Florence – Uffizi Gallery – The Portrait, Baroccio And Niobe Rooms

THE two next rooms were built by Cardinal Leopold de’ Medici for his collection of portraits of distinguished artists from all countries, beginning from an early period, and, whenever it was possible, painted by themselves. Following the example of the Cardinal, succeeding rulers in Tuscany have invited celebrated painters and sculptors to send their portraits to the Uffizi Gallery.

On the wall to the right of the window in the larger room is a highly-finished portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, who was no less distinguished for the influence he exercised on contemporary art and artists, than for the beauty and finish of his style of painting, and the universality of his genius in other branches of knowledge. Near his portrait is that of Masaccio, painted in tempera ; he is in his working-day dress ; the face is youthful and interesting in expression, though hardly giving an idea of the power displayed in his frescoes. Above him are portraits of the Spaniard Diego Velasquez (1594-1660), of Giulio Romano (1492-1546), and of Raffaelle. The portrait of Andrea del Sarto painted on a tile represents him in middle life ; beyond, is a good portrait of Cristofano Allori. In each portrait is traced more or less the character of the artist ; the power united with refinement of Leonardo da Vinci, the idealism of Masaccio, the grace of Raffaelle, and the realistic mind of Andrea, apparent in all his pictures, however they may receive a touch of poetry from grace of movement, and his delight in rich and harmonious colour.

Facing the windows is a very interesting portrait of Hans Holbein ; the serious, thoughtful, and indomitably patient German artist is here well depicted. Near him is a good portrait of his contemporary, Quintin Matsys, the Antwerp blacksmith and painter (1450–1529). Above is a very fine portrait of Rubens (1577–1640), as well as another of Vandyke (1599-1641), and near the entrance a beautiful portrait of Perugino. On the other side of the entrance and still facing the windows are portraits of Franz Miers (1635-1681), and a very excellent highly-finished likeness of Gerard Dow (1613-1674), as well as a singular portrait of. Albert Dürer (1471-1528).

On the wall to the left of the window are portraits of celebrated Venetian artists, among whom the most remarkable are Jacopo Bassano (1510-1592), Leandro Bassano (1558-1623), Titian, Tintoretto, and Jacopo Palma, il Vecchio (148o-1528). Above the portrait of Titian is that of Paolo Veronese, and of the French painter and engraver Callot (1593-1635).

After these, the most interesting portraits are those of Cigoli, Federigo Baroccio, Jacopo d’ Empoli, Giovanni di San Giovanni, Pordenone, Poccetti, Santo di Titi, and Vasari. Besides Tuscan artists, there are portraits of the great Bolognese Caracci Agostino, Armibale, Ludovico, and Antonio il Gobbo, or the Deformed, of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries ; likewise of Guido Reni, Guercino, Domenichino, and Carlo Dolce. Luca Cambiasi (1527–1585) represents the Genoese school, and Dosso Dossi (1479–1542) the Ferrarese ; the portrait of Parmiggiano (1504–1546) is also interesting ; there is no portrait of Correggio.

In the smaller room are portraits of Angelica Kauffman (1742-1807), and of Madame Le Brun (living in 1828) ; this last portrait is so great a favourite that it is generally with the copyist in the large room. As a painting it is excellent, and the bright animated countenance of the artist, who is dressed in a black gown with a red sash, a wide muslin frill round her neck, and a turban, is very attractive.

The most interesting of the Dutch masters are Rembrandt (1606—1674) and Gerard Honthorst, or Gherardo della Notte (1594—1660) ; also Sir Anthony More (1519—1576), whose portraits of Englishmen are so well known.

Of the English school, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723—1792), painted in the red mantle of President of the Royal Academy, is the finest painting in this room, and it has been admirably engraved by Raffaelle Morghen ; Sir Godfrey Kneller (1648—1723), who, though from Lubeck, spent most of his artist life in England ; Northcote (1746—1831), the friend of Reynolds, of whom there is a better portrait in the small corridor leading to the room of Lorenzo Monaco ; George Harlow (1787—1819), and Thomas Murray, the eminent Court painter to King William III. and Queen Mary (1666—1724). Besides these old masters three of our living painters have recently presented their portraits to this Gallery, viz. : the President of the Royal Academy (Sir Frederick Leighton), Watts, and Millais.

The French school is represented by the modern artists, Ingres, Flandrin, the Vernets and Ary Scheffer, with others of equal distinction. There are few German names of eminence, neither Cornelius nor Kaulbach having their portraits here ; their contemporary Overbeck, however, represents German art in the early part of this century ; his portrait is near the door leading to the larger room. Amongst modern Italians, those best known to foreigners are the sculptor Canova, and the engraver Raffaelle Morghen.

In the centre of the large room is the celebrated Medicean marble antique vase, which has a beautiful relief, representing the sacrifice of Iphigenia.

Returning to the corridor and passing the room of inscriptions, which belongs wholly to sculpture, the visitor arrives at that assigned to the principal work of Baroccio, a Florentine artist of the period of the decline, but who, with Cigoli and others, attempted the revival of art in Florence. The large picture on the wall to the right, by Baroccio, represents the Madonna del Popolo ; the Virgin interceding with her Son for the benediction of certain charitable persons who have bestowed alms on the poor and on widows. This picture is painted in the artist’s usual florid style ; the principal figures are feeble, and the Madonna commonplace. An angel to the right of the Saviour, looking down at the spectator, is, however, very lovely, and there is an interesting group below painted with nature and grace, of a mother bidding her two children look upwards.

A good Gherardo della Notte, of a group of angels worship-ping the Child from whom the light proceeds, is on the wall to the left of the door. Gerard Honthorst, of Utrecht, was born in 1592, and died about 1680. On either side of this picture are portraits of Bartolommeo Panciatichi and his wife, Lucrezia de’ Pulci, by Agnolo Bronzino. The picture of Lucrezia is hard in outline but clear in colour, and the hands are drawn with care. The family of the Pulci stand recorded as far back as the days of Charlemagne, when they were among the Florentine nobles who lived within the first circuit of walls ; but the name is best known by Luigi Pulci, born in 1431, the author of the ` Morgante Maggiore.’ The Pistoiese family of Panciatichi boast of a still more remote origin, and trace their ancestors to a Roman consul. The husband of this Lucretia, Bartolommeo, was a man of some literary fame ; he imbibed Protestant opinions when residing at the French Court, and in 1552 was imprisoned by the Inquisition.

A good picture above the portrait of Bartolommeo Panciatichi of the Virgin holding the Infant Christ wrapped in swaddling clothes, is by Luca Cambiasi, of Genoa (1527-1585).

The portrait of the celebrated Galileo Galilei, the founder of the School of Experimental Philosophy, born at Pisa, 1564, is by Justus Sustermans : Galileo died 1642.

To the left is another good portrait by a Fleming, Franz Porbus (1570-1620), of the sculptor Francavilla, who executed the groups outside the church of the SS. Trinità at Florence.

The large picture of the Virgin and Child appearing to St. Louis of Toulouse, when kneeling at the altar, is a fine work of Carlo Dolce (1616-1686). The earnest prayerful expression of the saint, and the playful expression of the Infant Christ are beautifully rendered.

A Holy Family, by Giovan Antonio Sogliani (1481-1533), is very agreeable in colour, and resembles, in its general treatment, the works of Lorenzo Credi and Fra Bartolommeo, of whom the artist was a faithful imitator ; he was held in such high estimation by his contemporaries that he was considered a rival to Andrea del Sarto. Near this is a good portrait of a lady holding a cameo in her hand, by Agnolo Bronzino behind her is a kneeling statue. The marriage of Cana in Galilee, by Alessandro Bronzino, is a feeble production.

In the centre of the wall facing the entrance is a large picture by Honthorst the Worship of the Shepherds. A Magdalene, by Carlo Dolce, on one side, and the Virgin, by Sassoferrato, on the other, are both favourite pictures. There is a bright portrait of Helen Forman, Rubens’ first wife, in the corner to the right. Large and important but dark pictures, by Caravaggio (1495-1543), Jesus Disputing with the Doctors, and the Pharisee with the Piece of Money, occupy the space between ; and above them are two full-length portraits : the first, by Franz Douen (1656-1727), of a lady named in the catalogue Elizabeth Hourey, probably Hervey, and English ; to the left the portrait of Margaret of Lorraine, by Vandyke. She was sister of a Duke of Lorraine, and married to Gaston of Orleans, the younger brother of Louis XIV. of France, by whom she became the mother of Margaret of Orleans, the unhappy wife of the Grand Duke Cosimo III.

A large equestrian portrait of Philip IV. of Spain, by Velasquez (1594-1660), faces the Baroccio picture. It is the finest picture in this room, and the Florentine sculptor, Tacca, is said to have modelled his likeness of the king for his statue in Madrid from this painting.

A pretty bright young girl’s head to the right of the Velasquez is by Baroccio. The portrait of Claudia Felicia, the second wife of the Emperor Leopold, is one of the best works of Carlo Dolce ; the Princess has overturned an idol, and places a crucifix in its stead ; the date is on the book before her, 1675.

High on the wall beside the entrance, is a picture by Albani, the Infant Jesus surrounded by angels offering Him the instruments of the Passion. Below it is a Boar Hunt, by Snyders (1579-1657).

In this room are some very fine tables in pietra dura, or Florentine mosaic, designed by the most celebrated artists of the seventeenth century—Ligozzi, Poccetti, &c. The table beneath the Worship of the Shepherds by Honthorst, is of inferior workmanship to the others, though supposed to be that ordered by the Grand Duke Francis I. in 1568 for the altar of the Medici Mausoleum in San Lorenzo. It was one of the first works of the kind, but was afterwards set aside for a superior table. In the centre is a landscape with ill-executed figures ; boats are on the water, and trees and rustic houses scattered over the country : near the corners are smaller views.

The next room off this corridor was built by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, for the reception of the statues of Niobe and her children, which he brought from the Medicean Palace, in Rome, to Florence in 1775. They are arranged singly around. The mother is vainly trying to shield her youngest daughter from the envious shafts of Apollo and Diana; they are at the farther end of the room, and probably formed the centre of the group, which is supposed to have filled the pediment of a temple. The head of Niobe is extremely fine, as well as her action, and that of the young girl clinging to her. The right hand of the mother, and the left foot of the daughter are late restorations ; the arms of Niobe, as well as her drapery, are clumsy and coarse, probably intended to be seen at a distance, perhaps also because the work was executed in a period when Greek art was declining, and when the combination of grandeur of form and finish of detail, with that wonderful comprehension of fitness or propriety belonging to the age of Phidias, was no longer practised. The daughter looking down sorrowfully is very lovely ; she is supposed to be contemplating the beautiful corpse of the youth—which is now placed facing the entrance of this room, and which is perhaps the finest of the whole series. The most graceful figures are those of the girl who has been wounded in the back of her neck ; and two of her sisters, who, with flying drapery, are running away, and which are farthest removed from the statue of Niobe. The Pedagogue is heavy and ugly, and the statues in general differ so much in degrees of excellence, that even supposing they formed one group, it would be difficult to assign them to the same master.

Behind these statues are hung large pictures of great merit, especially that by Rubens, representing Henry IV. of France at the battle of Ivry. It is unfinished, and belongs to the series of paintings, now in the Louvre, commemorating events in the life of the great king ; happily this picture has escaped injury from the cleaner. The action of the horses, that in particular on which Henry is mounted, and the attitude of the king (in spite of the absurd flattery which has placed the thunderbolt of Jove in his hand) are full of life and spirit ; and there is wonderful skill displayed in combining distinctness with the confusion of a battle. The opposite picture is likewise by Rubens, and represents Henry’s triumphant entry into Paris.

A large picture by Sustermans, of the Florentine Senate taking the oath of allegiance to the Grand Duke Ferdinand II.; though in a very bad condition from the quantity of black paint used by the artist, has some interest in containing the portraits of Ferdinand, a heavy-looking youth, who is haughtily, receiving the homage of his subjects, and of his widowed mother and his grandmother, Christina of Lorraine, who had been Regents during his minority.

The last room off this corridor contains pictures bequeathed to the Gallery by the Marchese Leopoldo Feroni. As no catalogue has been published of these pictures, many of which deserve a fuller notice, we can only allude to a few of the best. A butcher’s shop, by Teniers, though a disagreeable subject, is a good specimen of the master : near it are very sweet little landscapes by Poussin, and a small but charming picture of the Infant Christ and St. John learning to read, whilst the Virgin and Joseph are looking on. Facing the door is a most beautiful Virgin adoring the Child, a painting of the Florentine school. The gem of this collection, however, is an Angel of the Annunciation, by Carlo Dolce— one of his finest works ; and the Virgin belonging to the Angel of the Annunciation, which is also very lovely. Angels watching beside the dead Christ, and a sweet girl’s head, with several good landscapes, are among the most attractive paintings here.

The only pictures of importance in the corridor adjoining these rooms are : the portrait of General Paoli, the hero of Corsica, by Richard Cosway, and the landscapes of Agostino Tassi, the master of Claude Lorraine, whose pictures are very rare, but of which there are two finer examples in the Pitti.

Upwards of thirty more pictures have been recently acquired for the Gallery, and additional rooms beyond the Sala di Lorenzo Monaco are preparing for their reception. Among these, is the collection belonging to the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova, already described; the most important being the Last Judgment, a fresco by Fra Bartolommeo and Mariotto Albertinelli; a lovely Madonna and three boy angels supporting the Infant Christ, in tempera, by Fra Filippo Lippi ; a fine picture by Sogliani, and a large triptych by Hugo Van der Goes, a Fleming, who lived towards the end of the fourteenth or beginning of the fifteenth century. This picture is remarkable for beauty of colour and composition, vigour and animation, especially in the shepherds, who worship the Child in the central compartment, and the delicate finish of detail observa able in the flowers in vases in the foreground. In the wings are portraits of the family of the Portinari, the donators, but the little girl kneeling behind her mother to the right, though sometimes called the Beatrice of Dante, could not possibly have been her portrait, since Van der Goes lived a century and a half later.