Tuesday, 19 August 2014

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment