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  Top 10 Paintings / Art You Must See in Florence

Ten works of art in Florence that will blow you away. Most of this art is in Florence due to the legacy of the Medici family, and is located in the Uffizi museum.

The height of Florence's power was the 1400s, as the Renaissance was breaking out. Prior to this, almost all Italian art was related to the church. Therefore, the bulk of art in the Uffizi is religious, and the museum is laid out chronologically so you go through about 7 rooms full of saints, martyrs and Madonnas with child.

This context sets up the mind blowing explosion of humanism that is the Botticelli room.


Boticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1486, Galleria Uffizi, Florence

Botticellis Birth of Venus
Birth of Venus. The model for Venus was Simonetta Vespuci, and Sandro Botticelli was probably in love with her. She was mistress of Lorenzo Medici, however.

Boticelli's "Primavera" in the Uffizi in Florence

It's fairly insane how under-appreciated Botticelli is, given the colossal power of the paintings in this one room. Remember that Birth of Venus and Spring are both huge canvases. Room 10, Uffizi is all I'm saying. It only costs about 7 Euros to go to this museum, but it's a good idea to call ahead to get a reservation: Phone +39 055 238 8683.

Botticelli Spring / Primavera
Spring, by Botticelli

Botticelli, Madonna of the Pomegranate

Probably the only Madonna giving baby Jesus a Pomegranate you're likely to see in a while. (The pomegranate signifies passion).

Botticelli, Madonna of the Magnificat

A more classical mother & child.

A Michelangelo

Michelangelo, 1503, Doni Tondo (Uffizi)
Michelangelo Doni Tondo
Doni Tondo - a wedding gift by Michelangelo. The frame alone (not shown, but also by Michelangelo) is worth the trip to Florence.

Like Botticelli, Michelangelo's painting blows you away - it was probably the 16th century equivalent of the introduction of color TV. It's stunning and the image on the right, like all the images you see here, is a pale, pale imitation.

Now we continue in the Uffizi.

There are several paintings of Saint Sebastian's martyrdom, which you'll come to easily recognize by the arrows piercing his torso. Then all of a sudden...

Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538 (Uffizi)

Titian Venus of Urbine
Venus of Urbino, Titian

Hard to believe that Titian's Venus would not be considered NSFW back in 1540. Mark Twain famously remarked on this painting:

It isn't that she is naked and stretched out on a bed --no, it is the attitude of one of her arms and hand. If I ventured to describe that attitude there would be a fine howl --but there the Venus lies for anybody to gloat over that wants to --and there she has a right to lie, for she is a work of art, and art has its privileges. I saw a young girl stealing furtive glances at her; I saw young men gazing long and absorbedly at her, I saw aged infirm men hang upon her charms with a pathetic interest.

Raphael - a technical masterpiece

Raphael, Pope Leo X

This painting has such amazingly rich texture, you can feel the silk of his clothing.

Just outside the Uffizi there's an amazing set of sculptures.

Giambologna, The Rape of the Sabine, 1582

Rape of the Sabine
Rape of the Sabine
This large marble statue by Giambologna is sitting outdoors in the Loggia next to the Palazzo Vecchio. It blows me away that the original has been sitting there since 1583.

Iconically Famous David

Finally, you've got to go to the Gallery Academia to see basically one sculpture. Michelangelo, David, Galleria Academie, Florence

Michelangelo David
Michelangelo's David
You may think you know this sculpture - maybe you have the fridge magnet, but you really haven't seen anything until you turn the corner of the gallery academie and see it in real life.

In fact, that's true for all of the works, you have to see them in person. Thank the Medicis when you go.

And that's not the end of it, Florence has at least 10 more of the top 100 pieces of art you need to see before you die. Rome has another 20 or so. You might think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. It's just insane.

Finally, this post is dedicated to my high school art history teachers, especially Mrs. Gullickson.

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