Florence and the twentieth century: a stormy relationship between love and hate, rich in avant-garde art, and full of controversy. The city of the Renaissance during this period is represented in the Museo Novecento (20th Century Museum), which opened in 2014, in Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
The museum is housed in the Hospital of St. Paul, which was founded at the beginning of the 13th century as an area of refuge for pilgrims and the poor.
The building was expanded in the later 15th century. The construction of the front porch was assigned to Florentine architect Michelozzo, although for a long time it was thought that it was actually built by Filippo Brunelleschi, because of its similarity to his famous Loggia of the Hospital of the Innocents in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, seen below:
The museum houses an interesting collection of 20th century art.
In 1588, under Grand Duke Ferdinand I, the Hospital of St. Paul became a place to accommodate convalescents who came from hospitals in Florence.
In 1780 the building’s function was altered by Leopold Lorraine as a place to provide education for poor girls, and therefore became known as the Leopoldine Schools. After World War II it was converted into a school. Now, after a long restoration, the complex houses the 20th Century Museum in Florence.
After the Arno River’s devastating flood in 1966, much of Florence’s artistic heritage was damaged. The art critic Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti launched an appeal to artists from all over the world to endow the city with their works of art. Two hundred artists responded to the call.
At the time the art was donated to the city, there was no real home for them. Many works of art remained behind closed doors in municipal depositories for years awaiting a suitable location. These works are thus considered the first original nucleus of the Museum.
Today the halls of the Museum contains paintings and sculptures, art films, the works of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and displays devoted to electronic music. Among the artists on display permanently are De Chirico, Morandi, Emilio Vedova and Guttuso, Ottone Rosai, as well as Florentine sculptors such as Antonio Catelani, Daniela Di Lorenzo and Carlo Guaita.
When I was at the museum yesterday, I took pictures of some of the most interesting (to me) artworks. For example, I enjoyed these images of Florentine landmarks:
And was stopped in my tracks upon encountering this painting. It felt so fresh in comparison to all the other works in the museum.
Here’s a close-up:
If you are visiting Florence and need a break from Renaissance madonnas, you might find some relief at the Museo Novecento.