Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Uffizi Gallery highlights the black figures of masterpieces from its collection

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Ángel Gómez Fuentes

CORRESPONDENT IN ROME

Updated:04/07/2020 13: 38h

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The wind of racial debate also reaches the Uffizi Gallery. The famous museum in Florence, with one of the oldest and richest art collections in the world, will show this Saturday the black heart that beats in the renaissance and baroque paintings. Racial tensions in the United States after the death of George Floyd and the growing interest in the movement Black Lives Matter, have led the Florentine museum to highlight the figures in its collection with black characters.

The Uffizi project is called Black Presence (“Black Presence”) and begins this Saturday, July 4. The choice of date is not accidental: United States celebrates Independence Day, National holiday. With its initiative, the Florentine museum tries to raise the profile of black figures, both historical, biblical and mythological, hitherto neglected in its large collection. The director of the Uffizi, the German Eike Schmidt, explained the initiative thus: «The Uffizi Gallery is not an ivory art tower; in fact, his collections address the main problems of our contemporary world. Through art, the museum can tell the great story of the past and, at the same time, bring works of art to life today, because masterpieces speak a universal language that helps us understand not only the best, but also to understand the future we want to build ».

Masterpieces to tell the black culture

Along with the famous works of the Botticelli’s Venus, the Caravaggio’s jellyfish, Michelangelo’s The Holy Family (Tondo Doni) and many other masterpieces, black figures appear in the Florentine museum: Among many other paintings, the portraits of kings of Abyssinia and Ethiopia made in the 16th century by Cristofano dell’Altissimo, commissioned by Cosimo I de Medici, as part of a series of paintings dedicated to illustrious men of the time; the Adoration of the Magi by Alberto Dürer, where one of the three kings has clear African features; as well as the mythological episode with Perseus releasing Andromeda, defined by the historian Giorgio Vasari as the best painting by Piero di Cosimo, a picture in which a black-skinned and curly-haired musician appears in the foreground.

In short, with a selection of nine paintings, the Florentine museum aims to give its contribution to the current debate, by displaying paintings with black figures, to illustrate and contextualize the social and cultural presence of the African continent in the mentality of people in Renaissance Europe, as testimony to the extremely fertile exchanges that already existed between these two areas of the planet at that time.

Live on social media

The Black Presence initiative also has a double live event on Uffizi social networks this Saturday: in TikTok, from 20:00, Justin Randolph Thompson, director and co-founder of the Black History Month Florence, a festival dedicated to black culture that is organized annually in Florence, will walk through the museum to show the works focusing on the issues of racial equality that return to today. After in Facebook, from 21:00, always live, from the Gallery of Statues and Paintings, the musician Gabin Dabirè, from Burkina Faso, will give a concert a concert with traditional African instruments in front of a painting by Piero di Cosimo: Perseus liberating Andromeda.

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