Thursday, July 15, 2010

At the Uffizi

I spent the entire day in the Uffizi today. I left my hostel a little after nine to walk there, arrived a little before ten, and spent a little more than an hour waiting on line, which wasn't too painful because I had my Kindle with me. I was smart this time, and left all of the heavy things out of my bag, including my big camera, and I didn't even attempt to take pictures. I had a lovely day visiting with familiar works and getting to know unfamiliar ones.

Some thoughts:
  • There was a lot of Roman sculpture in the galleries and in the long corridor connecting the galleries, but there was almost no wall text about it, and it was treated almost like furniture. There were lots of busts, and some of the placements were amusing, such as when a bust of Hadrian was placed next to a bust of Antinous, with poor Sabina nowhere in sight, or when Caracalla appeared right next to Geta. They're going to have to be careful in the Uffizi about arousing the ire of Caracalla's ghost. I'm hoping I see better explanation of Roman sculpture at the museums in Rome.
  • A major early highlight was seeing Giotto's giant Madonna Enthroned displayed next to Cimabue's of the same subject. We used this comparison as the basis of our first survey section this past spring, and it was wonderful to see it in person.
  • I like Botticelli and all, but I'm not over the moon about him, so seeing and The Birth of Venus and Primavera was strangely underwhelming. Honestly, I much prefer his teacher, Filippino Lippi, and I was gratified with several great works by this master.
  • There was a gorgeous portrait by Durer of his father, dated 1490, where I think the stubble may have been painted with a single hair. The level of detail was extraordinary!
  • I have now seen works by all four of the art history Ninja Turtles in the past week. I was especially moved by Leonardo's Annunciation, and I lingered over it for some time. The funny thing was that the wall text suggested it was best viewed from the lower right, and so I crouched down to look at it, and agreed. This led to a whole bunch of other people crouching down to see what I was doing.
  • I have finally seen Titian's Venus of Urbino! I fell in love with that painting when I first saw it in class, and I've been dying to visit it ever since. I made good use of this visit, and lingered for quite some time.
  • Looking at some of Canaletto's view paintings of Venice painted as souvenirs for Grand Tour visitors, I wondered what he would think about the vendors outside the Uffizi who are now performing more or less the same service, but with printed posters.
  • My last big moment was during a special exhibition of the work of Caravaggesque painters in Florence, when I suddenly stumbled upon Artemesia Gentileschi's Judith and Holofernes, which is even gorier and yet more glorious in person. This was another painting that I visited for some time as crowds streamed past me. Also, as I looked at the blood spattered across Judith's gown, I couldn't help wondering what Dexter would think of the whole thing. :)
Those are the big highlights from today! I apologize for the lack of pictures, but I'm sure I will make up for it when I get to Rome. I know that the Vatican is much more permissive about photography, because I've checked.

A final question: I have tomorrow all planned out, but what should I do on Saturday? I've thought about taking a day trip either to Siena or Pisa, since they're both reasonably close, but part of me thinks that it might be a better idea to lay low, relax, and let my mind process all that I've seen so far this week. What say you? Anybody out there been to one of those places and think they can't be missed?


  1. Glad I found your blog in time to suggest Siena! Siena is amazing and such a great contrast to Florence. I'd highly recommend a day or two or more there, even if you don't do it on Saturday.
    Have an amazing time!

  2. Hey Sarah, I love the blog. Great idea! Yeah, I noticed that the Uffizi does a lot of non-kosher museum techniques. Maybe it has something to do with Italy just having so much awesome art that it all seems so familiar. Also I noticed that Italians are into skimpy labels.
    If you go to Siena, make sure to check out the Palazzo Publico to see the great set of murals by Lorenzetti, Good and Bad Government. I learned about them in class and years later saw them on my trip to Italia. I know that you'd like them. For relaxing you could have gelato or a glass of wine in the adjoining city square.
    By the way, Siena is rocky. Lot's of stone everywhere. So if you're interested in having a picnic you'll have to go outside the city. I've never been to Pisa and I'm not sure what cool stuff they have. Of course, either one is probably going to be great.
    Buon divertimento!

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  4. i vote siena. you'll get to pisa and be like, oh, that's a leaning tower. fun. ::click:: ::leave::