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Sala Raffaello Michelangelo (5)

The Uffizi’s Director, Eike Schmidt

Sala Raffaello Michelangelo (6)

There’s a new  “room” at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, one with a striking visual design to focus the eye on Michelangelo’s Tondo Doni. Also given pride of place is Raphael’s Madonna del Cardellino and other pieces by Raphael and Fra Bartolomeo. Eleven pieces in total have been called ‘bombs in the history of art’ by the Uffizi’s Director, Eike Schmidt.

The works of Michelangelo and Raphael are exhibited together in the same hall, in the large hall number 41 of the west corridor, which until October 2016 hosted the paintings by Sandro Botticelli, re-upholstered in new spaces. So, a new exhibition was born to make the diversity of artistic voices and exchanges between Raphael and Michelangelo, who  were contemporaneously in Florence from 1504 to 1508.

Together with the adjacent Sala di Leonardo, which will open in a few weeks, the new room that unites the masterpieces of Raphael and Michelangelo celebrates the truly unique period in the history of mankind, when in the city, in a few years, the most great artists of the world created the iconic works that today are part of the universal idea of the Renaissance in Italy.


Jackson Pollock, the undoubted master of action painting, comes to Florence for a virtual comparison with Renaissance genius, Michelangelo Buonarroti. The exhibition in question, entitled La figura della furia [The figure of fury, Palazzo Vecchio, Salone dei Cinquecento, from April 16 to July 27], which, inspired by the studies of the American painter during his youth and by his interest in Michelangelo’s work, offers a comparison between styles, subjects, stories and very different worlds. Pollock’s shapelessness mirrors Michelangelo’s unfinished work, the Renaissance with its classical Florentine and Italian form is painted in perfect contrast with the American’s artist anti-form. This exhibition – an epoch-making experiment and event – is being held to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s death (he died in Rome on February 18, 1564) and it will take place in two locations: at the Palazzo Vecchio, which is home to Michelangelo’s Genius of Victory statue in the Salone dei Cinquecento, where Pollock’s drawings and paintings will be on display, and the former San Firenze courthouse, where the multimedia part of the exhibition will be set up, offering interactive and educational areas on the life and art of the painter.

The exhibition’s curators Sergio Risaliti and Francesca Campana explain that Jackson Pollock is famous for having been the founder of action painting. His dripping has contrary effects, if not completely the opposite, to what was achieved by Buonarroti on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where the artist was obliged to work according to the figurative and dogmatic doctrines of the time, although the painting was spread across the ceiling as if it were a horizontal level at an unreachable height and not on a canvas, placed vertically on an easel a short distance from the viewer and at an angle with the artist’s body.

The worlds of the two artists do have a connection, however, in Pollock’s younger studies, when the future star of 20th-century American painting was still undecided as to whether he wanted to become a painter or a sculptor. We know from documents housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York that the young Pollock studied and reflected upon Michelangelo’s work. There are sheets of paper bearing drawings by Pollock, Sketchbooks I and II, which reproduce the ‘naked’ in the Sistine Chapel, the Cumaean Sibyl and The Prophet Jonah, certain figures in the Flood, and even Adam in his famous position and studies of positions and drapery in the Judgement. Valuable information is revealed in an essay by Katharine Baetjer, published by the American museum in 1997, on the occasion of an exhibition dedicated to these important sketchbooks.

Exhibiting Pollock in Florence therefore has a truly epoch-making meaning, the curators emphasize. It is a moment to compare two worlds and two ages: one of which seems to be focused on the transcendence of the figure and on the sublimation of matter in body movement; the other on the phenomenology of formlessness and on the mystical geometry of chaos. Like Michelangelo, Pollock can be defined as a “universal artist” and, like the genial Florentine sculptor, he seems to have worked on every piece as if in a frenzy. “When I am ‘in’ my paintings, I am not fully aware of what I am doing,” said Pollock, while Michelangelo stated in his poems: “I feel in me Love, almost as high as the Stars”.


For informations:




 Pietà 2012

Madonna con Bambino

 Calco di Giuliano de' Medici by Michelangelo, ca. 1942.

“Getting re-acquainted with Michelangelo: Sculpture by Buonarroti in photographs and paintings from the XIX century to the present” is the theme of an exhibition which opened in Florence on February 18 celebrating the 450th anniversary of the death of the “Genius of the Renaissance” (March 6, 1475 – February 18, 1564).

As part of the celebrations the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno has coordinated to commemorate Michelangelo Buonarroti, the Galleria dell’Accademia of Florence in collaboration with Fratelli Alinari I.D.E.A. S.p.A. presents an exhibition that deals with the complex theme of the renewed interest and admiration for the artist from the XIX century until today.  The means for handling the topic will be the work of sculptors, painters and photographers who have looked to the figure of Buonarroti and his work as the iconographic point of reference in their own work.

And how could we not ‘get reacquainted’ with Michelangelo at the Galleria dell’Accademia for this very important anniversary?  We shall do so casting a particularly intense gaze at his immortal myth and contemporaneity, in an exhibition that will be cultivated, as always, in the ‘place of the David’” (Angelo Tartuferi). Cristina Acidini (Soprintendente per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale of Firenze) and Giampiero Maracchi (Presidente dell’Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze) say : “ Departing from the photographs produced by several of the best-known studios and professionals from the XIX and XX centuries, we have sought to highlight the decisive role photography has played in consolidating the critical and iconographic fortunes of Michelangelo and, as a consequence, the celebration of his myth.  This will be a transverse reading that spans history and photography and will centre on the role photography has played, since its very origins, in celebrating one of the uttermost artists of the Italian Renaissance, selecting a restricted pantheon of images of his sculptures as monuments of the collective memory. The exhibition itinerary starts out with representations in a historicist vein of Michelangelo’s physiognomy and personality, featuring works by Eugène Delacroix and Auguste Rodin, as well as by other authors who worked with the then-new photographic medium from its very birth, including the early work of Eugène Piot, Édouard-Denis Baldus, the Alinari brothers, and John Brampton Philpot, to name only a few”.

The exhibition is characterised by continuously cross-referencing the various modalities of translating and proposing Buonarroti’s sculptures: from the photograph as an object of documentation to its interpretative specificity in focusing on sculpture, up to the total autonomy of twentieth-century photographers in creating new points of view and analysis of the work of art.  A new relationship is thus formed between art historians and photographers who are, in turn, entrusted with the responsibility to search out the forms and material of the work in support of historical-artistic studies. The cases proposed include Giuseppe Pagano’s photographs of the Palestrina Pietà, and the work of David Finn and Aurelio Amendola in collaboration with authoritative art historians who, from their work, have drawn important confirmations of their own theories and stylistic analyses.

As the myth grew stronger in the collective perception, Michelangelo’s presence was also recognised in the work of twentieth-century artists such as Medardo Rosso, Henri Matisse, and Carlo Mollino, as well as in the photographic studies of personalities such as Emmanuel Sougez, Herbert List and Horst P. Horst.  His influence continued in the Seventies with the explorations of Tano Festa, Paolo Monti, and Antonia Mulas, finally arriving at the expressions of contemporaneity with Helmut Newton and Gabriele Basilico, Gianni Berengo Gardin, and Gerard Rondeau.

In several well-known statues by Michelangelo captured with the photographic medium we will see the “reliefs grow softer and almost flat in frontal perspectives and lighting or, on the contrary, oblique views and distinct, grazing light will highlight the projections and sink the reliefs of the cavities into shadow.  The lenses identify and capture harmony and unrest, tranquillity and drama, convention and transgression, which they render in negatives and prints, in keeping with a variability grounded in subjectivity commanded by operators and operations, essentially corresponding to the photographer” (Cristina Acidini).

The exhibition itinerary ends with references to the theme of the copy and of the multiple in the epoch of reproducibility and massification, confronted by Karen Knorr, Lisa Sarfati and Tim Parchikov.  Michelangelo is the emotional idea in the work of Luca Pignatelli, and the formal model of reference of the staged photography of Frank Horvat, Youssef Nabil, and Kim Ki duk, up to the point in which he becomes ‘absence’ in the images of Thomas Struth and Candida Höfer.

Under the High Patronage of the President of the Republic, the exhibition is curated by Monica Maffioli and Silvestra Bietoletti who have also edited the catalogue published by Giunti.  It is promoted by the Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo through the Direzione Regionale per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici della Toscana, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze, the Galleria dell’Accademia, Firenze Musei and Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze with the collaboration of Fratelli Alinari I.D.E.A. S.p.A.

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Getting re-acquainted with Michelangelo: Sculpture by Buonarroti in photographs and paintings from the XIX century to the present

Exhibition venue:            

Galleria dell’Accademia

Via Ricasoli, 58 – Firenze


From 18 February to 18 May 2014


Full price: € 11.00; concessions: € 5.50 for E.U. citizens aged 18 to 25

Admission free under 18 and EU citizens over 65 years old.

Opening Hours:

Tuesday – Sunday  8.15am – 6.50pm; the ticket office closes at 6.20pm

Closed on Mondays and 1st May


Guided tour for school groups by appointment only 3.00 per student 

Guided tours for groups:

Information and reservation Firenze Musei ph.+ 39 055.290383

begin_of_the_skype_highlighting + 39 055.290383 GRATIS 


e-mail: firenzemusei@operalaboratori.com

Website: www.unannoadarte.it


© Roberto Alborghetti (15)

© Roberto Alborghetti


Where St. Peter’s now stands was once a chariot racing stadium, built in the time of the Emperor Caligula, Claudius  and Nero (40-65). Among those first Christians to be rounded up by Nero’s soldiers was the leader of the Christian community in Rome, St. Peter the Apostle. He had probably come to Rome about the year 40 and was therefore about 25 years in the city. The stadium, about six hundred yards long, stretched from about the end of the Western wing of the Colonnade to well beyond the apse of the present basilica. St. Peter’s place of crucifixion is traditionally marked as corresponding to the left hand wing of the basilica, more or less where the altar of St. Joseph is today.

The tomb of Peter is still there, underneath the front of the Papal Altar and about 20 ft. below the floor level of the basilica. When Christians were eventually given their freedom (313), under the Emperor Constantine, after more than two hundred years of persecution, it was decided to build a basilica above the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. Christians assembled  frequently for worship. They needed increasingly large buildings – much larger than the tiny pagan temples of the  past. Constantine saw to the building of a number of these “Basilicas” and especially to the largest of them which was  erected above the tomb of Peter on the slope of the Vatican hill.

Michelangelo’s Basilica (1506-1626). That building lasted throughout the centuries until 1500. It was then in such a state of disrepair that Pope Julius II decided to replace it with a new and more magnificent structure. Work began in April 1506. Many great artists were  involved in its construction and decoration: Bramante, Sangallo,Raphael,Michelangelo, Maderno, Della Porta, Bernini, Fontana. The most notable contributions, however, are those of Michelangelo, Maderno and Bernini. At the age of 72, in 1546, Michelangelo was obliged to undertake the building of the present Basilica by Pope Paul III. When he died, the  construction of the Greek Cross section surrounding the Papal altar and the tomb of Peter had been completed only as far as  the top of the drum: the large windows which are underneath the upturned bowl of the dome. The bowl itself, changed in  shape from the half rounded shape of Michelangelo’s design to  the half oval shape of today, was completed by Della Porta in  May 1590. The Pope was Sixtus V.

Pope Paul V, in the beginning of the 1600’s, decided that the  Greek Cross design was too small. He obliged his architect,  Maderno, to pull down the front wall of Michelangelo’s building and extend the eastern end of the basilica by 116  yards. That was completed in 1626, and in the following 30  years Gian Lorenzo Bernini added the Colonnade.

The immense ten-acre spread of Bernini’s Colonnade is the pilgrim’s introduction to St. Peter’s. Its design incorporates  a sun-dial, a calendar, and the welcoming arms of God’s embrace as He stretches out to receive all who come to pay their respects at the tomb of the first Pope. The obelisk in  the center, as well as determining the time and the date by its shadow, takes us back in the millennia through the history  of the old basilica, the Circus of Nero, the ship-building skills of the Romans who transported it across the sea from  Alexandria in Egypt during the first century of the Christian era. It also takes us back through the centuries of the Pharaohs, perhaps to the Egyptian captivity of Israel.

(5 – End)















I recently had the honour to meet Pope Francis for the presention of the biography I wrote about him. The private encounter took place in Casa Santa Marta, an unpretencious house where he usually lives. Before the encounter I had a very special gift: the possibility to visit some of the beautiful rooms in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. I been also in the enchanting Cappella Paolina (the Pauline Chapel) to admire the incredible fresco paintings by the Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo Buonarroti : The Crucifixion of St. Peter (c. 1546–1550) and The Conversion of Saul (c. 1542–1545).

Being a sacred space, Pauline Chapel is a limited accessibility area. Despite the efforts of contemporary scholars to illustrate the genius behind these two works, they remain relatively obscure. This is due primarily to the fact that tourists are not permitted to enter the Pauline chapel because it’s a worship space. Most of those who do know of these works will never have the opportunity to see them in person. According to Williams no other work by Michelangelo has ever been so grossly misrepresented in reproductions. The only way to view these works as the artist intended them to be seen is to see them in situ.

The Crucifixion of St. Peter is the last fresco executed by Michelangelo. The artist portrayed St. Peter in the moment in which he was raised by the Roman soldiers to the cross. Michelangelo concentrated the attention on the depiction of pain and suffering. Pope Paul commissioned this fresco by Michelangelo in 1541 and unveiled it in his Cappella Paolina. Restoration of the fresco completed in 2009 revealed an image believed to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself. Vasari states about the fresco: “There are no landscapes to be seen in these scenes, nor any trees, buildings or other embellishments and variation”.

The positioning of St. Peter himself is often noted as the most interesting innovation Michelangelo implemented in this piece. He defied convention by positioning Peter’s upper body so that it cranes upward and twists his neck around so that his eyes make contact with the viewer.

The Conversion of St. Saul or St. Paul  is often discussed in conjunction with The Crucifixion of St. Peter. As its title suggests, the fresco represents the conversion of a lawyer from Tarsus named Saul (a man who prosecuted Christians) into a follower of Christ. In the book of Acts, Paul states that he saw an impossibly bright light and heard the voice of Christ himself. The blindingly bright light is the Apex of this story. The style is more mannerist than his earlier Sistine Chapel frescoes, and was not as well received by contemporaries.

Giuseppe Frangi (30 Giorni) writes: “On 25 January 1540, the Feastday of the Conversion of St Paul, until then celebrated in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, Pope Paul III Farnese consecrated to the saint whose name he had taken, the new parva (small) chapel, commissioned from Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and built in just three years in the heart of the Papal Palace. The chapel – parva as opposed to the chapel magna, the functions of which had been taken over by the Sistine – was the chapel intended for the conclave. And above all it was the place where the Blessed Sacrament was kept, for which purpose it had been fitted with both an altar and a tabernacle. When Paul III consecrated it, the chapel had no decorations, but it was clear who would climb the scaffolding: it was again up to Michelangelo, just down from the scaffolding of the Sistine Chapel, where he completed the great toil of the Last Judgment”.

 The reconstruction of the work – Frangi states – done day by day, made possible by modern restoration techniques, shows Michelangelo was capable of getting through a large amount of work in a day. Eventually there were 172 working days (85 for the Conversion of St Paul and 87 for the Crucifixion of St Peter), spread over seven years, with the break in 1544, when he was halted by health problems. These frescoes were largely ignored for centuries and incurred a great deal of damage due to neglect. In the early twentieth century there were some scholars who came to reconsider the frescoes under the new light of expressionism and abstraction.

William Wallace proposed an entirely new perspective on the subject claiming that the disproportionate quality of the figures is not a failing on the part of Michelangelo, but rather another instance of his genius. According to Wallace, the real innovation in this piece comes from the incorporation of time and space in the overall composition of the frescos. In addition to conceiving of these frescoes in terms of perspective, Michelangelo also took into consideration the architectural and environmental context they were to be set in.

After the last restoration Pope Benedict XVI said: “The two faces are opposite each other. One might therefore imagine that Peter’s face is actually turned towards the face of Paul, who, in turn, does not see, but bears within him the light of the Risen Christ. It is as though Peter, in the hour of supreme trial, were seeking that light which gave true faith to Paul”.

(2 – To be continued)