Il Fatidico Sgabello – Florence, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Il Fatidico Sgabello

National Archaeological Museum of Florence

Florence’s archaeological museum displays an ordinary stool that once shattered one of its most prized artifacts. 


The François Vase is one of the most notable pieces in the National Archaeological Museum of Florence’s collection. Dated to circa 570-560 B.C., this Attic black-figure krater, the oldest of its kind known today, was discovered in an Etruscan necropolis in Chiusi in 1844 and sent to Florence for restoration.

The pottery bears two inscriptions: “Ergotimos made me” and “Kleitias painted me.” Both are fairly well-known artists in antiquity, with several of their works exhibited at museums around the world. The vase depicts a total of 270 figures, in a variety of mythological scenes such as the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the Centauromachy.

On September 9, 1900, the François Vase was smashed into 638 pieces when a museum guard hurled a wooden stool against the protective glass during a fight with his colleague. The damage was initially deemed irreparable, but restorer Pietro Zei managed to reconstruct it perfectly in 1902. It had to undergo another restoration in 1973 after the flood of 1966 damaged it again.

The Archaeological Museum exhibits not only the vase but also the stool that once broke it, dubbed Il Fatidico Sgabello or the “Fateful Stool.” It’s easy to miss (or dismiss), but gives a fascinating first-hand look at the history of this piece.

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June 18, 2024

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