If Florence is the home of Renaissance art, then the city’s wonderful Uffizi Gallery is where it lives and breathes, rightly earning its place on a number of Florence tours. World famous for the sheer scale of its collection of works by the Old Masters, the Uffizi is much more than a mere gallery, it’s an art ‘experience’.
Of course, with this many famous artworks all under one roof the queues can be extremely long, especially in peak seasons, so it’s well worth booking tickets in advance or visiting the museum as part of ArtViva’s specialist Florence tours.
When visiting the gallery I would always advise being accompanied by a guide with a specialist knowledge of art and art history, but it is still worth knowing a bit about the major works before you go in. So here are a few highlights to get you started.
The Birth of Venus – Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus by Botticelli is probably the gallery’s most famous painting as it is said to perfectly embody the traditions of Italian Renaissance art. It was commissioned by the infamous Medici family, with Botticelli starting work on the painting in the 1480s. The detail of the beautiful, naked Venus emerging from a seashell is still stunning even by today’s standards.
Annunciation – Leonardo Da Vinci
None of the Florence tours of the Uffizi would be complete without taking some considerable time to really look at Da Vinci’s Annunciation. In this painting, created sometime between 1475 and 1480, the artist combines his love for painting and his scientific observations of the natural world. The garden in which the Archangel Gabriel greets the Virgin Mary and the depiction of the wings of the angel, all speak to Da Vinci’s intense interest in the natural world.
Doni Tondo – Michelangelo
When you see the colours and detail of Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo in front of you for the first time you begin to understand his reputation as the world’s greatest painter. This panel depicting the Holy Family is the last remaining example of panel paintings by the mature Michelangelo. Painted around 1507, it is thought this was his last painting before commencing work on the Sistine Chapel.
Venus of Urbino – Titian
Titian, the most famous member of the 16th Century Venetian school of artists, created the Venus of Urbino in 1538 to represent the virtues of womanhood. Loyalty was symbolised by the dog curled up at her feet, motherhood and duty by the child in the background. But it is the sensuality of Titian’s Venus which has immortalised her and brought people to gaze at her for hundreds of years. She has become known as the ‘perfect Renaissance woman’.
Medusa – Caravaggio
Caravaggio’s painting (thought to date to 1598) of the head of Medusa, caught at the moment of her beheading, and immortalised, not on canvas, but on a wooden shield, is one of the most chilling and memorable paintings in the collection. Commissioned by his patron Cardinal Francesco Maria Bourbon del Monte, the artist famously combined an intensely human portrayal of Medusa with intensely dramatic lighting to convey the horror and pain of her last moments.
There is so much to see at this amazing gallery that it is worth spending a day, or even two, searching out the paintings you most want to see. Whether you have a specific list of personal must-sees or you want to discover the spectrum of Italian art from Giotto to Raphael to Caravaggio, our ArtViva Florence tours make sure you have all the time you need to explore these stunning masterpieces.
Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group Florence tours and experiences, from guided visits to view the masterpieces of the great art galleries to unforgettable Italian cookery and art classes.