Florence is a renowned Renaissance art hub, but there’s so much of the damn stuff around, it can be hard to know what to focus on. Timeless artistic virtuosity abounds in Italy, and thanks to the patronage of local kingpins the Medici family, Florence flourished more than most. The legacy of the city’s fertile artistic soil can still be clearly felt today and many flocks to Florence with the idea of doing just that.
King among the city’s galleries is undoubtedly the Uffizi, which houses a priceless collection of masterpiece after masterpiece, but even that proves tough to navigate; there’s so much art crammed in there, you can’t be sure you’re catching the best of the best.
Well, fear not BUCKiTDREAMER. If you’ve got a bucket list trip to Florence planned and are worried about seeing the masterpieces that matter, look no further than this handy guide. Yes, there’s a sensory overload of gorgeous aesthetic in the city, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hunt down the big shots first and take them in while you’re still fresh and not bludgeoned to submission by an onslaught plate-faced Madonnas.
Log on to BUCKiTDREAM to get suitably inspired for your Florentine adventure, then keep your BUCKiTDREAM planner by your side as we take you through five Uffizi masterpieces you just can’t miss!
Gaze at the Beauty of the Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus As Florence’s most favored son, Botticelli has two masterpieces in the Uffizi, The Birth of Venus and Primavera. In truth, both are worth seeing. It’s The Birth of Venus which is undoubtedly more iconic, however and stands as Uffizi’s flagship masterpiece, as well as Florence’s most famous painting. It depicts Venus being born from the sea, as she emerges in her graceful, fully adult form. To her right, wind gods Zephyr and Aura blow her gently ashore, while to her left, one of the Greek goddesses of the seasons rushes to cover her with a cloak.
The large painting features a stunning color palette, and contains a lightness of touch that is no doubt the reason for its popularity; despite being over 500 years old, the scene appears to be in motion right before your very eyes.
Take In the Serenity of da Vinci’s Annunciation While his most famous work might be up to the continent a little in the Louvre, da Vinci was actually born in Florence, so it seems fitting that one of his masterpieces should make its home here. Annunciation depicts the moment that Gabriel informs a slightly shell-shocked Mary that she will soon be carrying the Lord’s child. It depicts the scene in widescreen – an odd format for Renaissance painting – but one that makes the most out of the composition.
Annunciation is actually not solely da Vinci’s work; it was a collaboration between him and his teacher at the time. In the modern musical parlance, it would be credited to Andrea del Verrocchio (ft. Leonardo da Vinci). Despite this, the young artist’s talents are clearly evident, setting the foundations for his ambitious genius to flourish in later years.
Go Face to Face with a Terrifying Gorgon with Caravaggio’s Medusa Caravaggio is often described as the ‘bad boy of the Renaissance’, and with a work as shocking as this one, it’s easy to see why. Caravaggio painted this onto a shield, not a canvas, giving it a circular, convex composition that leaps out at the view. The head of the terrifying Gorgon is freshly severed, and caught in a moment of self-realization as she catches sight of herself in Perseus’ mirror shield. Ever the dramatist, Caravaggio, captures the moment in all its hideous glory, with blood gushing from the neck and snakes writhing on the head.
Wince at the Gory Horror of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith and Holofernes In keeping with a gory theme, the second most dramatic painting in the Uffizi comes from one of Caravaggio’s followers, a female painter called Artemisia Gentileschi. Her rendition of Judith cutting off Assyrian General Holofernes’ head after seducing him features the signature Caravaggesque chiaroscuro and generous spurts of blood, but this version is somehow more bloodthirsty than Caravaggio’s own interpretation of the same scene.
Calm Down with Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch After all that blood, it’s onto calmer shores with Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch, a beautifully realistic work which features the Virgin Mary watching over Jesus as he plays with his childhood chum John the Baptist (or just John, as he was known at that point in time). John holds a goldfinch in his hand, and extends it out towards the baby Jesus; the bird is meant to symbolize the coming crucifixion, as it was supposedly marked with a drop of Christ’s blood when it flew down to him as he died in Calgary. The painting returned to the Uffizi in 2008 after going through a meticulous and painstaking ten-year restoration, and can now be viewed in all its original Renaissance glory.
That was a run through of Uffizi’s heavy hitters, but as we all know, art is subjective; so when you’re exploring the gallery, do make sure to find your own favorite works and snap a shot of them to let your fellow BUCKiTDREAMERS know all about your tastes. If you’re looking for more Florentine inspiration, check out a guide to another famous native with A Dante Fanatic’s Guide to Florence, and make sure to start planning that dream Renaissance voyage as soon as possible!