A hurly-burly of cars and motor scooters zoomed forth the attenuated asphalt streets and so did I, dispatch to accommodated an old acquaintance at the Uffizi Gallery.
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There never seems to be abundant time to analyze Florence. Here, area the spirit of the Medicis soars over arch and alarm tower, over Ghiberti’s Gate of Paradise and Michelangelo’s arresting marbles, over Giottos and Donatellos and Botticellis, there is so abundant to see and acquaintance that it’s attainable to assignment oneself into a frenzy.
La citta dei fiori (City of Flowers) is so affluent in the spirit of the Renaissance that the catechism of digesting it all, I was about to learn, is a bulk of time, a bulk of slowing down. Even, in some cases, of aptitude back.
The Galleria degli Uffizi was congenital by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 to abode the authoritative and political offices (uffizi) of the Medici, the able and affluent Florentine ancestors that rose to bulge during the Italian Renaissance. The arcade is the home of the best important art accumulating in Italy and one of the best beauteous in the world. It is adamantine not to run agrarian here, there is so abundant to see. Area should a actuality go first? To Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” to Filippo Lippi’s “Madonna and Child with Angels,” to Da Vinci’s “Annunciation?” What about Michelangelo’s “Holy Family,” or that Raphael over there, or that Titian, or . . . ?
That was my accompaniment of apperception aback I met Hannes Keller in advanced of the gallery. We paid our access fees and climbed the advanced Vasari Staircase to the third floor, area 45 apartment of art are abiding forth three corridors. Congenital in the appearance of a big “U,” the two continued prongs are the East and West corridors, affiliated by a abbreviate (South) aisle that looks over the Arno River. From the West Aisle there is an access to the continued Corridoio Vasariano (Vasari Corridor) that traverses the top of the Ponte Vecchio arch to the Pitti Palace on the added ancillary of the river.
The Uffizi is one of the best heavily visited museums in the world, and the curve to get in are legendary. Hannes and I were there backward on a summer afternoon, so alike admitting it was busy, we didn’t get absent in a big crowd. The Uffizi stands abutting to addition huge day-tripper attraction, the Palazzo Vecchio, whose belfry dominates the skyline at the aperture of the Uffizi’s “U.” Central the gallery, I swivel-necked my way forth the East Corridor, acquainted the marble sculptures of emperors; the paintings of kings, queens and cardinals; the tapestries from Flanders and Medici workshops. But my apperception was set on the arcade apartment with all those acclaimed paintings.
I anticipation Hannes was appropriate beside me in this rush, but aback I angry about I saw him sitting bottomward on a bench. What was he doing? I went aback to acquisition out. Pointing to the ceiling, he said with a abundant laugh, “How about that?” Looking up, I saw a active painting of a satyr-like animal demography aim with bow and arrow beeline at the apparent behind of a white-bearded man.
This carefully abominable actuality chock-full me in my tracks. I sat abutting to Hannes on the bank and leaned aback to look. The archer had foliated legs and hooves for feet. His target, draped over a simple adorning analysis as if it were a solid table, wore a gay, acicular cap that looked like a houseplant.
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Surrounding the two characters in this adorn (frescos are paintings area watercolors are activated anon to wet plaster) were active accessory borders, some of them drapery, some of them pillars absolute asperous faces with accoutrement for ears. There were perching birds, and a admiration woman who counterbalanced herself on one bottom on top of a corrective column. Urns acquired out of clocks, and bake-apple copse sprouted from beginning trees.
Hannes had stumbled assimilate one of the marvels of the Uffizi Gallery–the adventure of the Renaissance as told in “grotesques.” I had been to the Uffizi before, but had never noticed these ceilings–maybe because they are 20 anxiety high, but added acceptable because I’d never slowed bottomward to notice. The paintings are attainable to see, if one alone looks up.
Hannes and I went from bank to bench, aptitude back, alike lying down, to appraise these frescoes. We spent about an hour accomplishing this, while anybody abroad in the arcade formed about in normal, cocked fashion, absent to our fascination.
Divided by blubbery copse beam beams, anniversary area of the East Aisle is adherent to one accurate aspect of the Renaissance. In the “Scultura” (Sculpture) section, names like Della Robia, Donatello and Michelangelo are corrective on the beam abutting to amusing chisel-bearing figures; Filippo Lippi, Uccello, Verrochio and Fra Angelico are represented in the “Pintura” (Painting) theme. There is “Architettura,” “Poesia” (Poetry), “Musica,” “Filosofia” and “Matematica” to consider.
The ceilings were corrective in 1580 by Florentine painter Alessandro Allori and his students. Allori, an addict of Michelangelo (and whose acclaimed “Pearl Fishers” hangs in the adjacent Palazzo Vecchio), took his cue for the beam paintings from the “grotesque” appearance that was across-the-board Europe at the time. This art analysis had aloof been rediscovered in the charcoal of an age-old cave beneath the Golden Abode of Nero in Rome. It was a fanciful, adorning blazon of painting that had been acclimated in the Roman Empire, and Nero (AD 37-68) was a big fan of it.
The grotteschi, as they came to be accepted (because they were begin in a grotto), featured absurd animals and men with harpy’s or lion’s anxiety entwined with accouterment and draped over or perched on piers, pilasters, ledges and cornices. Urns, amphorae and corrective lamps afraid central and alfresco accessory frames. The chat grotteschi, which is the agent of our chat “grotesque,” I now realize, does not betoken an animal abnormality but article absolutely fantastic–like the Italian Renaissance.
The aberrant East Aisle scenes characterize an astronomic ambit of endeavors, including political philosophy, banking success and Renaissance doctors analytic cadavers to abstraction anatomy. They appearance men debating, artists with easels and musicians arena instruments. Hannes and I advised abstracts apery “Politica” (Politics), “Legge” (Law), “Teologica” (Theology), “Medicina,” “Agricultura” and “Militaria.” Additionally “Ospitalita” (Hospitality), “Amore delle Letteratura” (Love of Literature) and “Amore di Patria” (Love of Country). There was alike “Fortuna” (Fortune) to consider.
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Hannes and I had gone to Florence to adapt an orchestra/piano accident in the United States. Hannes, besides actuality a accomplished pianist, is an art collector, computer genius, artist of all sorts of things, such as abyssal diving systems, and alike a ski clothing for the Swiss Olympic ski team.
Hannes is a adept of abounding arts and trades and, admitting the chat is overused, I anticipate of him as a Renaissance man. Therefore, the accomplished business of avant-garde cerebration was actual abundant on my apperception while we lay on our backs belief the beam of the Uffizi’s East Corridor. You can’t advice but be abashed by the bookish innovations that took abode during the Renaissance. It was a time aback bags of Hannes Kellers seemed to be active about all at once.
In the Middle Ages one’s claimed activity on Earth meant beneath than the afterlife. The focus was on God and what happened afterwards death. However, in 1300, aback the artist Dante was 35 and the painter/sculptor/architect Giotto was 33, the accent started to about-face from apostolic abuse to the wonders of man’s inventions and intellect. By the time the aboriginal Medici, Cosimo the Elder (1389-1464), began to patronize artists, the date was set for a above activation of the animal spirit.
This activation (the acceptation of “renaissance”) was a gigantic beginning of arts, abstract and intellect, and it was additionally the ancestry of avant-garde science. It began in the 15th aeon and lasted into the 17th. Man became admired not alone as a conception of God, but additionally as a architect too–and the abstraction developed that God may accept created the apple for man to adore and improve.
In the arts, the after-effects were obvious: abandonment from religious themes, painters such as Botticelli acclaimed the adorableness of the animal analysis and the rites of spring. Architecture accustomed a big addition too. Aback the additional Cosimo de’ Medici (1519-1574) commissioned Vasari to architecture the architecture that would abode his authoritative offices, the admired architect-artist-critic came up with an innovation: adamant reinforcements central the Uffizi facades to balance the astronomic structure, a accomplishment that would not be again until the aboriginal American skyscrapers.
These reinforcements additionally fabricated attainable an about connected bank of bottle on the high floor, which allows a admirable bulk of ablaze central the building–perfect for assuming off art.
By the time the Uffizi was completed in 1580 (after Vasari’s death, it was accomplished by Alfonso Parigi the Elder and Bernardo Buontalenti application Vasari’s designs), the aces art accumulating of the Medici ancestors was already actuality stored aural its walls.
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When the absolute art accumulating was ancestral to the bodies of Florence by the aftermost actual Medici, Anna Maria Ludovica, who died in 1743, the Galleria degli Uffizi was clearly launched.
On the day Hannes and I were in the Uffizi Gallery, we eventually accomplished the Botticellis and Raphaels of my dreams. But now aback I anticipate of the Uffizi, and of Florence, I anticipate as abundant of the aberrant paintings and the anarchy in art and anticipation they represent. To acknowledge this wonder, all you accept to do is get to the East Corridor, angular aback and attending up. There, on the ceiling, is the story.
Getting there: Alitalia and Air France action abutting account involving a change of planes to Florence. Alitalia has the everyman advance-purchase, belted book at $1,066 additional tax.
The gallery: Galleria degli Uffizi, Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6, Florence; blast 011-39-55-218-341. Arcade hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Monday. Admission: about $8. The 45 apartment of art are on the third floor, attainable by both stairs and elevator. The Uffizi attracts 1.5 actor visitors a year; continued curve are inevitable, so it’s best to appointment aboriginal or backward in the day. Recently the Uffizi began accepting a bound cardinal of anxiety in adjustment to abate the hours-long waits to get inside; tel. 011-39-55-471-960 (telephone hours are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Florence time, which is nine hours advanced of Pacific Standard Time, but the band is generally busy), or fax 011-39-55-247-8232.
For added information: Florence Day-tripper Office, 16 Via Manzoni, Florence, Italy 50121; ; tel. 011-39-55-23320, fax 23-46286. Italian Government Travel Offices 12400 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Los Angeles, CA 90025; tel. (310) 820-0098.
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