At first glance, Casa Buonarroti, the home and museum dedicated to one of the most celebrated artists in history, is about as unimposing as palaces and homes of the great of Florence come. Most tourists are perhaps misled by the name, unsure of the significance of the Buonarroti family, who produced the mastermind behind the statue of David and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, to name only two of Michelangelo’s masterpieces.
Purchased by Michelangelo’s grand-nephew and heir, Leonardo Buonarroti, the home, upon Michelangelo’s request, was passed down the family line until the last Buonarroti died in the latter half of the 19th century. Inside the humble doors, visitors can find a small collection of the artist’s own work alongside paintings, antique artifacts from Roman and Etruscan times and sculptures collected by the family or donated over the past four centuries.
The museum boasts the largest collection of sketches by Michelangelo’s own hand, a large majority of which the artist himself burned for fear of being found less than perfect. Unfortunately, for preservation purposes, only a few at a time are exhibited. The house also holds two of Michelangelo’s early carvings, done while he was still an adolescent in Florence. The Madonna of the Steps and the Battle of the Centaurs date from 1490 and 1492 respectively reveal his early fascination with the human body and his attention to detail and emotion. Also by his own hand is a large wooden model of a projected facade for San Lorenzo Church, as well as a preparatory model of a river god, dating to the 1520s. Almost every room within the house museum reveals a dedication to the esteemed artist, from the room containing various copies of his portrait to that depicting scenes throughout Michelangelo’s life.