Today, I was relieved to learn that we’d only be visiting one museum- the prestigious Uffizi Gallery, as opposed to yesterday’s itinerary which included three Florentine sculpture museums. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE museums, but this way, I could pour all of my energy into thoroughly looking at and enjoying every painting instead of exhaustedly trucking through multiple museums and mentally beating myself up for “not being grateful” and “not appreciating the art that lots of people would kill to see”.
For fellow study abroaders, have you ever experienced that kind of guilty feeling, like you’re not enjoying yourself enough? If so, please tell me about it so I feel like less of a crappy person.
Anyways, The Uffizi! Here are my thoughts on the Uffizi Gallery, and a little recounting of my visit! Enjoy 🙂
About the Uffizi Gallery
Located next to the Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery is one of Florence’s most famous art museums. And that’s saying a lot considering there are around 70 of them! The Uffizi specializes in Italian renaissance art, and so most of the works are either paintings or altarpieces that have been converted to paintings. A lot of these paintings are world-famous, and originally belonged to the powerful Florentine Medici family’s private collection. That’s why you’ll see a lot of recognizable artist’s names, and some you may not!
I hope this post won’t be too fact-heavy and boring, but because I’m not sure what else to say besides “it has paintings”, so I’m going to tell you a little about my favorite paintings at the Uffizi Gallery. Woo!
Golden Altarpieces? Paintings??
If you’ve been keeping up with my study abroad travels, you’ve probably noticed that our class talks A LOT about golden altarpieces. And since Florentine artists specialized in golden backgrounds with brightly colored characters, you can be sure that there are A LOT of golden altarpieces at the Uffizi.
The reason that artists like to use golden backgrounds for altarpieces is that when they are placed in churches, they reflect the candlelight beautifully. Rich, bright colors are good choices for these kinds of paintings because it draws the eye off of the background. Even outside of a church setting, these paintings are gorgeous to look at, and although the shock has worn off after seeing dozens, I still find that I love to look at them.
Some of the most common motifs for these paintings are the Madonna and Child and the Annunciation. This is because Mary and Jesus are the patron saints of about 50% of the time at any given church. I should probably know why that is, but I don’t. Sorry pope.
Many of the Madonna and Child paintings are so similar that I have to squint to spot the differences, but what I know for sure is that Renaissance painters were stumped on how to draw babies. Baby Jesus always ends up looking like a tiny man! Not that I could do any better, of course.
Another common theme for golden paintings is the Adoration of the Magi, which portrays the 3 wise men and lots of others trekking out to see baby Jesus in the barn in Bethlehem. During class, we had to compare and contrast 2 adorations by Fabriano and Monaco. Fabriano seemed to have a better grasp on depth, but I really liked Monaco’s outer-space take on the Nativity story!
Botticelli’s Party Paintings
Botticelli’s art is so popular that it takes up nearly a whole wing of the museum, and this wing was PACKED during our visit.
These paintings draw such a crowd because unlike most other artists of the time, Botticelli painted greek and roman mythological figures as opposed to the traditional christian dieties. One of the most popular of these, and my personal favorite, is Primavera, which shows a handful of greek gods celebrating the spring in a forest, including Mercury, Cupid, and Venus.
Venus is the star of another painting called the Birth of Venus, where she floats to shore on a scallop shell and is welcomed by Zephr and Aura.
I’m no art expert, but I really love how flowery, celebratory, and bright these paintings are. They’re fun to look at, and feel like a breath of fresh air.
It’s also a wonder considering these paintings were allowed to be made, because non-christian art was often considered blasphemous at the time. Botticelli’s party paintings are the exception, though, because they were commissioned by the Medici family.
Fun Fact! We know they were commissioned by the Medicis because they contain oranges and orange blossoms, which were considered Medici family symbols.
And one to grow on
another art work that I was excited to see was the portrait painting- General Federico and his Wife Battista. It’s a good example of what high-level Florentine fashion would have looked like at the time, and I’m semi-proud to say that my big forehead would have fit in perfectly in medieval Florence.
Lunch on the Rooftop
We were told that the Uffizi gallery has an especially good restaurant as far as museums go, and since it was on the roof, we made our way up there for some good food and views!
We were lucky enough to get a table right on the roof’s edge, and I ordered a panini and sparkling lemonade (I’ve been obsessed with the lemonade in Italy since I got here). They were both good, but the lemonade ended up being MORE expensive than the sandwich! What?! I guess that serves me right for assuming prices when they’re not listed, but I’ll know better for next time.
At least the view was spectacular!
For info on pricing and hours of operation for the Uffizi Gallery, click here!
A Strange Lady outside the Uffizi Gallery
After lunch, we left the Uffizi Gallery to find a very strange sight on the Piazza della Signoria square. There was a woman dressed in what looked like gray face paint and paper-mâché with a group of tourists gathered around her. It’s not unusual to see people in crazy costumes begging for tips, especially in Florence, but this was different. A person would go up and clasp hands with the old woman, she would say something in Italian, and then the person would give her money and say “thank you” over and over, looking at her as if she’d just performed a miracle.
I have no clue what that was all about, and I wasn’t brave enough to walk up and ask. Have any of you encountered this?
Today affirmed that I like Florence a lot. It’s just such an easy-breezy place to be, especially during the off season when it’s nice and cool and the crowds aren’t nearly as bad. Besides being clean and bright, the food here has also just been amazing. My friends and I decided to splurge on a fancy dinner to try some more of it, and it ended up being the craziest night of study abroad to date! It’s just crazy enough that I think it warrants its own post, so look out for that soon 😉