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Europe: Italy Uffizi Gallery - March 22

 And we finally get to the day of the Uffizi Gallery, the motherload of them all for us plaque readers. Just plaques upon plaques bolstered by an audio tour and some judicious googling. A vast array of art and sculpture, first started by the Medici family, and later pieces added by, I think some non-profit society. I can't help but wonder what sort of fund raisers this non-profit runs to afford ancient works mouldering in some minor royal's mansion. Or if it's just a front to wash ill-gotten krugerrands (why were krugerrands such a staple of 80's action movies?(oh right, apartheid, yowsa)).

So, back to the Uffizi, literally, the Office, where the Medici's did the bureaucracy of ruling, directly and indirectly so much of Tuscany. One can imagine it being filled with drones, one scribe saying to another that  yes, we are double sealing all scrolls level 4 and above and if he could come in during the Sabbath to finish up the filing and gold leaf calligraphy that'd be great. 

There is the lumbering blindness of bureaucracy at work here too. We get our tickets, go through security, with the very security looking fellow letting me know that I can take in my oversized water bottle, as long as I keep it in the bag. There was a split second of alarm in his eyes when I asked him about this, and I was pretty sure he was making it up on the spot. But fine. 

He sees my bag, we go through. We wait in line for the audio tour device, pay, and now walk what  I can only assume is the entire length of the gallery, underground, to get to the starting point, about to descend another set of stairs to.. I don't know how museums work, but somehow position us better. And at THAT moment, several thousand weirdly overwarm steps through marbled hallways, does a diffident fellow sitting on a chair inform me we have to check in our bag. All the way back at the start. 

It seems to me that the security fellow at the start could have told me that. But this is the Office, I suppose, maybe they are trying to keep the spirit alive. Those scrolls aren't going to double seal themselves, after all.

You basically go through the history of art, from the medieval all the way to the height of the Renaissance (with Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo) to the late Renaissance. You are going to see alot of goldleaf, and just scads of religious imagery. Maybe a smattering of vanity pieces by rich merchants, and quite a few classical sculptures.

Art, it seems, is always looking to the old school masters for inspiration. 

The Greeks with their classical sculptures (the real OG ones made from bronze, mostly all melted), the Romans copying the Greeks with marble (a cheap substitute to the expensive and difficult to work with bronze), the Renaissance masters borrowing from both classical and Romans. 

The subject matter stretches from the very pagan and, might I say, quite metal (as in fender electric guitar on fire screaming a high C while sliding across the stage in tiger spandex, metal) to the extremely religious. (e.g. there is a room dedicated to Niobe, who, spoiler alert, brags about having more kids than Titan Leto, who has all 12 children killed. There is a room of statues dedicated to these teen/children being slaughtered, like I said, metal)

All throughout are the statues. And there is quite a bit of copying and rewriting and fudging of these. A sculpture of Hermes was actually one of a Satyr just retconned a few hundred later to be hermes. This sculpture and that sculpture altered and added to fit the style and tastes of the time. The original remixes. 

Even I cannot or have the urge to read all the plaques, but I do want to read whichever one strikes my fancy. The children and Mrs. Owl as are getting antsy, I see the fight or flight panicky look in their eyes, as they survey the sea of plaques and audio tour interest points. I make the quick and good decision to let them go ahead while I wander along and take my time. 

And most folks are barrelling through anyways. There is so much to see, and most is not of interest to most folks, particularly in the medieval period, when they just kind of forgot about perspective or any realism in their painting. There is an austerity to them, monastaries and rain swept castles encrusted with moss are brought to mind. The plague reaping through cities as monks carefully goldleaf the last of an old testament book. 

So I make my way through them, and in between, I'm amongst the classical statues. The main worry, and there is always worries with me, but the MAIN one is that one of us milling tourists will knock over these precariously balanced statues. 'Oh they must be doubly reinforced. Certainly they don't expect this velvet rope to offer any sort of protection from a clumsy tourist?' And then I think of the diffident man and am doubly worried.

I don't stop at all of the statues, or even most of them, just the odd one that grabs my attention. One is considered the first ever example of a statue undergoing restoration. It caught my attention because the statue's face looked like he had just given up his soul to play the most wicked 19 minute electric guitar solo ever heard. The story was approximately that, it was of a satyr about to be flayed alive for losing a music contest to Apollo. So. Metal.

In the medieval wing the audio guide often told me to look up, as this area was where the arms and weapons of the Medici were kept, so the frescoes above were more about the day in the life of military work. Either of conquering , say, uhm, Mexico? Or making gunpowder and cannons. It was nice to have a break of looking at yet another Annunciation of Mary. 

At some point you start to see changes in the art from the extremely flat to a least an attempt at realism. But the early Renaissance can still be seen as early. I'm not sure what the technical term is but everyone is ugly AF. 

Techniques get better and better. I told my kids it's like early computer generated graphics. Certain things the painters could knock out of the park : cloth, stone, jewels. Other things took alot longer to get out of the uncanny valley, namely, the people themselves.

Of course everyone is here to see the recognizable masters, Leonardo, Michaelangelo. The difference is made even more apparent to me when I see a religious scene that a lesser master makes to replace the unfinished Adoration of the Magi (due to my relatively sparing number of pictures I guess I didn't take a picture of the replacement, and 10m of hard googling turned up nothing). But the difference, the dynamism, the life of the unfinished Michaelangelo is striking, even for an art ignoramus like myself, is pretty obvoius. Less obvious that I don't have the lesser masters work to show, though :S

Then we wind through the ages, the later Renaissance masters attaining pretty amazing results with light, and more realism in faces. So, so many pictures of Mary, and the baby Jesus, then random sprinklings of nobles, or some truly epic paintings of classical myth. Hallways and hallways of other tourists, precarious statues, unread plaques.

Really, the only complaint was sometimes there were NO plaques around things that seemed like they should have. And then google Lens got me nothing. In particularly in the aforementioned metal Niobe room there are paintings that are large enough to give adequate housing to at least two families. Just massive works of art, of some super cool battle. But no plaque. No audio clue. Not even a little piece of paper letting me know what the work is. That was frustrating.

But then I'm out, and done. Fully plaqued out. A fairly thorough job of the Uffizi, for me, at least. And didn't even have to come in on the weekend.


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