A gallery of portraits of members of the Buonarroti family, who have contributed, throughout the centuries, towards making the house in via Ghibellina a "respectable city house", something that Michelangelo had deeply longed for.

Portrait of Michelangelo with a turban (1522) by Giuliano BugiardiniCasa Buonarroti

The purchase of the houses in via Ghibellina

Between 1508 and 1514 Michelangelo bought five houses located between via Ghibellina and the current via Michelangelo Buonarroti (known as via Santa Maria at the time). The artist lived in those apartments between 1516 and 1525, the year in which he moved in the district of San Lorenzo, to closely follow the works of the Mediceo complex. When he moved to Rome, as evidenced by the correspondence, he wrote several times to his parents, urging them to renovate the properties located in via Ghibellina to turn them into "a respectable house in the city".

This portrait of Michelangelo was commissioned by Ottaviano de' Medici and depicts Michelangelo at the age of 47. There are two copies, one at the Louvre and one in a private collection.

Portrait of Michelangelo (Seconda metà del XVI secolo) by Marcello VenustiCasa Buonarroti

The painting, attributed to Marcello Venusti, belongs to the famous prototype of Michelangelo's portrait made by Jacopino del Conte in 1535 in Rome.

Medal with Michelangelo (recto) (1561) by Leone LeoniCasa Buonarroti

The lead medal was made in c. 1561. This specimen was not included in the collection of four silver and bronze medals, which Leone Leoni had sent to the artist as a gift on the 14th March 1561.

The inscription shown on the medal indicates that Michelangelo in 1561 was 88 years old. But we know that he was born in 1475, so at the time he must have been 86 years old.

Bust of Michelangelo (1564/1570) by Daniele da Volterra e GiambolognaCasa Buonarroti

The face of this bust was sculpted by Daniele da Volterra, a trusted friend of Michelangelo’s. He was one of the few to assist him on his deathbed and to mold the mortuary mask in 1564.

Daniele da Volterra made six heads of Michelangelo, two of them destined to Leonardo Buonarroti. The sample of Casa Buonarroti was decorated with a sumptuous cloth by Gimabologna.

The erection of the tomb of Michelangelo in Santa Croce (1618/1620) by Tiberio TitiCasa Buonarroti

The Michelangelo's legacy

After Michelangelo's death, the houses of via Ghibellina and the artworks of the great master were entrusted to the only male heir of the family: Leonardo Buonarroti. Mainly known for turning over to Cosimo I de' Medici some of the uncle's masterpieces (like the Madonna della Scala), Leonardo was actually the first one to commit to converting the houses of via Ghibellina in a single noble building. Thanks to him, a first building renovation and the purchase of another adjoining apartment took place. The beloved nephew of Michelangelo was also the commissioner of a funeral monument for the artist in Santa Croce. This last event has been commemorated, years later, by this painting by Tiberio Titi, commissioned by the son of Leonardo, Michelangelo The Younger, who wanted to include portraits of his family in the painting.

These are Leonardo Buonarroti and his wife Cassandra Ridolfi, whom he had married, in May 1553, after a long research for a spouse and under the pressure of his uncle.

These two children have been identified by Steimann as the second and the third-born of the couple: Michelangelo The Younger, 7-year-old, on the left and the 11-year-old Ludovico, on the right.

Portrait of Michelangelo il Giovane (1610/1615) by Cristofano AlloriCasa Buonarroti

The seventeenth century magnificence

Michelangelo Buonarroti The Younger (1568-1647) finally put in place the wishes of his homonymous great-uncle. A prominent public figure in the Florentine cultural life of the early 1600s, he designed and commissioned the four monumental rooms of the main floor, where the celebration of his great ancestor merges with the celebration of the arts and of the whole family. The intention of celebrating his family was appreciated also by the Grand Duke Cosimo II who, to remark the enterprise, gave back to Michelangelo The Younger the Madonna della Scala and numerous drawings that his father was forced to give in to Cosimo I. Thanks to Michelangelo The Younger’s diligence and passion, the Buonarroti collections got notably rich: to him we owe, among others, the acquisition of the predella with episodes from the life of Saint Nicolas by Giovanni di Francesco, from Santa Croce.

This intense portrait, made by Cristofano Allori, shows Michelangelo The Younger, Michelangelo's great-nephew and great patron of Casa Buonarroti.

Michelangelo and the Poetry (1621/1622) by Zanobi RosiCasa Buonarroti

Michelangelo The Younger had his portrait included in one of the monumental canvases of the Casa Buonarroti Gallery. Here, the artist Zanobi Rosi painted Michelangelo crowned by Poetry.

In the background we recognize the client, Michelangelo The Younger, accompanied by the painter, Cristofano Allori, author of the drawing of the canvas, and here honored after his untimely death.

Portrait of Michelangelo Buonarroti the Young (1629/1630) by Giuliano FinelliCasa Buonarroti

One of the most vibrant portraits of the collection: Michelangelo The Younger commissioned this bust to Giuliano Finelli, a portraitist who worked in Rome between 1629 and 1630.

Medal of Filippo Buonarroti (1731) by Antonio MontautiCasa Buonarroti

The archaeological erudition of Filippo

Michelangelo The Younger died in 1567 and was followed in running the household by the nephew Leonardo and his son Michelangelo. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 17th century that Casa Buonarroti got back to being the center of the city’s cultural life. This impulse came from Filippo Buonarroti (1661-1733) who, though not a direct descendant, became owner of the dwelling in via Ghibellina by virtue of his great intellectual gifts. President of the Etruscan Academy of Cortona, he created the archeological section of Casa Buonarroti, enriching its collections with several Etruscan and Roman pieces.

This medal, made by Montauti in 1731, shows Filippo on the recto; on the verso, within a laurel wreath and a cameo head of Minerva, we can read the dedicatory inscription.

Portrait of Cosimo Buonarroti (1857) by Aristodemo CostoliCasa Buonarroti

The last heir 

In the early 19th century, Casa Buonarroti experienced a moment of crisis, corresponding with the regency of Filippo Buonarroti The Revolutionary (1761-1837). During this period of time, the heritage of the Buonarroti's was confiscated by the Austrians who ruled Florence and was given to the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital. In 1812 the son of Filippo, Cosimo Buonarroti (1790-1858) became the owner of the House and he was the last rightful heir of the Buonarroti family. In 1846 he married the british venetian noblewoman Rosina Vendramin and together resumed the fate of the Casa. Cosimo restored the house of via Ghibellina and instructed that, after his death, lacking lineal heirs, the House would be turned into charitable trust and donated to the city of Florence.

Portrait of Rosina Vendramin (1850/1857) by Aristodemo CostoliCasa Buonarroti

Rosina Vendramin, wife of Cosimo Buonarroti, worked very hard to restore the decorum of the house of via Ghibellina. Thanks to her, a valuable collection of sketches by Michelangelo was rediscovered.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
International Museum Day 2020
From iconic art to cutting-edge fashion, get a better appreciation and understanding of culture from around the world
View theme
Google apps