Florence art guide

The Museum of the Bigallo

Madonna of Mercy
The Madonna of Mercy, detail


This small but delightful collection of works of art that belonged to the Company of the Bigallo was first put on display in 1976. The museum is situated in the Loggia, the oratory and some of the ground and first floor rooms of the palace that stands on the corner between Via Calzaiuoli and Piazza San Giovanni. It contains a series of devotional works that form a homogenous collection and illustrate the life of the Confraternity over the centuries. Some of the more important works include a painted Crucifx by the Maestro del Bigallo (mid 13th century), a portable triptych by Bernardo Daddi dated 1333 (Madonna and Child with 14 Saints), a Madonna and Child by Alberto Arnoldi (1361), the coat of arms of the Altoviti family carved by Desiderio da Settignano (1450 circa), a Madonna by Jacopo del Sellaio (1480 circa) and paintings by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio (1515). The oratory contains the remains of sinopites and frescoes, carried out in 1363-64 by Nardo di Cione and his workshop, which were found behind the carved altar (the work of Noferi d'Antonio) that in 1515 covered most of the wall. However the most famous work in the museum is a fresco of 1342 dedicated to the Madonna of the Misericordia, carried out by the workshop of Bernardo Daddi, pupil of Giotto. This fresco, painted on a wall of the Room of the Captains, is the oldest known representation of Florence, showing its mediaeval towers and monuments, including the Baptistery and an interesting view of the Cathedral during the construction of Santa Maria del Fiore. The old cathedral of Santa Reparata was still standing so that here we can pick out its saddle roof, two belltowers and lateral single light windows. Parts of Giotto's Belltower and the facade of Santa Maria del Fiore, as it had been conceived and left by Arnolfo at the time of his death in 1302, can also be seen.

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