A tablet on a house opposite S. Egidio, a little to the right, states that it was there that Ghiberti made the Baptistery gates which Michelangelo considered fit to be the portals of Paradise.
Plastic art—Blood-soaked stones—The faithful artists—Michelangelo—Italian custodians—The famous Davids—Michelangelo’s tondo—Brutus—Benedetto da Rovezzano—Donatello’s life-work—The S. George—Verrocchio—Ghiberti and Brunelleschi and the Baptistery doors—Benvenuto Cellini—John of Bologna—Antonio Pollaiuolo—Verrocchio again—Mino da Fiesole—The Florentine wealth of sculpture—Beautiful ladies—The della Robbias—South Kensington and the Louvre.
Before my last visit but one to Florence, plastic art was less attractive to me than pictorial art. But now I am not sure. At any rate when, here in England, I think of Florence, as so often I do, I find myself visiting in imagination the Bargello before the Uffizi. Pictures in any number can bewilder and dazzle as much as they delight. The eye tires. And so, it is true, can a multiplicity of antique statuary such as one finds at the Vatican or at the Louvre; but a small collection of Renaissance work, so soft and human, as at the Bargello, is not only joy-giving but refreshing too. The soft contours soothe as well as enrapture the eye: the tenderness of the Madonnas, the gentleness of the Florentine ladies and youths, as Verrocchio and Mino da Fiesole, Donatello, and Pollaiuolo moulded them, calm one where the perfection of Phidias and Praxiteles excites. Hence the very special charm of the Bargello, whose plastic treasures are comparatively few and picked, as against the heaped profusion of paint in the Uffizi and the Pitti. It pairs off rather with the Accademia, and has this further point in common with that choicest of galleries, that Michelangelo’s chisel is represented in both.
The Bargello is at the corner of the Via Ghibellina in the narrow Via del Proconsolo—so narrow that if you take one step off the pavement a tram may easily sweep you into eternity; so narrow also that the real dignity of the Bargello is never to be properly seen, and one thinks of it rather for its inner court and staircase and its strong tower than for its massive facades. Its history is soaked in blood. It was built in the middle of the thirteenth