A nineteenth-century villa surrounded by an enchanted garden teeming with fountains, statues, and temples in the romantic style and sprinkled with esoteric references.
We are talking about Florence’s Stibbert Museum, where you will find a vast collection of ancient weapons and disparate art objects. Although Robert Langdon didn’t visit this place in Dan Brown’s Inferno, we are sure that the Harvard professor would have loved it very much.
Who was Frederick Stibbert?
Frederick Stibbert was born in Florence in 1838, but was educated at Harrow College in Cambridge, England. His mother was Italian and his father was English. His only son inherited all of the family’s wealth.
Discipline and a career in the military are the hallmarks of the men in the Stibbert family: Stibbert’s father was a colonel in the prestigious Coldstream Guards, and his grandfather Stibbert Giles (1734-1809) was the commanding general in the East India Company and was governor of Bengal.
After the death of his father, Frederick moved with his mother and two sisters to Florence in the villa that once belonged to the noble Florentine family of Davanzati. Stibbert soon became a collector of weapons and of art objects, and filled his house with treasures acquired gradually from around the world. He never married and did not have any children.
His life was dedicated entirely to his passion for collecting. In his will he expressed the desire that his house and collections contained therein be turned into a public museum, provided that the original organization of the house be respected.
Stibbert’s passion for warriors and weapons
It was especially weapons that intrigued him, particularly Japanese and Islamic weapons. Throughout his life he collected not only armor, swords, and helmets, but also paintings, porcelain, tapestries, antique furniture, and costumes.
The section dedicated to the art of war is definitely the richest, with pieces from all over the world and from different civilizations and ages. Its rooms contain mannequins portraying the Ottoman horsemen of the sixteenth century, seventeenth-century Indian armor, and a rich collection of weapons and armor of Samurai warriors, the largest in the world outside Japan.
The park around the villa
The villa’s nineteenth-century garden is full of treasures and wonderful views, perhaps among the most beautiful in Florence, where romance meets mystery and symbolism.
It’s an example of nineteenth-century eclecticism with more than 50 different plant species and architecture inspired by various styles and eras. Frederick Stibbert had the park restored by the architect Giuseppe Poggi, who transformed it into a garden with columns, statues, and paths filled with symbolism. Particularly worth mentioning are the pyramid-shaped Egyptian temple decorated with statues of sphinxes and the pond centering on a small island reminiscent of the legendary King Arthur’s Avalon.
A few years later, Frederick Stibbert acquired additional land adjacent to the park and enlarged it, this time in the romantic style, with grottoes, fountains, and a small neoclassical temple. Venetian Gothic architecture and traditional Florentine terra cotta pottery date back to this period.
Today the park is frequented by tourists and mothers with children, as well as loving couples who choose the garden for their wedding reception.
The Stibbert Museum
The museum is run today by a Foundation, as prescribed by Stibbert in his last will. He left his entire fortune in the first instance to the British nation, and in case of renunciation, all would have gone to the city of Florence, which in fact took over as first legatee, after renouncing by the British government.
The purpose of educational and informative wanted by Stibbert was respected to the letter: the museum preserves and displays the collections as he left them and it’s a destination for young researchers and scholars from around the world.
Pictures by Wikipedia and Museostibbert.it