The Pure, simple and natural in art in Florence between the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Pure, simple and natural in art in Florence between the 16th and 17th centuries.
Uffizi Gallery

Until October 31, 2014

The exhibition intends to undermine the cliché of a very conservative Florentine culture and reveal the strength of novelty expressed in the city’s artistic vein that between the XV and XVII century remained faithful to its models, shedding light on the “novelty of tradition”.
Giorgio Vasari extolled the «Modern Manner» as the eclipse of the by then archaic fifteenth-century tradition, and placed Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael at the centre of this period of «sublime perfection».  Alongside these giants, he placed those whom he considered supporting characters:  Fra Bartolomeo and Andrea del Sarto, exemplary draughtsmen, meticulous imitators of nature, and creators of devout works of art.  Court artist of the sumptuous royal entourage of duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, Vasari was a far cry from these masters, exponents of a “pure, simple and natural” tradition, and interpreters of a trend that he considered to be outmoded and without a future.
Andrea del Sarto and Fra’ Bartolomeo instead remained points of reference throughout the years of Medici magnificence.  Moreover, they again became contemporary at the end of the XVI century in response to the doctrinal demands sanctioned by the Council of Trent.

The exhibition is divided into five chronological and four thematic sections, and presents a total of 72 works of painting and sculpture that are exhibited, by way of example, so as to privilege the values of stylistic and iconographic cohesion and a rather loose chronological ordering.  It presents a veritable review of masterpieces, many of which have been restored precisely for this occasion.  The show opens with a juxtaposition of the Annunciations by Andrea della Robbia, Andrea del Sarto, Santi di Tito and Jacopo da Empoli, and offers a glimpse of the cultural features that joined the masters of the «Modern Manner» and the compages of artists who worked in Florence amidst aspirations of reform and early seventeenth-century naturalism.
In early sixteenth-century Florence, the tenor of noble clarity inspired by the thought of Fra’ Girolamo Savonarola was a language shared by the artists close to the friar, such as Lorenzo di Credi and Fra’ Bartolomeo, Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio and the Della Robbias.  Some of them gravitated around the “School of San Marco”, the point of reference for the community of artists who proposed images of an essential and austere religiosity, comprehensible even to the simple and illiterate.  These artists along with Andrea del Sarto, exceptional master of drawing from life, founded the principles of a “Florentine quality” that would remain in force for more than 150 years:  a style made of everyday locutions, ordered following a clear syntax that modelled figures and things plastically.  As we read in the catalogue published by Giunti and edited by the exhibition’s curators Alessandra Giannotti and Claudio Pizzorusso, these values are also reflected in the debate on language and in grass-roots spirituality.

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