Friday 7 May 2021

Bargello Museum in Florence re-opens: Sala degli Avori (Room of the Ivories) re-organised

To me, the Bargello Museum of Florence is one of the most under-appreciated art collections in the world. There are bigger museums without a doubt but many of them require a pair of roller blades to visit. The Bargello is intimate and human in scale, and stuffed with masterpieces, both Florentine and especially pieces collected by Florentines from elsewhere. On no account miss it when you visit Florence.

After being closed for several months on account of the corvid pandemic, the Bargello is open once again and with a completely re-organised Sala degli Avori (Room of the Ivories), now completed after six years of work. 

Bargello Museum room of the ivories

 The Room of the Ivories in the Bargello Museum, Florence

The exhibition layout has been completely re-organised and includes the display of works that were previously kept in the archives, among them a valuable Baroque crucifix that is back on display after almost a century in dark obscurity. The collection of works in ivory covers 15 centuries, ranging from rare Etruscan and Roman objects to 19 C artefacts. There are about 250 works on display, in a wide variety of styles and from both Eastern and Western civilisations. The displayed works of art now have labels in English in addition to Italian. 

Byzantine ivories in the Bargello Museum, Florence

 Byzantine ivories in the Bargello Museum, Florence

The Sala degli Avori is located on the first floor of the Bargello and exhibits precious and historic ivories such as a diptych with scenes from the life of Saint Paul and Adam in the earthly paradise and a plaque with the Byzantine Empress. Other works include the rare Carolingian Flabellum from the abbey of Tournus, the Olifante of Sainte-Chapelle, donated to the king of France in 1274, as well as mediaeval paintings, mosaics and sculptures.

Ivory mirror in the Bargello Sala degli Avori

Ivory mirror in the Bargello Sala degli Avori

Many of the art works that comprise the Bargello's ivory collection are the legacy of the Lyonnaise antique dealer Louis Carrand who, on his death in 1888, gifted to the Bargello almost 2,600 works, including sculptures, jewels, paintings and fabrics. Other ivories in the collection come from 19 C purchases and from historic Florentine Grand-Ducal collections.

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