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By Bruno Daddi

The Renaissance and Wax Museum

This museum is yet another fascinating attraction to add to the long list of things to do and see in Florence; it is not simply a tourist attraction but also popular with the Florentines, especially the younger generation; whoever feels like taking a quick plunge into the wonderfully suggestive and magic atmosphere of the Renaissance, which brought so much glory to our city, has only to step inside this Museum, housed in a historic 14th century mansion at n.12, Piazza Santa Croce, one of the most popular parts of the city. At this point we should say something that most people know already. Nowadays our hyper-active and frantically busy lives rarely allow us the time or the desire to think or give free reign to our imagination, in fact, we often hardly have time to draw breath, and this has led to images prevailing over words, even over books - it is not really so surprising that Italians read so little - while the images used in television and on the pages of newspapers, magazines and even cartoon strips seem to have a stronger influence every day. This was what gave Filippo Pananti, son of the well known gallery owner Piero Pananti (surrounded since childhood by the painted images in his father's gallery), the idea of creating "The Renaissance Museum - The Wax Museum"; it gives visitors the chance to see reproductions of the great personalities who once lived, worked or were in some way connected with Florence or Tuscany. Thanks to the museum, visitors no longer need try and imagine what Catherine de' Medici, later Queen of France, looked like or what jewels decorated her hat on her wedding day; what clothes proud Eleonora of Toledo, the wife of Cosimo I liked to wear, or even what foolish Calandrino looked like, so amusingly described by Boccaccio in the Decameron novels; they can now see what really took place in 1077 when Henry IV of Saxony, ex-communicated at the time, made his famous submission to the great Pope Gregory VII in the Castle of Canossa in the presence of powerful Matilda of Tuscany. This event is the first scene that opens the museum's display of personalities. Seven centuries of life in Florence are recreated here and conclude with the noble figure of another woman to whom this city and the world owe an enormous debt. Anna Maria Ludovica de' Medici, the famous Electress of the Palatine, who died in 1743, laid down in her will that the countless art works belonging to the Medici family were to be given to the Tuscan State; she also specified that absolutely nothing was to be taken away from Florence and that the priceless collections put together over the centuries by these illuminated patrons were to be made available for all; thanks to her, today we have the Uffizi and Palatine Galleries, as well as many others. This is basically what the new Museum is about; Filippo Pananti however, who has lived among paintings since he was a child, wanted to do even more, in fact much more; he made use of specific iconographic sources in order to portray the various exhibits, all life sized, as accurately as possible - miniatures, mosaics, paintings, selfportraits created by famous artists like Masaccio, Filippo and Filippino Lippi, Paolo Uccello, Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Ghirlandaio, Leonardo, Santi di Tito, Bronzino and Rosso Fiorentino; he also drew inspiration from great writers like Dante, Boccaccio and Vasari. About fifty personalities are displayed here, though there could be at least three times as many, in fact new exhibits will gradually be added; true portraits of people who have brought glory to Florence and Tuscany, like St. Miniato (the first and only Florentine martyr), Giotto, as well as Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, who were forever falling out; a reconstruction of the picturesque procession painted on the famous Cassone degli Adimari, Leonardo working on his portrait of beautiful Monna Lisa del Giocondo, Dante meeting Beatrice, Lorenzo dei Medici with his antagonist Girolamo Savonarola, together with the group of intellectuals patronised by the Magnificent; they are all placed in settings connected with their lives, for instance Michelangelo is shown decorating the Sistine Chapel while Cellini is hard at work casting his Perseus. However it is pointless wasting time on a boring list of names, however illustrious; it is far more important to absorb the atmosphere of this Museum which has been beautifully arranged by set designer Elena Mannini who, in spite of her youth, has had plenty of experience after staging hundreds of performances in Italy and in all the main cities in Europe (Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels); she has been ably helped by her brother Armando, her assistant of long standing, who also works in films and television. Maria Alberti acted as their historical consultant while the background music that creates the unique atmosphere around the more characteristic scenes, is by Gianni Dall'Orto, who adapted it to Macchiavelli's famous song "I hope and hope increases torment". However, I can assure readers that it is certainly no torment to visit this really delightful and fascinating Museum. Museum hours: 10am-7pm daily, including Sundays and holidays. Entrance L. 12.000 (reduced tickets L. 10.000).

Translated by Susan Glasspool

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