It is indeed fortunate that no rioters succeeded in obliterating Giotto’s fresco in the Bargello chapel, which he painted probably in 1300, when his friend Dante was a Prior of the city. Giotto introduced the portrait of Dante which has drawn so many people to this little room, together with portraits of Corso Donati, and Brunetto Latini, Dante’s tutor. Whitewash covered it for two centuries. Dante’s head has been restored.
It was in 1857 that the Bargello was again converted, this time to its present gracious office of preserving the very flower of Renaissance plastic art.
Passing through the entrance hall, which has a remarkable collection of Medicean armour and weapons, and in which (I have read but not seen) is an oubliette under one of the great pillars, the famous court is gained and the famous staircase. Of this court what can I say? Its quality is not to be communicated in words; and even the photographs of it that are sold have to be made from pictures, which the assiduous Signor Giuliani, among others, is always so faithfully painting, stone for stone. One forgets all the horrors that once were enacted here—the execution of honourable Florentine patriots whose only offence was that in their service of this proud and beautiful city they differed from those in power; one thinks only of the soft light on the immemorial walls, the sturdy graceful columns, the carved escutcheons, the resolute steps, the spaciousness and stern calm of it all.
In the colonnade are a number of statues, the most famous of which is perhaps the “Dying Adonis” which Baedeker gives to Michelangelo but the curator to Vincenzo di Rossi; an ascription that would annoy Michelangelo exceedingly, if it were a mistake, since Rossi was a pupil of his enemy, the absurd Bandinelli. Mr. W.G. Waters, in his “Italian Sculptors,” considers not only that Michelangelo was the sculptor, but that the work was intended to form part of the tomb of Pope Julius. In the second room opposite the main entrance across the courtyard, we come however to Michelangelo authentic and supreme, for here are his small David, his Brutus, his Bacchus, and a tondo of the Madonna and Child.