Most people visit the monumental complex of Piazza dei Miracoli and leave. Others venture farther away from the Leaning Tower and visit Piazza dei Cavalieri and Borgo Stretto. Most people who say they have visited some museums as well have probably only visited Museo dell’Opera del Duomo and maybe Museo delle Sinopie.
There are, however, many other interesting museums in the city. One that is quite famous is Museo di San Matteo, which houses the works of art of leading 12th-17th century Pisan and Tuscan artists and a rich collection of archaeological treasures. I visited it a few years back, and for some reason, the part I loved the most and which I remember best was the part dedicated to sacred art. I especially loved the wooden sculptures, the large medieval wooden Crosses, and the paintings of the Virgin Mary. One in particular amazed me: the painting of a young, pregnant mother of Jesus, a very unusual image in the Italian Roman Catholic tradition. The building itself is quite interesting too.
Another “minor” museum is Palazzo Reale. For many it is already surprising that Pisa has a “Royal Palace” to begin with. The palace was designed by Buontalenti in the 16th century and was home to the reigning families of Medici, Lorena and Savoia for centuries. The museum is interesting because of both the furnishing and design typical of a Renaissance noble residence and the works of art that it houses. In this museum, I especially liked the tapestries which once belonged to the Medici family and a beautiful polyptych of San Nicola da Tolentino, painted by a young Raphael in 1500.
Throughout the city, there are several other interesting museums and galleries. Palazzo Lanfranchi houses Museo della Grafica (the museum of graphic art). The building also hosts exhibitions on a regular basis. I loved the one dedicated to Keith Haring a few years back.
The newest “cool place to be if you like art” is Palazzo Blu. It is a recently renovated building housing a permanent collection and really nice temporary exhibitions. At the moment, there is an interesting exhibition about the French-Tuscan expedition to Egypt led by the Pisan archaeologist Ippolito Rosellini in 1828-29. An impressive collection of more than 200 archaological finds and watercolour paintings. At the beginning of this year, they hosted a fantastic exhibition devoted to Chagal and the Mediterranean Sea. Palazzo Blu is also home to a specialized bookstore selling art catalogs and art books.
Finally, the minor university museums. The Domus Galileana is well worth a visit: it houses a great library which contains manuscripts by Galileo and other famous physicists such as Enrico Fermi and Antonio Pacinotti. Another interesting collection is that contained in the “Gipsoteca” of the University of Pisa. A “gipsoteca” is a collection of plaster casts. The university collection includes casts of famous works of art used from the 18th century on to teach archaeology and art students.
Last, but not least, a gallery that only very few people know of: CentroArteModerna, a gallery of contemporary art. They have hosted a number of really interesting exhibitions dedicated to contemporary artists and are appreciated art catalog publishers.
Happy Art Wednesday!!!