New rooms of self-portraits in the Uffizi Galleries opened.
The extraordinary collection displayed in the museum’s ordinary itinerary: 12 rooms for 255 works and six hundred years of art history, from Taddeo Gaddi to Ai Wewei.
It was Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici in the 1600s who started the collection, which has never been interrupted and is still fully operational. The celebrated Florentine museum has the largest, oldest and most important collection of self-portraits in the world: more than 2,000, including paintings, sculptures, and drawings.
The rooms of the new exhibit, on the second floor of the Gallery, are bright pink, an allusion to Cardinal Leopold’s robes (his statue, by the great Baroque sculptor Giovanni Battista Foggini, greets visitors in the first room), and are organized chronologically from the oldest portrait, the 15th-century portrait by painters Gaddo, Agnolo and Taddeo Gaddi, to the last room, where we find Antony Gormley’s cast-iron sculpture, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s self-portrait on mirror, the one made with plastic bricks by Ai Weiwei, Fabrizio Plessi’s video portrait, and the oil on canvas Selfportrait by Lorenzo Puglisi, the youngest artist in the exhibition. The itinerary, which offers a selection of 255 works, including paintings, sculptures, installations and graphics, is an opportunity to meet a host of protagonists of art history: among them Andrea del Sarto, Federico Barocci, Luca Giordano, Rubens, Rembrandt, Francesco Hayez, Eugène Delacroix, Arnold Böcklin, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Adolfo Wildt, Marino Marini…
Each century, each region corresponds to an attitude: the Italians more intimate, the Northerners proud of their craft and social status, the French in lace and big wigs. Video artist Bill Viola is present with an aquatic installation, as well as Sironi, Vedova, Clemente, Paladino, Mitoraj, Jenny Holzer…
After more than a century, the artists’ self-portraits are thus being displayed for the first time within the Uffizi’s normal visiting itinerary.
Many works have undergone major conservation work and can now be admired at their best (highlights include Rubens’ splendid self-portrait, just restored by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, and Rembrandt’s, restored thanks to American donor Diana Bell).
Many works then were not in the Vasarian Corridor but were taken from the museum’s storerooms, where they were previously the preserve of a few scholars. To give prominence to the many faces of this immense collection, the Uffizi will observe the principle of exhibition rotation, particularly with regard to living artists.
In the new layout, the self-portraits are offered with a novel narrative, in which the chronological narrative is enlivened by thematic and figurative digressions. The more classical portrait approach is visible especially in the older paintings, gathered around the large statue of Cardinal Leopold de’ Medici.