Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze

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Once in a lifetime

Treasures from the archives and libraries of Florence

01-28-2014 | 04-27-2014

Three archive documents concerning Michelangelo, a drawing by Raphael, the baptism certificate of Leonardo da Vinci and another text bearing his annotations, a lecture on Dante’s Inferno written by Galileo, works by Andrea Mantegna, Alessandro Allori and Giovanni Stradano, autographs of Girolamo Savonarola, Poliziano, Cosimo I de’ Medici, Joachim Winckelmann, Ugo Foscolo, Giuseppe Pelli Bencivenni, Giovanni Fabbroni, Pietro Vieusseux, Eugenio Barsanti, Vasco Pratolini, Eduardo De Filippo and Dino Campana, Nobel Prize-winner Eugenio Montale, and two of the poet’s inedited watercolours.
The “Un anno ad arte 2014” exhibition series opens with all this and much more with the show entitled, Once in a Lifetime.  Treasures from the Archives and Libraries of Florence, on the calendar from 28 January to 27 April 2014 and hosted in the Sala Bianca in Palazzo Pitti.  It is promoted by the Polo Museale Fiorentino in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Archivistica della Toscana, the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, the Libraries, Archives and Cultural Institutions Department of the Regional Administration of Tuscany, Firenze Musei and the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze.  The exhibition originates from a project sponsored by the Fondazione Florens and is directed by Alessandro Cecchi (Director of the Galleria Palatina) with the curatorship of scholar and historian Marco Ferri.
The exhibition will bring some 133 items to visitors’ attention, including manuscripts, books and drawings, which come from 33 city institutions.  Its purpose is to offer a “unique” opportunity to admire treasures on paper, held in some of the most important cultural “treasure chests” of the city.
The showpieces will include a selection of inedited works, a sequence on paper that comes from various archives and libraries and have never been seen by the public.  The first among them concerns Michelangelo Buonarroti and is a sheet with Sketches of blocks of marble and a shape for a Crucifix:  in practise, the instructions for “quarrying” stone blocks from the mountain, including one in the shape of a cross and ready to be sculpted.  Exhibited in Vienna in 1997, this document from the Archive of the Fondazione Casa Buonarroti has never been on public display in Italy.
On the occasion of the Palazzo Pitti show, for the first time, visitors will be able to admire ancient manuscripts – including an anthem book from the XIII century – that come from the archives of the Misericordia di Firenze, the Convent of Santissima Annunziata and the Convent dei Buonuomini di San Martino, institutions that had never made loans before.  The books and documents on show will feature the first dictionary published by the Accademia della Crusca in 1612, an edition of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists dated 1568, the first Italian edition of Topolino (Mickey Mouse) dated 1932, a letter book that belonged to Bianca Cappello, half a dozen copies of the Divine Comedy(including one with illustrations by Alessandro Botticelli), the document with which Louis XI of France granted Piero de’ Medici permission to use the French lily in the coat of arms of the Tuscan dynasty, the law enacted by Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine that in 1786 abolished capital punishment in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Libro di Montaperti, the Testamento of Folco Portinari, and a papyrus from the I century B.C.
This display of wonders will also include documents and books from an archive and a library momentarily not accessible to the public:  the Archive of the Accademia degli Immobili, which represents the documentary “memory” of the Teatro della Pergola, and the Library of the Banca CR Firenze on Via Bufalini, which is scheduled to open to the public in 2014.
As part of the show, the Accademia dei Georgofili will propose various archive pieces, including an inedited drawing (from a 1940s publication for children) by Sergio Tofano, known as Sto.  The Biblioteca degli Uffizi will contribute numerous letters from the so-called “Carte Fedi” collection, including many letters – all of them unpublished – that Anna Franchi collected and that contain drawings and sketches by the most famous Macchiaioli painters, from Lega to Fattori to Signorini.
The exhibition opens with a panel bearing the letter Giovanni Fabbroni, in his capacity as representative of the provisional Government appointed by the Regency of Tuscany, wrote in 1800 to the then-first consul of France, Napoleon Bonaparte.  In this letter, he requested “protection for the arts and science, entreating immunity and salvation for all the public establishments destined to education”.  Then follow the showcases – one for each institution – presenting the “jewels” selected for the exhibition, each one with an explanatory legend.
In addition to the main visiting itinerary, a small section will be dedicated to the consequences that the archive and book patrimony of Florence suffered in two dramatic moments of its history:  the flood of 1966 and the bombing of Via dei Georgofili in 1993.  The showcase that closes the exhibition presents visitors with a close-up view of three articles from the archive and book patrimony damaged by the flood and not restored, in addition to a book that was practically destroyed in the bombing of 21 years ago.  It will serve as a warning and reminder to everyone that our cultural patrimony, especially the part of it less frequently presented in exhibitions, is worthy of admiration and demands all our attention.


Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo
Direzione Regionale per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici della Toscana
Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico
e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze
Galleria Palatina
Firenze Musei
Soprintendenza Archivistica per la Toscana
Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze

Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze


Marco Ferri

Curated by

Marco Ferri

Exhibition Management

Alessandro Cecchi




Sabrina Brogelli, Monica Fiorini

Ticket prices

Full price € 13.00
Reduced € 6.50


Tuesday – Sunday, 8.15 – 18.50; the ticket office closes at 18.05
Closed on Mondays