By Ellen Miller – Writer
The Academia… the Uffizi… the Bargello. For those looking to experience a museum without hoardes of tourists that’s a little more intimate, never fear: Florence does have options aside from the famous and historic landmarks that draw people to the city. One great option to explore is the Stibbert Museum, on via Federigo Stibbert in Florence. While not located directly in the city center, the museum is a quick journey via the number four bus from the Santa Maria Novella train station and is conveniently situated just next to the NYU campus in Florence, giving you the opportunity to explore their beautiful gardens after if you so desire. Frederick Stibbert was born in Florence to Italian and English parents. While raised in England, he returned to Florence and upon his death left the museum to the city of Florence to preserve history for future generations. During his life he had inherited a huge fortune from his grandfather who had been governor of Bengal in India. He began collecting pieces as soon as he inherited the money and eventually transformed his house into a museum.
The Stibbert collection is unique in that it is not solely a collection of paintings; rather the collection is an impressive amassing of 50, 000 pieces of armory, costumes, ceramics and even a couple of paintings. The armory is composed of European, Islamic and Asian pieces and includes armor, swords, spears, crossbows, and guns. Stibbert obtained a good chunk of his Ottoman arms when the armory of Saint Irene in Istanbul was dismantled, allowing him to purchase many of the pieces when they came to market. The costume collection also comes from all over the world and dates from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. The paintings stay within theme, including many portraits in costume. Stibbert invested in the paintings because he was interested in the costumes or the armor portrayed in the pictures. While it might not be as well known as the Uffizi, its collection of paintings is still something Stibbert would have been proud of the Stibbert boasts a Madonna by Botticelli, Medici portraits, a portrait of Francesco I by Bronzini and many other portraits and fifteenth century panel paintings.
Fifty-seven rooms display Stibbert’s collection in his converted home. The walls are covered with leather and tapestries and the rooms include valuabel furniture, porcelain, crucifixes and Etruscan artifacts, though perhaps the best-known single item might be an outfit worn by Napoleon. The Stibbert collection is the largest private collection of arms and armor in the world and well worth the trip if you have the time or interest in getting off the beaten track in Florence.