The Museo Casa Siviero, a surprising place
The house that belonged to a major 20th-century collector, Rodolfo Siviero, better known as the James Bond of art.
What does James Bond have to do with a Florentine museum? Besides the fact that the famous British spy is a lover of beauty (particularly of the female kind…) and Italy, there wouldn’t seem to be any connection between him and the city of Florence.
The truth is that James Bond in the flesh lived in Florence, or better, an extraordinary man lived here that during the years of Fascism contributed to the recovery of many valuable pieces of art that were looted during the war by Nazi-Fascist gangs. His name was Siviero, Rodolfo Siviero.
The life of a true 007
During the Nazi occupation, Rodolfo Siviero served as an agent for the Intelligence Services. Under the command of the Allied forces and in collaboration with anti-fascist militias, he carried out genuine intelligence work, entrusted with, among other things, collecting information about artworks stolen by the Nazis. After the liberation of Florence in 1944, Rodolfo collaborated with the Commission Fine Arts and Monuments, with the authorization of the Ministry of Public Education, to safeguard and redeem Italian works of art that were taken abroad. At the end of the war, in 1946, the Italian government established the Ufficio Recuperi, or Recoveries Office, and Siviero was appointed to lead it. Throughout that same year, he also directed the Italian diplomatic mission to the Allied Military Government in Germany, with the role of overseeing the restitution of artworks held in German storages.
In the 1950s, Siviero became the director of the Delegation for recovering stolen works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and continued to look after the recovery of artworks in Germany. He also searched for works spread throughout Italy until 1983, the year he died. His was a long and valuable career, which today can be enjoyed in all its extraordinary beauty at his former home, in the neighbourhood of San Niccolò.
The Museo Casa Siviero
The Museo Casa Siviero is a real residence and when you enter the building, you will almost feel the need to say, “May I?” because the atmosphere is very intimate and in a certain sense, you will feel just like… a guest.
The multi-story house is a splendid 19th-century palazzina located at the beginning of Lungarno Serristori and includes a small garden; the artworks you can enjoy throughout the rooms are displayed like furnishings in a house, almost naturally. From the paintings on the walls to the statues to the furniture, you can bet that each one of these pieces has an extraordinary story to tell, with Rodolfo as the protagonist. You will find works from every era of Italian art: Etruscan artifacts, Roman sculptures, 13th-century wooden statues and paintings from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Not to mention the works in bronze and terracotta, ancient textiles, weaponry, medallions and liturgical accessories.
Siviero, in addition to being a collector, was also a friend to many artists of his day, and for this reason, inside the museum, you can find works by De Chirico, Giacomo Manzù, Ardengo Soffici and Pietro Annigoni. All in all, it’s a true treasure chest just a short walk from the historic center, which you can enjoy with peace and quiet, far from the more well-known overcrowded museums.