Apollo Magazine

First Look: ‘The Pure, Simple and Natural’ at the Uffizi Gallery

The curators introduce an exhibition exploring the taste for naturalism in Italian art

Annunciation, Andrea del Sarto. Florence, Galleria Palatina

‘The Pure, Simple and Natural’ at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, charts the move away from the mannerist style back towards the naturalism that characterised Florentine art of the early Renaissance. We spoke to the curators, Alessandra Giannotti and Claudio Pizzorusso, to find out more about the show and its underlying concept.

Click here for a gallery of highlights from the exhibition

Can you tell us a bit about the exhibition?

This exhibition sets out to demonstrate the strength of a strain of 15th- to 17th-century Florentine art that clung faithfully to a figurative style based on the values of simplicity, clarity and naturalness, in the tradition of the Della Robbia family, Andrea del Sarto and Fra Bartolomeo.

What makes this a distinctive show?

The show is not monographic, but designed to illustrate a scholarly conceit already hinted at by Vasari, Baldinucci and Lanzi yet never explored to date in an exhibition. It encourages direct dialogue between masterpieces of painting and sculpture created over the course of two centuries.

How did you come to curate this exhibition?

The museum director, Antonio Natali, asked us to devise an exhibition to illustrate a critical conceit we had considered at length in the course of earlier studies of 16th- and 17th-century Florentine painting and sculpture.

What is likely to be the highlight of the exhibition?

The many masterpieces in the exhibition include two absolutely first-rate items: Fra Bartolomeo’s altarpiece God the Father in Blessing with St Catherine and St Mary Magdalen from the Pinacoteca in Lucca, which has been specially restored for the occasion, and the bust of Christ the Redeemer from Burghley House, which is attributed here for the first time to Pietro Torrigiani.

More First Looks…

And what’s been the most exciting personal discovery for you?

The most exciting personal discovery for us is Giovanni Caccini’s bust of Christ the Redeemer, which was long ignored because it had been covered by a thick imitation-bronze patina. Today it has fully recovered its marble splendour after an extremely demanding restoration job.

What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced in preparing this exhibition?

Illustrating our take on the subject as effectively as possible meant having to select specific paintings and sculptures, yet not all of them were loaned to us, often for reasons of conservation.

How are you using the gallery space? What challenges will the hang/installation pose?

We encountered the toughest challenges in displaying the marble sculptures, particularly Antonio Novelli’s full-scale Risen Christ. Hanging some of the larger 17th-century altarpieces was also problematic.

Which other works would you have liked to have included?​

We would have liked to include Andrea del Sarto’s portrait of Becuccio Bicchieraio (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh) and his Charity (National Gallery of Art, Washington), as well as Giuliano Bugiardini’s Madonna and Child with Saints (Metropolitan Museum, New York) and Agnolo Bronzino’s Holy Family (Louvre, Paris).

‘The Pure, Simple and Natural’ is at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, from 17 June–2 November.

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