The true story of an extravagant 19th-century collector.
English in origin but born and raised in Italy, Frederick Stibbert (1838-1906) cherished a dream: to travel and collect items that could tell the history of world cultures. The dream came true: on the hills of Florence he built a house in Gothic style intended to accommodate his eclectic collection of 56,000 works of art: naturalia and wonders from distant countries, artefacts, paintings and sculptures, curios, armour, costumes, pictures, boxes, books and prints. His interests also lay to the East – India, Turkey and Ancient Egypt (which he visited in 1869 for the opening of the Suez Canal) – prompting him to construct, perhaps according to his own project, an Egyptian style shrine in the garden of his villa. An uncontrollable fever drove him, finally, to the Chinese and Japanese cultures, and to the acquisition of what are by now unique original pieces. Before dying Stibbert donated his house-museum to the city. Visited by tourists from all over the world, it is a place without equal: the house, the garden and the museum have been shaped by Stibbert’s taste and interests and his desire to revive and live in a fairy-tale world with knights and dames. The book tells the life of Stibbert, his passions, friendships and the world around him in Florence, London, India and his many spiritual homes. Gentleman, dandy, shrewd financier and generous collector, Frederick Stibbert fully represents the multifaceted encyclopaedic culture of his time.