Wednesday, 20 August 2014

West Wycombe Park

West Wycombe park was one of the first country estates to be taken over by the National Trust. It was handed over to them during the war in 1943. It was a curious place to visit because you get the overwhelming feeling that you are not welcome there - the staff (bar our tour guide) were all quite miserable. The house is only open from June to August while the gardens are open by themselves in April and May. In the three short months that the house is open to the public you can only visit it without a tour guide on Sundays, while Monday- Friday you can visit by appointment only and the tour is noticeably rushed. Also, you cannot take pictures and this is because the collection inside of the house is still the property of the Dashwood family. Most weird of all though was the hundreds of photos placed all around the house of the current generation of Dashwoods.

It is unlike most National Trust properties in that it is so strict. The reason for this is that way back in 1943 the National Trust was not the strong institution that it is today and the Dashwood family were able to strike a deal with the trust. Usually, the National Trust will take on an estate in the knowledge that the house is open most of the year so that a sizeable income can be made from visitors. In return, the trust will restore and conserve the exterior, interiors and furniture. However, the donor family are allowed to live alongside the estate. In my opinion, that is quite a reasonable deal - you cannot afford a home and instead of losing it forever the National Trust pays for its upkeep in return for you allowing it to be open and donating the house in its entirety to them while still being able to live somewhere on site.

However, this wasn't good enough for the Dashwoods. They insisted that the collection of furniture and interiors remain their property and that the house be open on their terms. This has made for a less than amicable relationship between the trust and the family. Personally, I am in the National Trust's corner. You cannot expect to call the shots on a house you simply cannot afford - but that is pride for you. In any case, once a house is donated to the National Trust the action cannot be revoked - not ever.

Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of the inside but I have a few notes on what we saw:

In 1698 Thomas Lewis sold the house to Samuel and Francis Dashwood and in 1706 Francis bought out Samuel's share. Money was no object for the Dashwoods and so the entire house was altered throughout time (not to mention Sir Francis splashed out £10000 on buying himself a Baronetcy). In 1708 Francis becomes a father to Francis Dashwood II. Four years later in 1712 the house was demolished and a new Queen Anne Style house was built. Sir Francis Dashwood died in 1724. The house as it is now was largely completed by 1750 under Sir Francis Dashwood II of whom changed the house that his father had built.

Francis was to go on FOUR Grand Tours throughout 20 years and would have seen a lot of classical art and architecture. His trips across the continent clearly left their mark given the fact that the first rom you enter - the hall - is built like a Roman hall. There are copies of original busts of Roman Emperors, scagliola columns and Giuseppe Borgnis walls and ceiling. What is more, there was even a hypercaust system that was discovered in the 1950's that was sadly in a state of disrepair. This Roman influence was not fully understood until 1912 when Francis III peeled off some of the paint in what was then a whitewashed hall to discover the gorgeous decoration underneath. There is also a clock in the hall that the guide was particularly proud of, it was mid 18th century and apparently the finest example of clock making in Britain.

The staircase is to the left of the hall as you walk in. It runs all the way to the top of the building with frescoes lining the walls the entire way up. Unfortunately the view of the staircase that we got was limited (because it is shut off to the public). However from the ground floor you can see a fresco of the Goddess of Silence that is fittingly holding her index finger to her mouth and the pretty rococo plasterwork on the roof.

Dining Room
The dining room is also to the left of the building as you walk in (underneath the staircase). The walls are the work of Giuseppe Borgnis and the floors date back to the Regency period. The dining table is fairly new and was acquired when a film set brought it in to film with and the current Dashwood (Edward Dashwood) asked whether he could keep it. There is also a number of portraits that I am sure I have seen before in London at the Society of the Dilettanti. The portraits are painted with private jokes in mind and one particular one I like is the one of Sir Francis Dashwood with a glass of wine and a turban:

The ceiling in this room is a copy of Raphael's Council of the Gods by Borgnis. The windows are beautiful dating back to 1858 with little stained glass roundels in the lunettes. Beneath the windows are Code stone plinths - created by Code hence the name - and represent the 4 seasons. They are important because Code invented the recipe for this stone herself but lost it so the composition of the pieces are difficult to copy. Extending outwards into the room, each corner has a table with the eagle wings motifs; 2 of the 4 are original and 2 are impressive copies - the other 2 originals were sold to a gallery in Liverpool. Another pretty piece of furniture was the Chinoiserie Chippendale mirror. Portrait wise, there is a depiction of Thomas Lewis (the original owner) and Francis II worshipping Venus. He is dressed like a Franciscan monk worshipping a naked deity. He had an odd sense of humour.

Red Drawing Room
What I found the most interesting about the Red Drawing room was the fireplace. On the right hand side of mantlepiece there is a bell. The bell was previously attached to the servants quarters but does no longer work. The mirror above the fireplace is a beautiful rococo design and the ceiling a grostesque inspired design.

The Study has yet again another Borgnis ceiling. The room also houses a mirror that has left and since returned to the Dashwood family. It may have originally been sold for financial reasons but returned to the house when a New York art dealer recognised the Dashwood coat of arms. We know that it had not yet been sold in 1774 because the inventory of that year states that the mirror was present. This room also has architectural drawings for the house placed all over the walls. 

Blue Drawing Room
The Blue Drawing room used to be a dining room. It is based on the Palazzo Farnese in Rome and the ceiling depicts the story of The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne - which is a copy of Annibale Carraci's work of the same name (which is in the palazzo). This room also houses the oldest painting in the house: that of the virtues.

Music Room
This is the last room in the tour before they open up the large doors in this room and send you on your way. It currently has portraits at either end of the room of the current Dashwood and his wife. The ceiling is again by Borgnis and depicts the banquet of the gods. It was here that we were told by our guide that Borgnis was supposedly murdered - because people were jealous of his success. His son had to complete the ceiling. There was also a picture of the Foundation of the Dilittanti Society and a painting of a Bird Market thought to be by Rembrandt (or was it?)

My notes a little out of order and I couldn't figure out which room I was referring to: there was a Florentine cabinet here that Francis acquired on his Grand Tour. A very large souvenir - as you do. It was made from Lapis Lazuli (an imported pigment from the middle east) and ebony and therefore probably very expensive.

This is the north side. The first side to reach completion under the revonation. It is Palladian in style - rusticated first floor, Palladian windows and a portico.

This is the south side of the building. It was the second side to be completed under the renovations of Francis Dashwood II. It is influenced by the Palazzo Chiericati Vicenza in the double tier loggia running across the facade.

This is the east side. It was the 3rd to be completed and it is not set centrally. Originally, there were bushes at either side of the portico to hide the fact that it was off-centre. The National Trust have since replanted these bushes in order to achieve that effect.

This was the 4th side to be completed in the 1770's. The west side. This portico is significant because it is the first time that a Greek source was used directly in the construction of a building. When it was finished the Dashwoods held a party where they had everyone dress up as ancient Greeks. The architect was Nicholas Revett.

This is a 'Ha-Ha' and was used in many country estates to keep the animals that were on their land away from the immediate gardens surrounding the house. It basically a steep trench with a wall.

Tower of the Winds: It is a clear Greek prototype what with the frieze (albeit not decorated according to how the Greeks would of), pyramid roof and octagonal shape. If anyone had read Antiguities of Athens (1762) then it is likely they would recognise this as Greek. However, on the left hand side there is a Baroque door and door frame that had been taken from the original Baroque house before Francis Dashwood II had it converted into a Palladian house.

Given the fact that Nicholas Revett did not write his book until the 60's and did not arrive at West Wycombe until the 70's, you would think that this temple therefore would be dated from the 70's onwards. However there was a document found that would suggest that this was potentially made in the 50's. Therefore, it is possible that Revett was here earlier and was already interested in Greek revival as early as the 50's.

The boat house. It was really sad to see this big beautiful space not being used by anyone. Our lecturer brought us here immediately after Chiswick so the contrast between the garden open to the public and this one was very obvious.

Much of the landscape was done by an associate of Capability Brown.

This was rebuilt in the 20th century with the help of the National Trust. Quinlan Terry modelled this on images he had seen of the original temple. It was originally built like this on a mound in response to a political rival of Dashwoods that had built his own Temple of Venus (Lord Cobden). The mound and the odd little cavity in the stone wall beneath it is meant to be a representation of female anatomy...

If you're interested in visiting West Wycombe then click here. If you are given a specific time to arrive then arrive at least 15 minutes early. Do not be late, you have been warned...


Chiswick House

Last week my classmates and I visited Chiswick House and Gardens in Hounslow, London. For info on how to get there and the opening times click here. The building we see today is how it has looked since 1950 but before then it was much larger with protruding wings at either side. Logic would lead you to believe that if the rest of the house was damaged during air raids during the war then there would be a great impetus to conserve and repair the house but no - oh no - it was someone's bright idea to tear some (most?) of the house down. The convent in Milan where Leonardo's Last Supper is was badly hit during the war but you don't see the Italians just knocking it down, do you? Although, maybe it was fate that the house should be dismantled - given most of the property that had been on the site was gone anyway (there was a massive Jacobean house that stood beside it that was demolished in the 1780s). As luck would have it, during the demolition a part of the house that was there before the addition of the wings (by the Duke of Devonshire: the same man who tore apart the Jacobean house) was found and it has since been restored from the ground up. That is not all though, the house has had a colourful history thanks to the financial difficulties of its owners. Their inability to keep the house running meant that it has been a mental hospital and a firestation before it was sold to Middlesex Council and then taken under the wing of English Heritage and ultimately given its Grade I listed building status.

Casting aside all the alterations made throughout time, the original house was built for Lord Burlington in the 1720s in the back garden of his Jacobean House already mentioned. It was designed by Burlington himself while William Kent gave him a helping hand with the interiors and gardens. It was initially separate from the neighbouring house. However, the house (in Burlington's time) did not have any real practical rooms. There was a number of halls, galleries and so forth but no kitchen or bathroom. There was, notably, a wine cellar. The villa was obviously an entertaining space but the issue still remains: where can you eat, and more importantly where could you go to the toilet? Burlington resolved this with ease: one would walk along the garden to the neighbouring house to use the facilities that are lacking in the villa. This was probably all well and good until he remembered he was in England and therefore decided it would be best to create a room to 'link' the two houses together. This is the part of the house that was rediscovered when demolishing the Duke of Devonshire's wings (of which the architect was John White). 

We came in through the car park which first takes you through a series of  maze-like gardens by William Kent before it leads you here - at the side of the house:

Despite having been told that the house is not particularly big (by country house standards) it is still underwhelming to see the size of it in person. The gardens are very beautiful and full of people so in general it is quite a cheery place - but - first impressions were not great. 

However when you turn the corner things begin to make sense. This is thought to be the best surviving Palladian exterior in England and it is incredibly beautiful and reminds us all of the Villa Rotunda. It is not overwhelmingly decorative and that is because Lord Burlington believed a house is a reflection of the gentleman that owns it; therefore, it needs to be calm and perhaps even austere on the outside while on the inside lively and personal.

My favourite part of the facade are these staircases. I don't know why - they just are. I'm not much of a photographer so believe me when I say there is a statue of Palladio behind the staircase in the first picture  while there is a statue of Inigo Jones behind the staircase in the picture directly above (I think it is that way round...). Regardless of the which way round they are, they are there to pay homage to the creator of the style that Burlington has used (Palladio) while equally claiming that English architecture is the best (Jones).

This was originally the entrance before Lord Burlington moved the road further in front of the villa (yes- he moved a road). This is a sphinx. They are the symbolic gate keepers of secrets and riddles and suggest that Lord Burlington wanted his house to be mysterious and baffle his contemporaries (which it did). In line with the secrets and mysteries idea my lecturer mentioned an article that was written about 20 years ago that entertained the possibility that Burlington was a Jacobite. For a man in his position,being found supporting the Catholic Old Pretender would be disastrous. But, the article suggests, he was keeping his wits about him and ensuring that upon a possible Catholic return he was not punished.

Palladianism was the style of a new Britain. At the beginning of the 18th century the political intrigue that denied The Old Pretender his throne had to extend far enough into culture as to consolidate the new Britain that it had created. It was the Whigs who took it upon themselves to be the government in support of George II and Lord Burlington was (supposedly) a Whig. Thanks to Colen Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus (1715-25) that promotes Palladianism as the only style fit for the new king, Burlington (and others) turned their back on the Baroque style and took up the Palladian style.

The octagonal gallery.


The 3 pictures above are of the 'Dome Saloon'. It has some beautiful plaster work with a coeffered ceiling (although they seem to be EVERYWHERE) and a cute pattern on the floor that I liked. It was quite a small space, as is all of the house really, and it is hard to imagine any real big dinner parties happening here. It is the biggest room, or at least less narrow than the others, but still a banqueting table would not fit comfortably here. Perhaps then, it is changing trends at parties among the elite. No longer would people spend their time together all night but they'd venture off into different areas of the house to engage in different activites: cards, reading, dancing...?

This is the ceiling to the central part of the Gallery. The Gallery is made up of three small rooms. The outer two rooms are octagonal with absidal ends and a richly decorated coeffered ceiling. This room, the middle room, is rectangular. I believe it is this image that Burlington believed was by Veronese (important because he painted for Palladio). It's not.

Mythology: Burlington was part of the gang of people who began to look back to Renaissance sources and see them in light of the people who inspired them. Therefore, it is not surprising that Burlington played around with mythology in his design. He was incorporating the language of the ancients but for his own use. This here represents the origins of the Corinthian order as described by Vitruvius. If you look closely you'll see what appears to be acanthus leaves coming out of a head. The story is that a girl died and her maid places a basket on her grave from which acanthus grew. He was showing us that art and architecture was important to him and that he was no fool - he shared secrets with Vitruvius.

This ceiling is potentially by Kent. It represents the three arts.

This is the Red Velvet room. Red Velvet was seen as a good combination of colour and texture from which to hang art. The inventory says that there was an awful lot crammed in here.

Same as the Red Velvet room - but in blue. The roof represents architecture and quite fittingly Burlington used to display his drawings by Palladio that he had collected on his second Grand Tour here. 

The Green velvet room.

I was given a plan of the house as it was in the 18th century and this - as per the inventory made upon Burlington's death suggested - was a bedroom. The bottom picture was the bed chamber while the top picture was the closet. Very small.

The garden is still for the most part a formal one. Although, there have been a handful of places that have been left to grow. Pretty nonetheless.

Lastly, they have a cafe and a field with loads of games on it. Including this connect 4 that I won..... (and lifesize chess but I don't know how to play it...)

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Florence 2012 Journal: Analysis of Michelangelo's Bacchus.

Michelangelo's Bacchus was originally sculpted for a high ranking cardinal called Raffaele Riario in 1496-7. However, he was unhappy with it and its eventual owner became Jacopo Glli. It is made out of marble and depicts Bacchus, the Roman God of Wine, whilst drunk. It is one of only two completed works from his time in Rome that has survived until this day (fig. 1). However, it was a very controversial piece in terms of the message it portrays, the likeness to original depictions of Bacchus and lastly, its form.

The subject matter is said to have been 'a popular subject with artists of the 16th century'.[1] However, the reception to this particular portrayal was not positive. It did not serve the correct purpose of sculpture during the 16th century. John Symmonds has suggested that this is due to the fact that it appears 'wrong in spiritual conception'; whilst also being 'brutally materialistic' in a society where it should have been 'noble or graceful'.[2] Therefore, it is not surprising that Riario was so displeased with Michelangelo's work. The spiritual conception would have been vital to the cardinal - it was important to surround himself with deities to allude to his own sense of being god like. What is more, to possess a good sculpture was as much of a status symbol as it was anything for a particular purpose. Therefore, even though 'Romans drank wine with every meal during the Renaissance', nobody wanted to admit they may ever compose themselves in the same way as Michelangelo's Bacchus.[3] With this in mind, it is indeed difficult to see who would actually have wanted to own the Bacchus as in doing so they would be portraying themselves as irresponsible and not noble at all.

Whilst Symmonds goes on to explain that 'the countenance of this figure is the most revolting mistake of the spirit and meaning of Bacchus', other art historians argue that his Bacchus is actually very truthful to classical depictions of the God, thus not a mistake in meaning or spirit.[4] One particular scholar asserts that the 'relaxed pose and natural gaze' is testament to his in depth knowledge of the classical Gods, as he had been studying the works of Greece and Rome through the works that had been 'collected by his patrons'.[5] Such knowledge is displayed in his addition of the Satyr. This shows that he was aware of the Bacchanalia - the ancient festivals or celebrations of Bacchus in which only women and Satyr's were allowed to attend.

In terms of form, Michelangelo was extremely advanced and 'approached the study of anatomy as a means of achieving greater beauty in his figures'.[6] Symmonds, who earlier had criticised the piece, here considers it in a far more positive light and casts aside the other issues he may have had with it - he summarises his findings in the following:

'The arms are executed in the most perfect and manly beauty; the body is conceived with great energy, and the lines which describe the sides and thigs, and the manner in which they mingle into one another, are of the highest order of boldness and beauty.' [7]

What Symmonds is referring to here is the naturalism Bacchus exhibits. The 'manly beauty' is the strength in the shoulders and the clear display of muscles throughout the body. This is a direct result of Michelangelo's studies in anatomy. Whilst studying, he dissected numerous dead bodies in the Santo di Spirito hospital, Florence; and as Bacchus was executed a mere 4 years later, it is clear that the acquired knowledge was fresh in his mind and applied perfectly. Also of note is the stomach - it is slightly bloated due to the wine and thus further evidnce of Michelangelo's expertise in human form.

In conclusion, Michelangelo may not have portrayed Bacchus in his most conventional form, and for the time it may have been an undesirable piece to own. However, for an art historian in th 21st century it is of significant value as it showcases the High Renaissance in its most truthful and unflattering yet brilliant form.

[1] G. Di Cagno, Michelangelo (Art Masters), (Oliver Press, Minnesota, 2008), 20.
[2] J. Symmonds, The Life of Michelangelo (Kessinger Publishing Co, Montana, 2004), 31.
[3] A. Nickerson, A journey into Michelangelo's Rome (Roaring Forties Press, California, 2006), 38.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Gi Cagno, op. cit., 20.
[6] A. Nickerson, op. cit., 38.
[7] J. Symmonds, op. cit., 31.

Florence 2012 Journal: The Bargello

The Bargello

The word 'bargello' is said to derive from the Latin word bargillus that translates into 'fortified tower'.
During the Renaissance years it was a term to describe the chief of police and their offices; the Bargello in Florence was exactly that, as well as a prison. Now, it is a national museum (pictured right).

  • Salone di Donatello: Donatello room.
The Donatello room houses both of his David and Goliath statues. The first one was cast in 1408 and the second in the 1440's. The first is made out of marble and portrays David in the classical contrapposto pose. He is without any weaponry but the slight opening in his fingers has lead art historians to believe that he may have originally had a bronze or leather strap in the clasp of his hand. Similarly, there is a large hole in the back -it is likely that it was where they were going to attack the statue to the facade of the cathedral in Florence. The drapery on the figure is very simplistic, however Donatello's decision to portray a heroic David in the contrapposto pose implies that this was Early Renaissance sculpture nonetheless. Goliath's head is at his feet and there remains two stones in his head, one of which has David's slingshot still attached.

The second David was made entirely out of bronze, with various parts covered in gilding (that has since faded away) and is once again in the contrapposto pose. The face of this David figure is supposedly modelled on Antinous (the lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian) - who is claimed to possess unparalleled beauty. Furthermore, this statue was the very first naked round statue post - antiguity and thus can be seen as a far bigger indication of Renaissance than his previous statue of the same name.

Another statue situated in this room is Donatello's St. George (pictured left). It was originally created in 1416-17 to sit in a niche on the facade of the church of Orsanmichele. Although completely made of marble, there is some indication that there was once some bronze components. This can be seen in the fact that George's hair is slightly flattened (indicating that a helmet was there) and his hand slightly open (once holding a sword). The period in which this was cast was during a time when Florence was occupied by Naples. Throughout this occupation it is documented that Florentine soldiers used to have conversations with this statue. Of course, he could never speak back but the indication of this is that it served as a morale booster - and in this it foreshadows Michelangelo's David and the prupose it served.

Lastly, we also saw Andrea del Verrochio's take on David. It supposedly has the face of his pupil, Leonardo
da 'Vinci, as an early teen. It is fairly similar to Donatello's in that he is also standing in the contrapposto pose, whilst also having been gilded (but now faded). The head of Goliath is movable, as was the rock lodged in his forehead (now missing).

Florence 2012 Journal: The Uffizi

The Uffizi

On the last week of our course we visited the Uffizi for a third time. On the way to the first room we were to visit, we momentarily passed 'La Tribuna'. This room is considered the successor of the Medici 'Studiolo' and therefore houses one of their most treasured possessions - Venus de' Medici. As previously touched upon, the Venus de'Medici was sculpted in approximately the 1st century BC and is one of the classical 'Venus Pudica' statuettes. Its influence on the return to naturalistic sculpture during the Renaissance is undeniable across painting and sculpture.

  • Sala di Perugino e Signorelli: Perugino and Signorelli room.
Madonna and Child, Luca Signorelli, 1419. A composition consisting of three rounds. The one in the middle is the largest while the two above are considerably smaller. The most interesting thing about this painting is the sophisticated portrayal of time. This is present in the middle, larger round. The background depicts the Pagan religion before the birth of Christ, the middle ground shows the Madonna and Child at the time of his birth whilst the foreground foreshadows the death of Jesus Christ (this is shown by the plants at the bottom that signify passion and pain).

  • Sala di Mantegna e Corregio: Mantegna and Corregio room.
This room contains the works of the pupils of Leonardo Da' Vinci. His influence can be seen across the room in examples by Luini and Boltraffo of whom have painted to the same 'smokey' effect that Leonardo was renowned for. Furthermore, if you were to analyse the faces painted by the two, you would realise they are almost identical. This has much to do with how Leonardo approached training the apprentices in his academy, he would have them learn techniques parrot-fashion; and the similarities in the faces are no doubt the consequence of being told to copy from a workshop book.

A painting we focused on was Leda & the Swan by Francesco Melzi. It is believed the two (Melzi and Leonardo) shared a relationship. The subject matter here revolves around the story of the nymph Leda- she was pursued by Zeus but denied him on the grounds that she only loves nature and animals. Therefore, Zeus turns into a swan to make love with her. 

  • Sala di Leonardo: Leonardo room.
Annunciation, Leonardo da' Vinci, 1472.
The Annunciation by Leonardo is in a peculiar shape in comparison to the paintings that surround it. It is rectangular (pictured below); and this is so that it is perceived correctly by the viewer. If you look at the painting from the right hand side, it looks perfectly in proportion as the space extends down the rectangular canvas. However, if you stand at the opposite end, Mary's arm is far too long. It is clear that wherever the painting was meant to be placed only offered a fixed point of view from the right. This is called anamorphosis.

Baptism of Jesus Christ, Leonardo and Verrochio, 1470.
Verrochio was Leonardo's teacher and this collaboration was supposedly where Verrochio noticed just how skilful his pupil was when he asked him to paint an angel at Jesus' side. Leonardo's angel shows three dimensionality so convincingly that it is widely claimed that Verrochio vowed to never touch a painting of Leonardo's ever again, in order to not tarnish it and undermine his skill. It is interesting that there is mirrored glass on the underside and outer side of the robe that his angel is holding. Furthermore, the painting was executed during the years that Verrochio took on the commission for the statue of the doubting Thomas for the Orsanmichele church in Florence. By consequence, his depiction of John the Baptist has a likeness to the statue - he drew influence for both figures from the same place. As you can imagine, the painting is full of iconography. Most notably there is an interesting allusion to the trinity above Christ's head - this consists of the hands of God with divine light shining down, a dove and the plate of John the Baptist. Other features include a palm tree (meaning sacrifice) and a bird of prey fleeing the divine light coming from above (foreshadowing the death of Christ). Lastly, the medium was Tempera and Oil on Panel which is typical of Leonardo.

  • Sala di Michelangelo e dei Fiorentini: Michelangelo and Florentine room.
Along with works from Michelangelo himself, the room also houses works from the likes of Granacci. Granacci was the man who recommended Michelangelo to the workshop of Ghirlandaio. In this particular room, he is responsible for the depiction of Joseph Presents his Father and Brothers to the Pharaoh (pictured below). It is executed in the same shape as Leonardo's Annunciation to which it also serves the same purpose. This time however, the fixed point of view is to the left.

Also in this room is Michelangelo's Doni Tondo (1506) (pictured right). It was commissioned by the Doni family upon the arrival of a Doni - Strozzi baby (hence the subject matter of Madonna and Child). The piece was moved back and forth from the ownership of the commissioner as he initially refused to pay the price that Michelangelo had asked for. As hinted by the word 'Tondo' (round), it is a piece comprising of a number of smaller rounds circling the much larger round in the center. The rounds that surround the main composition are decorated with either a)the evangelists or b) the four doctors of the church; which of the one either one is remains unclear as there are no attributes depicted. The uppermost round contains the face of an adult Jesus Christ. The main part of the composition includes time representation through the background/middle ground/foreground as I discussed in other paintings previously. The allusion to time is constructed in the following way: Naked, seemingly Pagan people in the background, a baby John the Baptist in the middle-ground and the Madonna and Child in the foreground. John the Baptist is significant in that he is often seen as the figure who connects the Old and New Testaments. One last note on this piece is that it shows evidence of 'Colori Cangianti' which essentially means vibrant colours; it is often believed Michelangelo's usage of such new, innovative colours paved the way for the mannerists to follow.

  • Sala di Raphael e Andrea del Sarto: Raphael and Andrea del Sarto room.
The last room we visited was the one containing the Uffizi's collection of Raphael Sanzio's work. First we saw the Madonna and Child (1505) that uses a 'pyramid composition' of the figures present in the painting to allude to the holy trinity. This was commissioned for Lorenzo Nasi and was kept in his household for a long time. So much so, it was kept in the basement of his house for such a long time that it was only re-discovered once damaged when unearthing the contents of the area after an earthquake had hit.

The other painting I found interesting is the portrait of Julius II dating 1510. The original is currently in London's National Gallery and has since influenced the likes of Titian and Francis Bacon to portray their very own 'Julius II'. The pope is depicted with fine and expensive looking rings on his finger, with a precious rock from each continent - this portrays Christianity as the religion of the world. His expression is often read as an allusion to his wanting to take control of the entire world, he seems slightly irritated and stubborn. However, Raphael was the master of giving things dual meanings. While the approach of most art historians towards his expression is plausible, the simple matter of fact is that Julius II was toothless! Therefore, Raphael aimed to hide that.