The antiquarian helped to make the legend of the Italian Renaissance known the world round and showed great interest not only in the great masterpieces but also all manner of applied arts, which still today constitute one of the most appealing parts of the collections. Among Bardini’s customers were the most prestigious collectors in the world and some of the ideas he used for the museum layout were widely imitated. The splendid blue colour of the interior was replicated by the couple Jacquemart-André and by Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston.
In 1922, the Florence City Council came into possession of a conspicuous inheritance. While recognising its importance and great artistic value, it nevertheless did not agree with the layout that the antiquarian had given to the works. In 1925 the Bardini Museum became a civic museum and pieces from the Council collections were added to the works purchased by Bardini.
The current layout, the fruit of intense studies and restoration work, follows the original plans of its founder, who set out the works by genre, according to an eye-catching aesthetic canon. Nevertheless, one room has been set up to recall the Bardini’s former role as a civic museum. The items on display reveal a close bond with the city and originate from the demolition of the old city centre in 1881 and the churches acquired by the Council following the dissolution of the ecclesiastical institutions in 1886. Also on display in the same room are other important works belonging to the City Council such as Il Porcellino (the Piglet) by Pietro Tacca and the Diavolino, or Satyr, by Giambologna.
The Stefano Bardini museum is an extraordinary illustration of collecting, antiques and artistic crafts from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Museo Bardini houses over 2,000 items, including sculptures, paintings and the applied arts, from ancient art to the eighteenth century, with the majority from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Among the most significant works are Charity by Tino da Camaino, the Madonna della Mela and the Madonna dei Cordai by Donatello, Saint Michael Archangel by Antonio del Pollaiolo, Atlas by Guercino, a precious collections of medals, bronze figures, oriental rugs, splendid fifteenth-century chests and a small but very important armoury.