Italy 23: Florence (Part 5)

Effusing over the Uffizi

May 23, 2019

“After the ruling house of Medici died out, their art collections were gifted to the city of Florence under the famous Patto di famiglia negotiated by Anna Maria Luisa, the last Medici heiress. The Uffizi is one of the first modern museums. The gallery had been open to visitors by request since the sixteenth century, and in 1765 it was officially opened to the public, formally becoming a museum in 1865.” (Wikipedia)

The Uffizi Gallery, one of the most important museums in the world, and particularly known for its Italian Renaissance collection, is huge. It has always been huge, but in 2006 the viewing area was expanded by 6,000 metres2, to 13,000 metres2 (139,000 ft2). The exhibition area comprises three floors, with rooms opening into other rooms and then onto corridors on either side of an internal courtyard (which opens onto the Arno).

Various sections of the gallery are devoted to Spanish artists, Dutch artists, Flemish artists, French artists and, of course, Italian artists — from Florence, Siena, Venice and many other regions. Different exhibition areas feature individuals and schools of art – Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Lippi, Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo and the Florentines, the Lombardi School, and on and on. There are several Rembrandt self-portraits that I wish I’d paid more attention to — a documentary we saw recently about Lucian Freud mentioned Rembrandt as an early adopter of the form.

Individual rooms display cabinets full of miniatures, and there is a mathematics room and a “hall with ancient inscriptions.” The long corridors along the piazzale are lined with statues dating from the 13th century. Everywhere you look, there is something that you do not want to miss.

It is overwhelming.

When it came to paintings at the Uffuzi, my eyes were drawn particularly to the works of Sandro Botticelli and Filippo Lippi — some of which were new to me, others familiar from photographs. I loved the colours and the range of characters and, as in the case of “Madonna of the Pomegranate,” the titles.

Then there were the sculptures. This one, of Hercules slaying the Centaur, was a relic from early Roman times – missing its heads and legs – and was completed during the Renaissance by Giovanni Caccini. Check out the marble base on which the sculpture is set, the long hallway beyond it lined with other treasures, and the delicate artwork on the ceiling.

I was intrigued by the plaster cast of the monument commissioned by the husband and children of Sofia Czartoryski Zamoyska, following her death in 1837 at the age of 59. Zamoyska had ten children and was once named the most beautiful woman in Europe. She and her husband were exiled in Florence following uprisings in Warsaw in 1830-31. The photo at the bottom, by Saiko, shows the monument by Lorenzo Bartolini that is located in Zamoskya’s tomb in the Machiavelli-Salviati chapel in St. Croce, and the engraving from the British Museum depicts the princess in her mid-twenties.

It continues to amaze me how stone (and even plaster) can be made to look so natural — like the actual fabrics and skin they depict – in the hands of a gifted sculptor.

The Laocoon Group by Baccio Bandilelli was based on another relic discovered in a vineyard in 1506. In the sculpture, Laocoon and his sons are fighting sea serpents sent by Poseidon. The original was made out of a single block of marble; the reproduction used three.

We not have the oomph to look at all the works on display in the Uffizi Gallery, nor was there time to make notes on many of the ones we did see. The more modern creations/interpretations below intrigued me, but I have no idea who did them or when. (The one on the right seems to reflect the more traditional sculpture behind it. The two on the right are clearly cast from the same mold.) Feedback from anyone who knows about these works is welcome.

Update: I found a note I had written to myself. The modern works were by Antony Gormley. The one in front of “Sleeping Hermaphrodite,” itself “a Roman copy from the imperial age of a 2nd century BC Hellenistic original resting on a plinth” is entitled “Settlement IV” (2018). And the dude outside the Effizi is called “Event Horizon” (2012). The Gormley exhibition is entitled “Essere” (“Being”) and included fifteen sculptures by the British artist.

2 responses to “Italy 23: Florence (Part 5)

  1. Ruth stevenson

    We should all go to Florence and stay there for six months at least to appreciate all the wonders.

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