The Uffizi Gallery opened the new Leonardo Room in July 2018, where visitors can now admire his early works, such as the “Annunciation” and the mesmerising “Adoration of the Magi”. It is a new, bright and modern space where you are able to better appreciate these masterpieces.
The paintings are protected behind climate-controlled glass cases, that protect the canvases from humidity and heat. You can get up close to them and discover all their extraordinary details. This new arrangement is part of an extensive refurbished work that has been taking place in the world-famous Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Leonardo da Vinci paintings in the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi have two early paintings by Leonardo: the “Annunciation” and the “Adoration of the Magi”, which returned to the gallery in 2017 after a 6-year restoration project. The “Baptism of Christ” is by Da Vinci’s master Verrocchio, to which Leonardo himself contributed.
Leonardo (1452 – 1519) moved from his home town Vinci at the age of sixteen, and started his career here in Florence, as an apprentice to Andrea del Verrocchio.
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THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST, Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci
Young Leonardo worked side by side his master Verrocchio on the “Baptism of Christ” (1471-75), at the time where he was learning the craft in his famed workshop in Florence. It was commissioned by the Church of San Salvi.
Observing this painting, we notice that while Christ and John the Baptist, painted by Verrocchio, are anatomically correct figures, they lack elegance and look rather stiff.
Leonardo painted the background landscape and the kneeling angel on the left, who looks so much more graceful, his expression infused with divine feeling. One story has it that Andrea del Verrocchio, humbled by the superiority of his young pupil’s skills, decided to give up painting altogether, and to stick to what he was best at, sculpting.
THE ANNUNCIATION, Leonardo da Vinci (1475-80)
Leonardo was in his twenties when we worked at the “Annunciation”. This painting’s structure, with the Archangel Gabriel on the left and Mary on the right, follows a long tradition of annunciation scenes. One for all, the famous one by Beato Angelico you can admire in the San Marco Museum in Florence.
But Leonardo put something new in his work. Here the landscape in the background, endlessly receding towards the distant mountains, is more naturalistic than anything seen in a painting of this kind.
Leonardo, trying out his sfumato technique, inserts the natural world in a religious scene. And he uses perspective to draw the two figures together. Notice the wings of the Archangel Gabriel. They look so real, like he’s just landed here from the sky. Leonardo extensively studied the flight of birds, and here uses his observation to bring this figure to life.
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⇒ Certain critics have doubted the attribution of the “Annunciation” to Leonardo, because of certain mistakes in the use of perspective. It’s true than the position in which Mary sits looks peculiar, her arm longer than it should be. Another theory affirms instead that the painting was supposed to be admired from below on the right side, and not from a central point. By standing on the right, the perspective appears correct – an interesting test if you go to see the painting for yourself.
THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI (1481)
The “Adoration of the Magi” (1481) went back to the Uffizi in 2017 after 6 years of restoration. It’s a visual wonder, with Mary and the Baby Jesus set at the centre of the painting to give a sense of stability to the scene, and an assortment of the disorderly group of figures moving in the background. We see the three kings, who have come to see the newborn saviour, kneeling at Mary’s feet.
It’s an unfinished work that marks a shift in the history of painting. Leonardo captures the mood of the incredulous spectators who have come to witness the birth of jesus, and the diversity of physical types which was totally new in art. The artist here uses shadows rather than light to give drama and force to the scene.
Why the new Leonardo Room in the Uffizi?
The new Leonardo Room was financed thanks to a contribution by the Amici degli Uffizi non-profit association and the American sister-organisation Friends of the Uffizi. The Leonardo room now situated between the room dedicated to the 1400’s, and the room dedicated to Raffaello and Michelangelo, contemporaries of the master.
“The new room – explains Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries – is not only designed to allow a slow, meditated type of visit, in which the visitor can compare the works and understand the stylistic evolution of young Leonardo. It also does justice to the history of art, placing the artist’s works immediately after the rooms dedicated to the Florentine ‘400. It is part of a series of changes implemented to adapt the Uffizi to the needs of public understanding and to the primary educational principles on which the museum is based “.