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An all blue museum

Sala delle MadonneIn the last years of his life Stefano Bardini arranged what had been for a period of forty years his exposition gallery in Piazza de’Mozzi. He organized his collection displaying stone artefacts on the ground floor, with an armoury and a picture gallery on the first floor. He did not change what had been the novelties of his antique dealer shop: a great variety of windows and an unusual and varied electric, cornflower blue on the walls. In the last years of his life the antique dealer had neglected his town palace to concentrate on the villas of Marignolle and of Torre del Gallo at Arcetri. Very soon the restless dealer preferred to abandon these daunting projects to withdraw instead to the Oltrarno palace and to turn it into a true museum. In his gallery the antique dealer had carried out exceptional staging showing the artworks at their best to induce his own clients to purchase them. The best ones were those from the end of the19th century (1883-1887,1891-1893) that very few collectors of high level could appreciate but that have come down to us through the photos that Bardini himself took to document them. On the contrary the way he arranged his collection before he died in 1922 is known to us only through an inventory as the functionaries of the Municipality of Florence, in charge of recording the bequest, were so bewildered by what they found in the palace that they did not deem it worth photographing. The few people who actually saw it spoke without mincing their words of “an outdated antique dealer’s bad taste” and were strongly against the blue colour that Bardini had chosen for the walls defining it a colour “that sets your teeth on edge”. Restoration work was immediately started and when it was completed, in 1925, the cheers of the critics poured in from everywhere proclaiming that the “monastic simplicity of Florentine architectural works after Brunelleschi’s reform” had been restored. Blue had been in fact substituted with ochre, a colour that made the ancient capitals stand out according to the Florentine taste from the early Renaissance.
In other times and by other social classes Bardini’s blue had been greatly appreciated.
Nélie Jacquemart, a collector and client of Bardini, used it for the halls of her Parisian palace, today’s Musée Jacquemart-André, and still today it is the backdrop to the Italian Renaissance sculpture collection. In 1898, the French lady invited the art historian Bernard Berenson to visit her collections and he wrote about it with ruthless irony to Isabella Stewart Gardner as follows: “For a moment I was so sure that I was at Bardini’s that I had to blink my eyes to convince myself that I was not actually there”. Like this, Berenson intended to dissuade Mrs. Stewart Gardner, in her turn a client of Stefano Bardini, from using blue in her palace in Boston. Two years later, Berenson discovered his efforts had been in vain upon receiving from Isabella the following request: “ And kindly send me one day a piece of paper of the blue colour that Bardini has on his walls. I want exactly the same shade.” For ten months Berenson tried to discourage the collector from her intention, but finally he had to give up and send her a sample of the blue she had asked for.
Why did Bardini use such a peculiar colour for the backdrop of his collections? The answer  is  to be sought in the international residences of nobility, especially the Russian one. An extensive use of blue can be retraced in the sumptuous palaces of Saint Petersburg and moreover the numerous Russian nobles who resided in Italy, particularly in Pisa, Florence and Rome, had brought with them a predilection for this colour. An overall example is the so-called “Blue Palace” that stands out among the ochre palaces overlooking the Arno banks in Pisa and which in 1773 was home to the Greek Russian Imperial College. The palace façade, which a restoration has returned to its original cornflower blue, was commissioned by Prince Alexei Orlov, the Empress’s powerful favourite who descended from an important family of collectors. The recent museum restoration, before its inauguration on April 4th, 2009, has returned its rooms to their original Bardini blue. It is never the same in all of them, as, in tune with the light from the windows, changes in shade to harmonize with the various collections on display.

6 september - 31 december  2013
Exhibition: The Renaissance from Florence to  Paris and back.
Villa Bardini - Costa San Giorgio 2 - Firenze
Botticelli, Donatello, Mantegna and Paolo Uccello. Treasures of the Jacquemart-André Museum  return Home.


Opening times:
from Tuesdays to Sundays 10.00 - 19.00
Mondays: closed
Ticket sale end at 6.00 p.m.

Information and Bookings:
Mondays-Fridays from 9.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m and from 3.00 p.m. to 5 p.m. +39 055 20066206

daily (including Saturdays and Sundays)
+39 055 2638599

Tickets Full-price  €  8.00
Buy your ticket on line at

The ticket to the exhibition entitles you to visit the Roberto Capucci Museum and the Annigoni Museum (from October 15th on) also located in Villa Bardini and grants a reduced ticket to the Stefano Bardini Museum, the Stibbert Museum, the Horne Museum and the Galileo Museum.

città di firenze
Comune di Firenze
Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria
P.IVA 01307110484
Note Legali
Licenza Creative Commons

Amministrazione Trasparente: I dati personali pubblicati sono riutilizzabili solo alle condizioni previste dalla direttiva comunitaria 2003/98/CE e dal d.lgs. 36/2006