Casa Martelli might be closed to the public, but a restoration campaign has unearthed murals and decorations dating to the early nineteenth century.
The discovery was made on the ground floor of the fifteenth-century palazzo during a renovation aimed at adding previously unused rooms to the museum experience. The months of pandemic-induced closure are being utilized to rewire the museum’s electrics, improve accessibility and add amenities such as a coffee shop, bookstore, archive and conference room.
Preliminary cleaning tests were carried out in June 2019, which revealed tempera wall paintings beneath the modern white plaster surfaces. Similarities were found with other frescoed rooms in the house museum. The decision was made to remove the plaster from the walls, which started in October 2020, resulting in two halls ornately decorated from floor to ceiling with landscape scenes, a room imitating a pavilion draped in fabric and others adorned with classical and geometric motifs.
Initial research has led the restorers to consider that these rooms might have been painted for the 1809 marriage of Niccolò Martelli (1778-1853) and Caterina de’ Ricci, with the aim of adorning the bride’s summer apartments. Archival documents recorded the names of painters who were actively decorating noble palazzos in Tuscany, who also worked on the ground and first floors of Casa Martelli: Niccolò Contestabili (1759-1824), from the northern Tuscan town of Pontremoli, a specialist in parlors painted with French-style greenery; Gaspero Bargioni (1793-1835), an ornate-style painter enrolled at the Accademia dell’Arte del Disegno, Florence’s drawing academy; and painters Giovanni and Antonio Ciseri.
A short distance from the Duomo, the Casa Martelli house museum displays masterpieces by Mino da Fiesole, Piero di Cosimo, Domenico Beccafumi, Salvator Rosa and Luca Giordano in halls frescoed by Vincenzo Meucci and Tommaso Gherardini.
Casa Martelli is currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions and the ongoing restoration campaign. For more information, see the museum’s website.