Art at the Uffizi


I’ll be happily plebeian till the day I die but I learned to appreciate art (and museums) more once I realized it was okay to approach them with less than total reverence. Before, there were paintings or sculptures that I just couldn’t bring myself to admire because, to be honest, they were downright ugly. Or grotesque. Or silly. Like the artist was having a lark. (The emperor’s new masterpiece: throw blobs of paint on the canvas and see if everyone will call it art.) But I’ve learned that perhaps the artist was having a lark, or perhaps the grotesqueness was intentional, or perhaps, even, that that was the limit of the artist’s technique at the time, and that’s okay, that the evolution is part of the greatness. And if I still don’t like something that’s fine too — the artist couldn’t care less what I think, after all, and to pretend an affection I don’t feel would just be…affectation. Best to go through life with honesty even though it’s a virtue that seems to have no snob value.

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Florence is the cradle of the Italian Renaissance and it’s chock-full of artistic masterpieces — so much so that there is apparently a thing called “Stendhal syndrome” where visitors actually get dizzy because of the profusion of art. It’s not in the DSM and may just be the modern version of “the vapors” but there’s no question Florence is festooned in art. A lot of it is under one roof: in the Uffizi Museum.

It’s been said that the queues to get inside the Uffizi can take up to 5 hours in high season (July especially). When I was there last February — that is, in the off-season — there were barely 5 people ahead of me. I was in the regular queue too; I hadn’t prebooked a ticket because I wasn’t sure when, or if, I would actually visit. However, it rained on my first full day in Florence, and even though I’d anticipated it and actually had rain boots on, it just seemed more sensible to get indoors. And so, after the Duomo (a.k.a. The Architectural Wonder that Started as a Group Project Gone Wrong) I drifted towards the Uffizi.

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(And that’s how I came to be stomping through the Uffizi in wellies.)

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It was, I can honestly say, amazing to be in the same room as masterpieces I’ve only previously seen in pictures.

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Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus

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Caravaggio’s Sacrifice of Isaac

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Pollaiolo’s Badass Lady with Fire on Her Fingertips and Unimpressed Son

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The Manacled Man Who’s Miraculously Still Smiling

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The Little Boy Who Decided He Just No Longer Gives AF

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Oh, very well, perhaps I’m just making some of that up.

There’s just really no way you can go into a museum and not find something funny.

Take this painting. According to my audio guide, it was initially rejected by the guy who commissioned it and honestly could you really blame him?!

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I mean, no offense to the painter, and I personally can’t even draw a proper apple, but this ↑ looks like it should be called Baby Jesus Messing With Mummy’s Makeup.

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This ↓, on the other hand, could be Joseph Wondering What He Has Gotten Himself Into.
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Mary and the Annunciation She Made No Secret of Being Not Particularly Thrilled With

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The Holy Family unsurprisingly figure in a lot of paintings.

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John the Baptist surprisingly figure in so many of them, you’d think he was adopted by JMJ at some point. I mean, I suppose it was possible, his parents being nearly a century old when he was born. It would make for some interesting family dynamics…

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There are labels on some of the photos — which I did on the fly, while listening to the audio guide — to remind me of things I learned or noticed, or things I wanted to look up when I got home.

Like:
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This painting was destroyed by a car bomb set off by the Sicilian Mafia outside the Uffizi in 1993.

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This painting — Uccello’s The Battle of San Romano — apparently pleased Lorenzo de Medici himself so much, it hung in his very own bedroom.

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This one…

…I labeled “St. Sebastian na pod” (St. Sebastian again) because honestly I’ve seen so many paintings of him! But I suppose that’s because he makes an arresting figure with arrows stuck all over his body. Fun fact: St. Sebastian was shot with arrows but he did not die because of them; rather, he was clubbed to death. (Go figure.)

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Then there are these Renaissance-era selfies:
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I've said so many times that I'm not really a museum person, but the Uffizi Museum in Florence has so much art by so many names that even I recognize, it would have been a shame not to pop in. Since I haven't the faintest about chiaroscuro and perspective and stuff like that, I usually focus on the backstories of each painting. This one is Adoration of the Magi by Sandro Botticelli and it features "cameos" by 3 generations of the Medici family, including Cosimo, his son Piero the Gouty (heh), and his son Lorenzo the Magnificent. And just for kicks, Botticelli paints himself in, as the figure in the right, looking at the viewer, almost winking and saying, "Well, aren't I good at flattering my patrons?" Lol

A post shared by SmallTownGirls MidnightTrains (@smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains) on

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Mislabeled, sorry: one of my new favorites, Gerrit van Honthorst.

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Speaking of favorites, this next one really caught my eye because it seems to speak of adventure.

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Specifically: Tobias Goes On An Epic Journey With Three Archangels Trying Not to Be All Judgy About His Red Tights.

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I’ve only just noticed that Tobias is wearing boots but the angels are, from right to left, barefoot, wearing sandals, and wearing Dorothy’s red slippers. I wonder if there’s a significance to that…

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Anyway, this one of Athena — and I’m not making this up anymore, promise 😀 — is Botticelli’s Pallas and the Centaur which is interpreted as wisdom tempering our brute instincts.

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There are other interpretations — such as Pallas actually representing Lorenzo de Medici overcoming greed — but that first one makes practical sense, applicable to this day, so we’ll stick to it.

And finally, I just thought that this portrayal of Mary Magdalene — a detail from one of Luca Signorelli’s Crucifixion paintings — was really cool.

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And that was my tour of the Uffizi. Apologies to any art lovers I may have offended 😀 but I just really like art better when I feel free to laugh at it.

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8 thoughts on “Art at the Uffizi”

  • Oh this was wonderful! I enjoyed every bit of it. And laughed out loud several times. I studied art throughout high school, and also visited the Uffizi, and I never did get all that Renaissance stuff. I like your interpretation much better. Though I do love Botticelli’s Primavera and the Birth of venus. And I agree, Signorelli’s painting of Mary Magdalene is very cool.
    Alison

    • Thank you. It took me a long time to realize that! I used to tend to stay away from art because I could never get into what I thought was the proper mindset for it.

  • Haha this is great! Made me LOL! Nevertheless, being inside a museum can both be overwhelming yet in a weird strange way, refreshing! I haven’t been to Florence since my honeymoon! That’s a hundred years ago. 😀

    Oh wait, I take it back. I went again five months after with my cousin!

    • Oh, it would be nice if you could go back! It’ll be interesting to compare how you felt about it all those years ago and how you’ll feel about it now.

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