxes, ambers, bronzes and much more and later a large part will be transferred to the Museo degli Argenti.

During the violent flood of 1966, the Bargello building suffered serious damage with the consequent displacement of some works and modernizations in the structure.

In 2006, during the normal opening hours, three ancient jewels belonging to the Islamic section of the Museum were stolen.


One of the most important rooms of the Bargello museum is the one dedicated to Michelangelo Buonarroti. The room was initially used as a collection of weapons belonging to the Medici family, but after the flood it was again whitewashed and Luciano Berti decided to dedicate it to sixteenth-century sculpture, with works from the Uffizi Gallery. Even today, the wall has only one fresco by Giotto depicting the Madonna with the child.

This room hosts the works of Michelangelo's early age, there is Bacchus and his first all-round work performed at the age of 22 with a profane subject, very rare, as the artist will be overwhelmed by a profound religiosity. Always here, there are  3 other Michelangelo's artworks: the Tondo Pitti, the Brutus and the David-Apollo.

Another room of significant importance is the one dedicated to Donatello. This room was restored between 1857 and 1865, decorated with fake frescoes and set up on the occasion of the fifth centenary of Donatello's birth with his sculptures arranged according to a correct symmetry.

Among the masterpieces exhibited here, we find the San Giorgio, coming from Orsanmichele, the Marzocco (lion in pietra serena that rests its paw on the symbol of Florence). But what most attracts the viewer's attention is the famous David.

DAVID DI DONATELLO at the Bargello Museum

The David, or Mercury, is a bronze sculpture created by Donatello in 1440. From the time of Ancient Rome it is the first full relief of a nude. It was probably built for the courtyard of the Medici residence, dating back to the 1940s, a period in which the sculptor worked for the family.

Around the end of the fifteenth century, on the occasion of the second expulsion of the Medici, the statue was moved to Palazzo Vecchio as a symbol of republican freedom.

Later, around 1555, it was placed in an external niche of the Palazzo, then in the second courtyard and finally in the room dedicated to the wardrobe.

It was initially placed in the room dedicated to modern sculptures at the Uffizi Gallery and later moved to the Bargello Museum where it is still present today.

The statue shows biblical attributes, such as the head of Goliath at the foot of David, the triumph of reason over brute force and irrationality. There are elements that can be traced back to the God Mercury such as winged shoes.

The man is depicted standing, with a hat decorated with a laurel wreath. His hair is loose and long, his face is turned down with an absorbed gaze. His body is totally naked except for the winged shoes which cover him up to the knee. He rests loosely on his right leg, while his left rests on the head of his defeated enemy.

The body represented is that of a young man with a proud and casual posture. In his right hand he holds the sword facing down, while his left hand is resting behind his side and hides the stone with which he hit the enemy.

Donatello gives a very refined interpretation to the human figure. David's body is represented in all perfection and his power is given by the inclination of the head, the slightly raised foot and the position of the sword.

His gaze is not only thoughtful: looking at him carefully conveys a feeling of superiority and malice typical of adolescents, and the awareness of the great feat that he has just accomplished.

Rotating around the sculpture, new details are always discovered that make the image harmonious. Donatello is also able to give great importance to Goliath, we note the strong attention to detail given by the beard and the decoration of the helmet.

To visit the Bargello National Museum in Florence it is advisable to book the entrance and if desired it is also possible to organize a tour with a private guide to discover the wonders of this Florentine museum.


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The Uffizi Gallery houses the largest collection of paintings from Romanesque period to the 18th century. Nowadays the Uffizi still accommodates famous masterpieces exhibited in chronological order