We spent the last two days immersed in art, almost to the point of being overloaded. We spent nearly two hours touring the Uffizi, and the following day we finally got around to visiting the Pitti Palace (which is just a few minutes from our apartment – we’ve passed it more times than I can count). Because we timed both the visits to the late afternoon there were no lines and no crowds, and we were able to take our time viewing the art in both places.
Our time in the Uffizi was almost overwhelming though. There were of course many wonderful and famous pieces to see, from Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus to Michelangelo’s Holy Family to Rembrandt’s and Rubens’ self portraits, but just as many lesser-known works that caught our attention and interest as well. One of the biggest thrills for me was coming around a corner to find Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes. I had just been reading about her and the painting a couple of days earlier, and hadn’t realized it was in the Uffizi. Gentileschi was one of the very few female painters of the Baroque era, and this painting is now considered one of the premier feminist paintings of all time: to get back at a man who had assaulted her she painted his face on Holofernes’ body. Her own fury can be seen in her visualization of Judith.
I also fell in love with a small bust of a satyr’s head, carved in the 3rd century. Although the piece is nearly two thousand years old, the little head has a very contemporary feel to it. He reminded me of someone I’ve met or know, although I can’t remember who, and I’ve heard the same from a friend after I posted the picture on Facebook. The detail in the little lambskin hanging around his shoulders is also exquisite.
After our nearly two hours in the museum though we felt exhausted and completely overwhelmed, like we had been eating rich food and hadn’t known when to stop.
The visit to Palazzo Pitti the next day turned out to be an entirely different experience, and in the end one we enjoyed more. I grew up in the same town as the Huntington Library & Art Gallery (San Marino, California) and visited there many, many times, and our time in the Pitti reminded me of my visits to the Huntington, although the Pitti is like the Huntington on steroids times 100. The Pitti experience felt like an intensive art history course (but without an exam), where we viewed numerous pieces by Rubens, Raphael, Caravaggio, Bartolomeo, Botticelli, Titian, Tintoretto, VanDyck, Vasquez, and many other luminaries of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The only artists that seemed to be missing were Michelangelo and DaVinci. In comparison to the Uffizi, there was no explicit organization of the works or artists in the Pitti, so walking through the rooms of the palace was like a treasure hunt – we never knew what we would find to admire. Each room of the palace was almost a work of art as well, filled with frescoes and other amazing decoration. We left the Palazzo Pitti feeling relaxed and excited by what we had seen, versus overwhelmed.
Two different museums, two very different experiences. I’m thrilled we had the opportunity to visit both.