The Stibbert Museum in Florence: dreams, weapons, and a taste of Japan
The Stibbert Museum in Florence was the dream-come-true of a British entrepreneur born in 1838 in the Italian city, where he died sixty-eight years later. Collector Frederick Stibbert wanted to give a home to the vast array of objects he had gathered over the years: paintings, china, costumes, and most importantly weapons from all over the world.
Stibbert renovated the old Villa Montughi and brought there some fifty thousand pieces from his collection – which he left to the Florence Municipality after his death.
According to “L’arte. Critica e conservazione” (Jaca Book, Milan 1996), “in the second half of the 1800s, collecting weapons was part of the resurgence of applied arts that occurred in all of Europe, including Italy. The collection Federico Stibbert put together in his villa di Montughi in Florence confirms the trend: on top of a number of western and mostly oriental weapons, Stibbert collected costumes and fabrics, gold items and wooden sculptures. […] Weapons were part of an effort to study and rehabilitate applied arts, and any museum that presents minor arts as well as the major ones tries to have a sector dedicated to weapons.”
Expert Francesco Civita has commented on the Museum’s Japanese section, noting it was “the first, great collection of weapons, armors, and other works of art tied to Japan to be born in Italy, around the early 1870s. The Japanese Section is now internationally renowned as one of the most important of its kind outside of Japan.”
“The museum’s Nipponese collection – Civita continues – stands out both in terms of quantity, with almost two thousand pieces ranging from elms, armors, defensive and offensive weapons, lacquerware, china, silhouettes, prints, and paintings, but also in terms of quality, ranging from a very high average standard to absolutely unique in various cases.”
“When he started such an important collection, Stibbert perhaps had not fully realized how important it would become in the following years” (translated from “Il rotolo giapponese Bamodoizu”, Gangemi, Rome 2014).
Photos ©Roberto Serrini