Upstairs we find relics of an older civilization still, the Egyptian, and a few rooms of works of art, all found in Etruscan soil, the property of the Pierpont Morgans and George Saltings of that ancient day, who had collected them exactly as we do now. Certain of the statues are world-famous. Here, for example, in Sala IX, is the bronze Minerva which was found near Arezzo in 1554 by Cosimo’s workmen. Here is the Chimaera, also from Arezzo in 1554, which Cellini restored for Cosimo and tells us about in his Autobiography. Here is the superb Orator from Lake Trasimene, another of Cosimo’s discoveries.
In Sala X look at the bronze situla in an isolated glass case, of such a peacock blue as only centuries could give it. Upstairs in Sala XVI are many more Greek and Roman bronzes, among which I noticed a faun with two pipes as being especially good; while the little room leading from it has some fine life-size heads, including a noble one of a horse, and the famous Idolino on its elaborate pedestal—a full-length Greek bronze from the earth of Pesaro, where it was found in 1530.
The top floor is given to tapestries and embroideries. The collection is vast and comprises much foreign work; but Cosimo I introducing tapestry weaving into Florence, many of the examples come from the city’s looms. The finest, or at any rate most interesting, series is that depicting the court of France under Catherine de’ Medici, with portraits: very sumptuous and gay examples of Flemish work.
The trouble at Florence is that one wants the days to be ten times as long in order that one may see its wonderful possessions properly. Here is this dry-looking archaeological museum, with antipathetic custodians at the door who refuse to get change for twenty-lira pieces: nothing could be more unpromising than they or their building; and yet you find yourself instantly among countless vestiges of a past people who had risen to power and crumbled again before Christ was born—but at a time when man was so vastly more sensitive to beauty than he now is that every appliance for daily life was the work of an artist. Well, a collection like this demands days and days of patient examination, and one has only a few hours. Were I Joshua—had I his curious gift—it is to Florence I would straightway fare. The sun should stand still there: no rock more motionless.
Continuing along the Via della Colonna, we come, on the right, at No. 8, to the convent of S. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, which is now a barracks but keeps sacred one room in which Perugino painted a crucifixion, his masterpiece in fresco. The work is in three panels, of which that on the left, representing the Virgin and S. Bernard, is the most beautiful. Indeed, there is no more beautiful light in any picture we shall see, and the Virgin’s melancholy face is inexpressibly sweet. Perugino is best represented at the Accademia, and there are works of his at the Uffizi and Pitti and in various Florentine churches; but here he is at his best. Vasari tells us that he made much money and was very fond of it; also that he liked his young wife to wear light head-dresses both out of doors and in the house, and often dressed her himself. His master was Verrocchio and his best pupil Raphael.