The Bargello is a veritable fortress built in 1255 to serve as Florence's first city hall. It was later turned over to the chief of police who used the structure as a prison. Executions used to be held in the internal courtyard until the death penalty was abolished in 1786. It became a national museum in 1865.
Dedicated to Renaissance sculpture, the Bargello has immense galleries on three floors and also in the courtyard. One room is dedicated to Michelangelo. Here you can see his very early round bas relief of a Madonna and Child as well as his first freestanding sculpture - a rather drunken looking Bacchus. There is also his bust of Brutus, the only portrait bust he produced during his long career. This gallery suffered terrible damage in the 1966 flood and has been completely renovated since that time. Here you can also see several bronzes by Cellini.
The first floor houses two splendid bronzes by Donatello - his St. George and his David - the David is very different from Michelangelo's. Donatello depicts a very thin, almost androgynous youth wearing a helmet and wielding a sword almost as tall as he is. Also in this room are bas-reliefs depicting the Sacrifice of Isaac by Brunelleschi and by Ghiberti. Both of these were entered in the competition for the contract for the Baptistery doors. Other galleries are dedicated to the decorative arts of Renaissance Florence. Here you'll see silver, ceramics, glass, metalwork, rugs, cut velvets, and other applied arts. You could spend hours in these rooms. These are a feast for the senses. After many visits to Florence, this was my first time in this museum. I'll be back to digest more of this splendid collection. Please note that no photos are allowed in the galleries, but can be taken in the courtyard without flash.
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