Friday, November 01, 2013

The Vasari Corridor: The "Serpentine artery which crosses the Arno" and connects the Uffizi with the Pitti Palace

The Pitti Palace is of course a collection of masterpieces; they jostle each other in their splendour, they perhaps even, in their merciless multitude, rather fatigue our admiration. The Uffizi is almost as fine a show, and together with that long serpentine artery which crosses the Arno and connects them, making you ask yourself, whichever way you take it, what goal can be grand enough to crown such a journey, they form the great central treasure-chamber of the town. But I have been neglecting them of late for love of the Academy, where there are fewer copyists and tourists, above all fewer pictorial lions, those whose roar is heard from afar and who strike us as expecting overmuch to have it their own way in the jungle. 
James, Henry. Italian Hours (1909)

I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Vasari Corridor (31 October 2013) while at a meeting (organized by the local hosts). To be honest, I'd never heard of it before. At first, I decided to pass on it. The tour was a bit expensive and had to be booked ahead of time, so, well. No problem. But then, when I got to the conference, there were still spots open. In the meantime I had looked into it more and it did seem interesting. A nearly kilometer long corridor built to that the Medici could walk between the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace without running into riff-raff. It pretty much runs above ground and then across the Ponte Vecchio.

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So I signed up. We had a great tour guide who knew Medici family history probably better than his own. As you entered through a special locked door and descended a staircase to the start of the Corridor, it looked like this would be quite interesting. There were also windows on each side with spectacular views (especially of the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio). The only problem with the art in the Corridor. Hundreds, maybe thousands of painting line it from one end to the other. A multitude of portraits of Medicis and others by, dare I say, 3rd and 4th tier artists. Even a number of bad copies of better known paintings. A few sprinkled gems (a Vige-Le Brun and an Angelica Kauffmann). A kilometer and two hours into the tour, the art picked up with more modern works, specifically self-portraits from artists all over the world. J.S. Sargent, Anders Zorn, Robert Rauschenberg, Rapheal Soyer, and others.
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The hour was getting late and we needed to pick up checked bags so we dashed back through the Corridor and more - seeming - clicks of the Uffizi. An interesting tour, but not one I need to repeat soon!

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