An Unexpected Discovery at the Museo Casa Martelli

Museo Casa Martelli
Paintings collection of Casa Museo Palazzo Martelli, Courtesy Palazzo Martelli. Photo: Antonio Quattrone

Palazzo Martelli, now home to the Museo Casa Martelli, is located a short walk from the Florence Cathedral, in via Zannetti. Entering the Palazzo, which is distinguished by a simple facade embellished with smooth rusticated ashlar cornices, one finds a broad stair in pietra serena with a cast iron handrail. The Martelli family had displayed its “jewels” beneath the vault decorated with frescoes by Luigi Sabatelli, reserving a place of honour for the David and the family coat-of-arms, both sculpted by Donatello and now preserved at the Museo del Bargello.

The painting collection, built up over the centuries, includes numerous masterpieces. The palazzo is also filled with charming spaces, including a large ballroom and other rooms decorated with grotesques and trompe-l’oeil, the latter making the spaces seem larger and playing tricks on the visitor’s eye.

Museo Casa Martelli
Winter garden, Casa Museo Palazzo Martelli, Courtesy Palazzo Martelli. Photo: Antonio Quattrone

The history of the Palazzo is tightly intertwined with a marble bust by Lorenzo Bartolini that is now in my gallery. Walking through the rooms of Casa Martelli, going past the family chapel and heading towards the central hall, you will find a small portrait on paper made by Luigi Mussini, the sitter for which was the mother of Marianna Barbolani di Montauto, Martelli’s wife. The features of the sitter correspond to those of the woman portrayed by the Romantic sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini and, along with the crest decorating her hair, firmly identify her as Carlotta Barbolani di Montauto.

Lorenzo Bartolini, Portrait of Carlotta Barbolani di Montauto (detail), Milan, 1825 ca.
Luigi Mussini, Portait of Carlotta Barbolani di Montauto (detail), Casa Museo Palazzo Martelli, 1845

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