Florence 8: Museo dell’Opera del Duomo

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Tourists explore original pieces from the Cattedral Firenze at the Museo del’Opera del Duomo. Most of the museum is closed while it undergoes a major renovation. (Photo by Matthew Ginn © 2014)

Returning to my series of posts about Florence, here’s a quick look at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the museum of the works of the cathedral.

Opened in 1891, the museum is located directly east of the cathedral. It contains many of the original artworks created for the cathedral and is considered one of the world’s most important collections of sculpture. As I mentioned in my post about the baptistry, this includes Ghiberti’s “Gates of Paradise.”

Sadly, the museum was almost completely closed for renovations during my visit. All that one can see in the museum is a long hallway with some of the original stonework, a bust of Brunelleschi, Michelangelo’s Pietà, and the aforementioned gates. Accordingly, I didn’t stay long, but the Michelangelo sculpture and Gates of Paradise made it worth the visit.

The Florence Pietà, known formally as The Deposition, was one of Michelangelo’s last works. He worked on it from 1547-53, before abandoning the project. “According to Vasari,” according to the font of all knowledge, “Michelangelo made the Florence Pietà to decorate his tomb in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. After smashing the sculpture, he gave it to his servant Antonio. Later the servant sold the work and the new owner had it reconstructed by Tiberio Calcagni following Michelangelo’s models.”

However, Calcagni left the face of one of the female figures unfinished, supposedly after discovering a previously-unknown flaw in the marble (which, interestingly, is one of the reasons given for Michelangelo smashing the sculpture in the first place).

The figure in the rear, generally considered to represent Nicodemus (or perhaps Joseph of Arimathea), is widely regarded as a self-portrait of Michelangelo.

Whatever the story, it is a sight to behold.

Click the thumbnails below to see some photos from the museum.