The Museum comprises the collection accumulated in his own home by Frederick Stibbert (1838-1906) – an exceedingly wealthy and eclectic Englishman with a Tuscan mother – not for the mere taste of collecting but with the intention of increasing the understanding of civil and military traditions of Europe and the Orient, in three main areas: costumes, arms, heraldry.
Stibbert willed the museum to the English government, which donated it to the city of Florence, which in turn set up a foundation in 1908. Amongst the most interesting pieces of the Stibbert collection that visitors can view is the suit and cape worn by Napoleon I when he was crowned the King of Italy and the scabbard of Gioacchino Murat during the time when he was the King of Naples.
In 1908, two years after the death of Stibbert, the museum became a moral institution directed by the Mayor, with an administrative committee made up of a representative of the Pandolfini family, to whom Stibbert was connected, the British Consulate, the President of the Accademia dell Belli Art and the Superintendent of the Gallery.
The entrance to the museum and park is in front of the church of San Martino a Montughi. The weapon collection is the most interesting aspect of the museum: for this, Stibbert, the tireless traveller and adventurer, created the Cavalcata, the famous group of horses and medieval soldiers created in realistic dimensions.
The reproductions of horsemen and horses have original armour and the choreographic impact is very suggestive to the visitor. The rooms were commissioned out to famous architects such as Giuseppe Poggi, Cesare Fonti, with decorations by Gaetano Bianchi and Augusto Passaglia, which form an excellent and precious artistic background.
One curiosity: In order to reproduce realistic horses, real, recently dead horses were used; by adopting a technique which used hot water baths, the horse flesh was made more elastic so that they could be manipulated into very attractive and spectacular positions which were then later made into mould casts.
But there are other numerous attractions in this museum, in fact so many that for a long time it was the chosen destination for cultural itineraries of adolescents.
For example the rare books, the games from all over the world and from all ages, the costumes of ancient cultures, the very unusual hairbrushes, the flags, the coins and geographical maps: are all memories of Stibbert's journeys in the Middle and Far East.
Furthermore, the precious furniture, the carvings and miniatures, watches, fans and gold jewellery. For also those who are interested in antiques can leave the museum satisfied and pleasantly surprised by the rich and fascinating mixture of items in the collections.
For any information:
Via Stibbert 26 (055 475520).
Open 10am-2pm Mon, Tue, Wed, 10am-6pm Fri, Sat, Sun.
Closed on Thu.
Admission: 5 euro.