The Uffizi Gallery in Florence is a must see for all those that visit this great city. That of course is stating the obvious! This museum is filled with masterpieces and captures the genius of Italian art from the 13th through to the 16th centuries with hardly a weak work on display. It’s a daunting visit and like most visitor’s we have limited time to enjoy and understand the paintings in this collection. Perfect Traveller has created a two part audio-tour of the Uffizi Gallery to guide you through this museum, picking the eyes out of the vast number of works to make your visit to the Uffizi easy and exciting.
Whenever I visit, I head for the room that displays my favourite painting in the entire collection. It’s probably the smallest piece in the place as well; a jewel of a work that is only 24.5cm x 18.2cm (approx. 9.5” x 7”) and yet for me, this little painting of The Madonna and Child by Masaccio, speaks with a dignity and simple truth about the love between a mother and baby, that towers high above the thousands of other paintings I’ve seen on the same subject. In its simplicity of design and technique this painting of tempera on a wooden panel is both perfection in execution and storytelling?
After much historical debate most art historians now agree that this piece is by Masaccio and many have dated it around 1426, some two years before his death in 1428 at the young age of twenty-seven. Its intimate size and the personable rendition of such a popular religious subject has me thinking that this was a private commission and as such rare for the day. I can easily imagine the joy the Sienese Cardinal Antonio Cassini felt upon seeing his new painting for the first time and what pleasure it must have given him each time he paused to view this tiny work. The fact that we can easily see the Cardinal’s crest on the back of this panel, and who became Cardinal in 1426, confirms his ownership of this masterpiece,
How do you paint love? Masaccio knew and did in this work of genius. Such a profound story and so well known to all at the time of its painting and yet Masaccio, true to his particular and unique vision of the world in his art, chose to imbue his image with that most precious of all human emotions; simple love and without the obvious religious propaganda that accompanies many of the paintings of the Renaissance. As for its small size, we only have to remember the words of C.S. Lewis who wrote, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” In Masaccio’s Madonna in the Uffizi Gallery the retelling of such an important story in such a small work makes that story even more accessible, and available for the entire world to enjoy.