When I think of Florence, I am immediately taken back to the Renaissance Age. I imagine Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s Primavera, Brunelleschi’s dome, and the city’s frescoed churches. I dream of grand palaces—all ornately embellished. The lasting impression of Florence as a whole though is a city of stone. Palaces are built out of massive stone boulder walls. They are foreboding. With their heavy wooden doors, Florence’s palazzi do not invite one to enter. Florence’s mansions do not have wrap-around porches out front encouraging visitors to approach and sit for a spell. To the contrary, the city’s stately homes look like one could knock on the door with a battering ram and still not be heard. Museo Horne, which occupies the former Palazzo Corsi on via de’Benci is emblematic of the architectural stonework found throughout the city. Visitors can roam around the home and discover how wealthy Florentines would have lived while viewing art from the Renaissance and early Baroque eras.
History of the Museum:
Herbert Horne, an English architect and art connoisseur, chose Florence as his home in the early 1900s. Quite the scholar of Italian art, Horne purchased the Palazzo Corsi in 1911 and restored it to Renaissance glory. He died of tuberculosis, but willed his estate and art collection to Italy so that people could forever enjoy its charms.
The house is a 15th century “small” palace (palagetto) that was built for the Corsi family who were merchants and members of the Silkworkers Guild. A courtyard is at the center of the home, which is built over three floors. In order to get to each magnificent, high-ceilinged level of the palazzo, one has to climb a wide stone staircase. The courtyard provided essential light to the home, which was important since the fortress-like exteriors of Florentine palaces didn’t allow for large windows on the ground floor level.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous:
Masterpieces from the 13th to the 17th centuries, including works by Masaccio, Filippo Lippi, Filippino Lippi, Giambologna, Ammannati, Piero di Cosimo, Benozzo Gozzoli, and many talented others, adorn the rooms. One can see paintings, sculptures, figurines, and prints by some of the world’s greatest artists all while enjoying the design and comfort of a former Florentine home.
The antique furnishings which decorate the palace are also important helping the visitor understand how the room may have originally looked and what its function was. They also provide a fascinating look into the history of domestic work and life during the Renaissance Era. From seeing fabrics to cutlery to kitchen utensils, visitors get an idea how the rich and famous lived and what life was like for those who cooked and cleaned for them.
The Ground Floor features the ticket office, a small bookshop, and rooms used for various exhibits of ceramics, plaques, coins, and decorative arts. Get your bearings, enjoy the courtyard, and climb up the stone stairs to the first floor.
The First Floor features large living rooms with big fireplaces, hefty furniture, and fabulous art. I highly recommend asking the docent in the room to explain how the space was used. I learned much about the history of the time and the art history of the collection by asking the staff to explain better what I was seeing. Although the paintings on the walls and figurines on the tables were masterful, I also enjoyed the finery of the furniture. Many of the pieces were constructed of walnut, such as a 17th c. table, carved fan-back stools, a 16th c. chest, numerous credenzas, and a Tuscan box seat. Most of the important works seemed to have been of Sienese or Tuscan manufacture.
The Second Floor gives insight into more private areas of the home, such as the kitchen with its collections of tools used by women from the 15th through the 19th centuries. Other rooms offer a peek into how uncomfortable the furniture would have been by exhibiting the severe construction of day beds, chairs, and other items. I don’t think lazing about would have been feasible!
As you move about the palace, make sure to look at each piece individually. Treasures adorn each room.
Some cool pieces:
- Panel by Giotto, St. Stephen
- Nero di Bicci’s Archangel Raphael, Tobias, and St. Jerome
- Christ the Savior from the School of Leonardo da Vinci
- Adoration of the Child with the Young St. John by Lorenzo di Credi
I’ve visited the Museo Horne several times now and never found it busy…even on days where entry was free. Unlike the Uffizi Gallery or the Accademia, which teem with people, one can enjoy the art and decorations of the former Palazzo Corsi in relative solitude. It’s a hidden treasure and one of the best things to do in Florence.
Tickets: 7€ (I’ve found that the stated price on a Florence museum’s website can differ from the price once one arrives. They’re not often grossly different though. You might find that the museum has a combo deal with another museum and for a few euro more get admission to two or more places.)
Times: Thursdays-Tuesdays 10-2; closed Wednesdays. Always check with the official website before heading out: http://www.museohorne.it/en/
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