On our first morning in Florence, I got up at the crack of dawn and went out to our apartment’s “Terrace with a View,” where I took photos of the city. We ate breakfast in our apartment: yogurt, raspberries, granola, instant coffee and orange juice.
Then we walked the long haul to the Uffizi Gallery, which sits alongside the Arno River. We passed an Italian silk scarf shop which I noted for a future stop. We walked past the Galileo Museum and turned right along the Arno toward the Uffizi.
I had reserved tickets in advance (in March) for the Uffizi Gallery, Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. Thank goodness they had a decent system in place for letting people in according to their reserved time slots, and they limited the numbers of people to 600 at any one time. Luckily, we could walk wherever we wanted. It was crowded but not as packed and miserable as the “herd” experience at the Vatican Museums. The gallery occupies the vast U-shaped Palazzo degli Uffizi, built between 1560 and 1580 to house government offices.
The Uffizi Gallery, or Galleria degli Uffizi in Italian, has a great collection of art history from ancient Greek sculpture to 18th-century Venetian paintings. The heart of the collection consists of Italian Renaissance paintings, featuring such greats as Giotto, Leonardo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian and Michelangelo. The collection was given to the city by the Medici family in 1743 on the condition that it never leave Florence.
Our problem was that we didn’t know exactly what we were looking for, so we missed many paintings by these greats. There was so much to see here, that we could easily bypass many famous artworks. Many times the most famous pieces of art were surrounded by large impenetrable Chinese tour groups. I lost patience with these rude groups who were busily taking selfies and blocking views.
The Medieval collection (1200-1400) showcases paintings by Duccio, Cimabue, and Giotto. This was a period where art moved from the flat Byzantine style toward realism.
Simone Martini’s shimmering Annunciazione (1333) was painted for the altar of St. Ansanus in Siena Cathedral. The Archangel Gabriel’s greeting to the Virgin is set in a sea of gold.
This panel was originally painted for Orsanmichele, the guilds church, where it adorned the pier assigned to the Arte del Cambio (Guild of Bankers and Moneychangers), St. Matthew being the guild’s patron saint.
In Florence, Giotto di Bondone painted an altarpiece known as Madonna Enthroned, or the Ognissanti Madonna. Here, the Virgin Mary has the Christ Child seated on her lap, with saints and angels surrounding them. This representation of the Virgin is called a Maestà, popular at the time. It is often celebrated as the first painting of the Renaissance due to its escape from the constraints of Gothic art, and its naturalism.
The Early Renaissance was the period from the mid-1400s. This was the era of humanism, where ordinary people became central in art.
This panel is part of a cycle of three paintings, Battle of San Romano, that celebrate the victory of the Florentine forces over the Sienese troops at the battle of San Romano (Pisa) in 1432.
Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned by the Augustinian monks to paint a panel for the high altar in the church of San Donato in Scopeto, outside Florence’s city walls. The Adoration of the Magi, or the celebration of the feast of the Epiphany, was his subject. The Virgin and Child are the focus, while the kneeling Magi offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus. The background is filled with ruined buildings and clashes between knights on horseback, while on the left, a temple is being built, alluding to peace; this contrasts with the fighting horses on the other side.
The sculpture hall has 2,000-year-old copies of 2,500-year-old Greek originals. Classical sculpture was the foundation of the Renaissance. Artists were inspired by ancient Greek and Roman works as the epitome of balance, human anatomy and beauty.
Athlete, known as Apoxyomenos, depicts an athlete using a singular instrument, the strigil, to scrape off the oil applied for health reasons to his thigh, thus the name Apoxyomenos (“he who cleanses himself”). The vase is a 16th century addition. There are numerous replicas of this work, including this one. It has been suggested that the original was the work of a great artist, possibly Lysippus, a late 4th century master who is known from literary sources to have carved a statue of this subject.
This modern version of Laocoön was carved by Baccio Bandinelli in Rome, working alongside the original which was unearthed on the Oppian Hill in 1506 and is now in the Vatican Museum.
From the Sculpture hall, we had a view of the inside courtyard of the Uffizi and the Arno River through the window.
In Adoration of the Magi, 1487, by Domenico Ghirlandaio (Florence 1449 – 1494), the Magi pay homage to the newborn Christ against a backdrop dominated by the ruins of an ancient building, with the stable where Jesus was born in the middle.
There were so many religious paintings, after a while they all started to look alike.
The Renaissance (1450-1500) was a period of European artistic, cultural, political and economic rebirth following the Middle Ages. It basked in the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art.
The Botticelli room is filled with masterpieces of the Renaissance idea that things of the flesh are not sinful.
The Birth of Venus, 1485 ca., by Sandro Botticelli (Florence 1445 – 1510), shows the goddess of love and beauty arriving on land, on the island of Cyprus. The goddess is standing on a giant scallop shell, as pure as a pearl. She is met by a young woman, who is sometimes identified as one of the Graces or as the Hora of spring, and who holds out a cloak covered in flowers. Even the roses, blown in by the wind, are a reminder of spring.
Pallas and the Centaur, 1480-1485ca, by Sandro Botticelli, shows a young woman armed with a battle axe dragging a centaur by the hair. The proud feminine figure is thought to be Pallas Athena (Minerva), goddess of knowledge, or Camilla, virgin and warrior, who died in battle defending the country, as well as being a fine example of chastity. The young woman wears a dress with the insignia of the Medici family. Her face is surrounded by plant shoots, perhaps the olive, associated with Pallas or the myrtle, associated with Camilla.
The centaur, a mythical creature combining man and beast, symbolizes the animal instincts of humanity. The work alludes to virtues that should control a passionate temperament.
This painting, Spring, 1480, usually known as the Primavera, shows nine figures from classic mythology hovering over a flowery lawn in a grove of orange and laurel trees. The goddess of love and beauty, Venus, dominates the painting. She is chastely dressed and set slightly back from the others. A blindfolded Cupid fires his arrow of love.
Fortitude is painted by Sandro Botticelli (Florence, 1445 -1510) as a young woman wearing armor over her elaborate dress and holding a ruler’s scepter. In spite of the military attributes, the Virtue alludes to strength and perseverance in the pursuit of good. She is one of the four cardinal Virtues.
Annunciation, 1481, by Botticelli, is a fresco set in a Renaissance palace, overlooking a garden, enclosed by a crenelated wall at the end. The portico, through which the archangel Gabriel appears, leads into Mary’s room.
The High Renaissance (1500-1550) was a short period of the most exceptional artistic production in the Italian states, especially in Rome and Florence. Most art historians state that the High Renaissance started around 1495 or 1500 and ended in 1520 with the death of Raphael, although some say the High Renaissance ended about 1525, or in 1527 with the Sack of Rome by imperial troops.
Venus of Urbino, 1538, by Titian (1488/90 – 1576) depicts “the figure of a young bride about to be dressed to take part in the celebration of the ritual known in Venice as ‘il toccamano,’ in which a young woman whose hand was requested in marriage would touch the hand of the groom to express her consent. The girl, lying naked on a bed with crumpled sheets, gazes out at the onlooker in a flirtatious, allusive manner, while hiding her pubis with her left hand and holding a bunch of roses. At the foot of the bed, the sleeping dog is a reference to fidelity in marriage. The background shows an elegant room of the kind distinctive to a rich patrician home in 16th-century Venice. There are two maids, one intent on searching in the painted chest from which she has just removed the sumptuous gold and light blue wedding dress that can be seen on the shoulder of the other maid, standing to the right. On the window sill is a pot of myrtle, a traditional plant linked to Venus, and a further reference to the constancy in love already alluded to by the dog at the foot of the bed” (Uffizi Gallery: Venus of Urbino).
In the Uffizi bookstore I found a journal, bookmark and magnet. We were finally released into the sunshine to explore more of Florence. 🙂
*Tuesday, April 30, 2019*
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: The Long Way to the River.