Days before our departure, G insisted that the Uffizi gallery had to be seen. With over 1.5 million visitors a year, it’s reportedly the most visited museum in Italy. Being not a fan of the crowds I still had to accept one fact that touristy places are popular for a reason. The Uffizi houses the world’s finest collection of Renaissance masterpieces, right where the Renaissance was born!
With that said, the queue was not so crazy long when we came, so it took us only ten minutes to check ourselves in. We scanned very quickly the temporary exhibition of Venetian drawings and soon reached the endless East corridor on the second floor with spectacular ceiling frescoes, paintings, busts and statues lined up on two sides. The Uffizi was created not as a museum but a private gallery of the Medici, one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Italy. The portraits of Medici family members could be seen on the long corridor walls, alongside paintings of famous intellectuals from various countries and periods.
On the left side of the corridor we found the parallel halls where an overwhelming collection of artworks was displayed in chronological order, starting from the 13th century. Knowing that it would be impossible to see and remember everything, my strategy was to focus on the works by those who I had been familiar with, or at least, had heard of. By that time, I already had a few Renaissance Masters in mind including Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli and most recently Brunelleschi for his magnificent cupola, an unmistakable icon of Florence. Still I kept my mind open to learn.
Above are two paintings of the International Gothic style, which caught my attention not only for their rich and varied colors but also the enormous size and the lavish god leaf background embellishing the panels. Lorenzo Monaco and Gentile Da Fabriano were among the artists who broke away from the static, symbolic style of medieval art and moved towards naturalism, however the mix of styles was still evident in their works. The transition wasn’t so clear until decades later.
From the Botticelli room onwards, religion was no longer the only subject for art and the human figures became more life-like. Naturalism, a major characteristic of the Renaissance style, was introduced. In The Birth of Venus, the background landscape looked so genuine, unlike the symbolic mountains in the Monaco’s Adoration of the Magi. The Godness of Love was posing elegantly while the wind gently blowing her wavy blond hair. Everything was in motion, something you would never find in the Byzantine and Gothic art.
The further we walked the more evidences of the art transformation we found. It was G who helped me recognise a strong signal of the Renaissance: the three-dimensional depth. In the Annunciation, Leonardo Da Vinci painted the faces of two figures (Mary and the angel) bright against a dark background and depicted cast shadows, creating a visual sense of depth for the painting.
With dozens of halls the Uffizi was overwhelming and tiring at the same time! After two and a half hours we only covered half of gallery so there was a little rush at the end. If I can give one piece of advice to any future visitors of the Uffizi, it would be this: do your homework and save up your energy for the must-sees at least!
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