Museo Archeologico Overview
The Archaeological Museum is housed in the emblematic Palazzo della Crocetta , in Via della Colonna, 38, nearby Piazza della Santissima Annunziata.
The so-called Palazzo della Crocetta, with the peculiar outward appearance of a Christian cross, was projected and built among 1619 and 1620, intended to the Grand Duchess Maria Maddalena d’Austria, who got married to the Prince Cosimo de Medici in 1608, by the eminent architect Giulio Parigi (1571-1635) who had been an advanced pupil of the still more celebrated Bernardo Buontalenti.
The palace was bond by a top corridor to the Church della Santissima Annunziata, as well as joined to the bordering monastery by two underground passages.
The Medici family commissioned too the construction of a chapel within the magnificent garden of the Palazzo della Crocetta close to the Oratory della Compagnia di San Jacopo del Nicchio, a Florentine confraternity, founded in the middle ages, which was already at that time particularly cultured and creative. It was devoted, furthermore the appropriate religious activities, to the development of the arts and, above all, to instruct composition of sacred music, arranging as well the respective concerts.
In the last decade of the 18th century, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine, renovated the palace and the garden and moved the chapel to the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts). Therefore, the garden was connected to the former Oratory which was changed into a superb winter garden.
The Confraternity di San Jacopo del Nicchio - as well as all the religious confraternities in Florence which at the age were more than two hundred - was abolished by royal decree in the 18th century under the govern of the Habsburg-Lorraine.
From 1865 to 1871, when Florence was designated capital city of the Kingdom of Italy the palace hosted the headquarters of the Tribunale dei Conti (Court of Accounts).
Since 1880, Palazzo della Crocetta houses the Museo Archeologico, which is the oldest archaeological museum in Italy.
The famous architect and engineer Giuseppe Poggi (1811-1901, who had projected the urban reorganizing of Florence when it was designated capital city of the Kingdom of Italy) and his assistant, the also well- known Florentine garden designer Attilio Pucci, conferred to the palace’s garden a key importance as it has been devoted to host the Etruscan Topography Section. It was enriched, among other trees and plants, with Lebanon cedars, pines, cypresses, tamarisk and magnolias. So the garden was converted into an open section of the museum, displaying sculptures, columns, Etruscan tombs and remainders of ancient huge monuments.
Many of the Etruscan, Greek, Hellenistic and Roman collected works of the Museum, which were moved from the Uffizi Gallery to the Palazzo della Crocetta, were formerly preserved in the Palazzo Vecchio as they constituted the private archaeological collection of the Medici family.
The superb collection of Etruscan, Greek, Hellenistic and Roman artworks, formed by sculptures, statues, an important numismatic collection, glasses, jewels and different artefacts, was begun by Cosimo the Elder in the 15th century and subsequently enriched by his descendants, principally by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I, during the second and third quarters of the 16th century, and by Cardinal Leopoldo de Medici in the second half of the 17th century.
In the second half of the 18th century, when Peter Leopold of Habsburg- Lorraine was crowned Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Medicean archaeological collection, which was moved to the Uffizi Gallery, was considerably augmented by this dynasty who created as well the Egyptian section of the Museum.
The Egyptian collected works were later increased by the splendid private collection of Giuseppe Nizzoli (diplomatic, Egyptologist and collector) purchased in the second decade of the 19th century, as well as by the exceptional findings turned out from the archaeological expedition in Egypt (1828-1829), financed by Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and led by the philologist, professor of lost oriental languages at the University of Pisa, Ippolito Rossellini (1800-1843). The Tuscan scientist expedition was carried out joint to the French one which was conducted by the most famous Egyptologist of the European history: Jean- François Champollion (1790-1832, known as the father of the Egyptology Epithet, member of the French Academie des Inscriptions and first Director of the Egyptian Museum at the Louvre).
In 1885 and 1891, respectively, the celebrated archaeologist Ernesto Schiapparelli (1856-1928, Professor of Egyptology, Director of the Egyptian Museum in Turin) headed two expeditions in Egypt. Many important findings from those expeditions were included in the Egyptian section of the Museum, becoming an Egyptian Museum housed in the Archaeological Museum.
Therefore, the Egyptian collection – gradually enriched due to several private contributions and purchases – currently preserved in the Archaeological Museum is believed the second one in Italy after the one hosted in the Egyptian Museum in Turin.
Consequently, the Florentine Archaeological Museum hosts one of the best and more complete collections of ancient works (Etruscan, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman and Egyptian) in being in Italy.
The Florentine Archaeological Museum is divided into three sections: the Etruscan Topographic Section, the Etruscan- Greek- Hellenistic-Roman Section and the Egyptian Section.
In the first room of the ground floor there are several Etruscan masterpieces. Among them there is the big bronzed sculpture called “The Wounded Chimera of Bellerophon”, of mythological meaning. It is a lion with a goat’s head developed on his back and a serpent for a tail. It comes from the beginning of the 4th century B.C. and was found in 1553 in a field in the province of Arezzo. It was restored by Benvenuto Cellini and classified by Giorgio Vasari who presented the finding to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de Medici.
Other Etruscan masterpieces are: the imposing silver “Amphora of Baratti”, coming from the 4th century B.C. It is ornamented with 125 ca. medallions representing divinities and heroes, which is preserved in the third room; the big bronze statue of Minerva; the “Arringatore” (Orator) coming from the 2nd century B.C. and found in 1566 in the surroundings of the Trasimeno Lake. It is a big bronze funerary portrait of the aristocrat Aulus Metullus. The nobleman, already dressed with a Roman toga, looks as if he was speaking to a hearing. It is an evident demonstration of the important weight that Roman civilization had in that epoch on the Etruscan one. It is hosted in room thirteen.
The huge and valued collection of funeral Etruscan urns and sarcophagus comprises some masterpieces: the so-called sarcophagus “Mater Matris”, from the 5th century B.C., which was found in Chiusi; the sarcophagus known as the “Amazzoni”, from the 4th century B.C.; the sarcophagus of the noblewoman Larthia Seianti, from the 2nd century B.C., and the sarcophagus called “The Fat Man”, from the 2nd century B.C., found also in Chiusi.
The probably most celebrated masterpiece housed in the Museum is preserved in room thirteen: the “Idolino”. It is a Greek small bronze which represents a nude male trunk, coming from the 480 year ca. B.C., which creation is attributed to Polycleitus. It was found in the sea, in the nearness of Livorno, by some fishermen. In the same room is also displayed the celebrated “Horse Head” (1st century ca. B.C.), considered as a part of a Hellenistic sculpture. This masterpiece also comes from the Medicean collection.
Among the vast collection of vases there is the Greek “François Vase” (570 year ca. B.C.). It is signed by Ergotimos and Kleitias. Ornamented with complicate black and red images it depicts scenes from the Greek mythology. The terracotta vase was found in an Etruscan tomb located in the province of Chiusi. It is preserved in the section devoted to Attic black-figures vases.
The Egyptian section, currently located in the first floor of the Museum, was in the past housed in the Cenacolo of Foligno. It exhibits a vast and outstanding collection of clothes, wooden and bone artefacts, coming from Egyptian tombs.
Maybe the masterpiece of this section, preserved in the third room, is the exceptional and unique wooden and bone war-chariot, coming from the Hittite civilization (14th century B.C.).
The Archaeological Museum is closed on Saturday and also on the second and fourth Monday of each month.
Hours: Monday: from 2 to 7 pm; Tuesday and Thursday: from 8, 30 am to 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday and Sunday: from 8, 30 am to 2 pm.
Price of the admission ticket: 4 euros
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