Never-before-seen drawings and paintings reveal a lesser-known side of the ‘father’ of the Museo della Casa Fiorentina Antica


From May 6 to December 8, 2018, the museum will welcome visitors with the exhibition Omaggio a Elia Volpi pittore—‘Hommage to Elia Volpi, Painter’—installed in its picturesque entrance loggia.

The enterprising collector and antiquarian, mastermind of Palazzo Davanzati’s first ‘rebirth’ and father of the museum, restored the historic palazzo in the beginning of the twentieth century, transforming it into a private museum. Reimagining the décor of a luxurious residence between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Volpi furnished the house with antiques that fit his conception—part fact and part fiction—of Florence during this period. Volpi’s vision, brought to fruition in Palazzo Davanzati, played a significant role in shaping the particular ‘Florentine’ taste and style of interior decoration much in vogue at the time, as well as in promoting its dissemination on an international scale.

While a student at Florence’s Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) and in the decades that followed, Volpi also pursued an artistic career of his own, producing works of figurative art. Though little known, this period of Volpi’s life is nonetheless important to restore a more complete vision of this complex character. Drawing upon donations made to the museum, as well as a number of loans from private collections, this exhibition retraces Volpi’s years at the Accademia and his early career (1870-90s) through a series of drawings and paintings, many of them on public view for the first time.

Among the works on display are: a sketch for a fan painted in 1885 for Margherita di Savoia, Queen of Italy; a fascinating portrait of Pia Lori, Volpi’s future wife; and a delicate portrait of a young girl of 1885, which stands out for its modern allure. From November 6, the exhibition will feature a previously unknown painting by Volpi representing Donatello admiring Brunelleschi's Crucifix, a  subject inspired to a lively anecdote taken from Giorgio Vasari's Life of the Artists (1550).

Omaggio a Elia Volpi pittore will also feature a multimedia section, and in particular a video, Elia Volpi nella quiete di Villa di Celle (Elia Volpi in the quiet stillness of the Celle Villa), presented for the first time at this exhibition. With a mix of footage taken at various times and places, this film will give viewers a glimpse into the private life of Elia and his large family towards the end of the 1920s. Moreover, a touch-screen with photos from the album dedicated to the history of Palazzo Davanzati will permit visitors to reconstruct the story of the ‘creation’ of the museum and the development of its particular vision of ‘fiorentinità’ (‘Florentineness’).

It is possible to visit the exhibition during the museum’s opening hours, and access is included with the museum ticket.