On first approach, Casa Buonarroti, the home and museum dedicated to one of the most celebrated artists in history, is about as unimposing as the palaces and homes of the great of Florence come. Most tourists are perhaps misled by the name, unsure of the significance of the Buonarroti family, who only produced the mastermind behind the statue of David and the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel, to name only two of Michelangelo's masterpieces. Purchased by Michelangelo's grand-nephew and heir, Leonardo Buonarroti, upon Michelangelo's request, the home passed through the family line until the last Buonarroti passed in the latter half of the 19th century. Inside the humble doors, you will find a small collection of the artist's own work alongside paintings, antique artifacts from Roman and Etruscan times, and sculptures and models collected by the family or donated over the past four centuries. The museum can boast the largest collection of sketches by Michelangelo's own hand, a large majority of which the artist himself burned for fear of being found less than perfect, Unfortunately, for preservation purposes, the museum only exhibits a few at a time. Despite a lack of originals by the museum's namesake, the house holds two of Michelangelo's early carvings, done while still an adolescent in Florence. The Madonna of the Steps and the Battle of the Centaurs date from 1490 and 1492, respectively, and reveal his early fascination with the human body and his attention to detail and emotion. Also by his own hand are a large wooden model of a projected facade for San Lorenzo Church as well as a preparatory model of a river god, dating to the 1520s. Almost every room within the house museum reveals a dedication to the esteemed artist, from the room containing various copies of his portrait, to that depicting scenes throughout Michelangelo's life.
Though a somewhat limited collection for a comparatively steep price (6.50 euros, 4.50 reduced), Casa Buonarroti also currently offers a special exhibit highlighting Pietro da Cortona and baroque art, a period of Florentine art which followed the Renaissance of Michelangelo's time. Though he spent much time in Rome, Pietro Berrettini da Cortona passed an extended period in Florence, from 1637 - 1647, while working on frescoes in the Palazzo Pitti. The exhibit includes his works from this ten year period, as well as other examples of baroque paintings and sculpture, highlighting the change in style that swept from Rome through Florence to the rest of Europe in the 17th century. With paintings, sketches and three-dimensional works on loan from museums across the continent, the exhibit is characterized by a softer style, though still encompassing the brilliant colors characteristic of Renaissance art. His La Vergine col Bambino e Santa Maria is one of many religious depictions by the artist, alongside portraits and sketches.
For anyone but fanatical Michelangelo fans, time may be better spent elsewhere in Florence, but the package as a whole perhaps merits a visit if you have time to spare in Florence.
Written by Jessica Card
Art History Intern at The Florence Newspaper