The Uffizi Gallery – Pearl of the Italian Renaissance

Let’s face it: Renaissance art can be a hard sell  to  kids.  But  my  husband  and  I  didn’t want to miss the Uffizi Gallery, unquestionably one of the world’s great museums, a treasure-trove of—you guessed it—Italian Renaissance  art.  (What  else  would  you expect  inside  a  former  Medici  palace  in Florence ?)  Fortunately,  we  found  a  strategy that clicked: We made our visit to the Uffizi into a treasure hunt.

Here’s  how  it  worked:  In  the  earlier rooms, you’ll see painting after painting of the classic Madonna and Child pose, each artist  giving  his  own  distinctive  take.  We asked  our  youngsters  to  study  them  all (kids like looking at pictures of kids anyway) to  see  how  through  the  ages  the  babies began  to  look  more  realistic.  We  also pointed  out  the  flat,  stylized  backgrounds of  the  earlier  paintings  so  that  they  could see  how  the  scenes  became  deeper  and more natural as painters developed the art  of perspective.

A new theme starts in rooms 10 to 14, the Botticelli rooms—the highlight of the Uffizi for most visitors, me included. In the mid-1400s,    classical    mythology    had become  a  popular  subject,  and  so  we looked for pictures of Venus, the goddess of  beauty—which  pointed  us  straight  to the Uffizi’s ultimate masterpiece, Botticelli’s  Birth  of  Venus.  (Consider  whether  or not  you  want  to  tell  them  its  nickname, “Venus  on  the  Half  Shell,”  because  once you tell them they won’t ever think of it as anything  else.)  We  found  ourselves  even more engrossed by Botticelli’s Allegory of Spring, or Primavera, which depicts Venus in a citrus grove with Cupid hovering suggestively over her head. Outside the room, look for Botticelli’s Adoration of the Magi, in which many figures are Medici portraits (the man in the yellow robe at the far right is  Botticelli);  compare  it  to  Leonardo  da Vinci’s  unfinished  Adoration  in  room  15. To  carry  on  the  Venus  theme,  check  out the  Greek  statue  Venus  of  the  Medici  in beautiful  room  18  with  its  dome  of  pearl shells,  and  a  couple  of  voluptuous  Titian Venuses in room 28.

In rooms 23 to 25, get the kids to notice how art began to embrace storytelling by looking for episodes in the life of Jesus—Correggio’s  Rest  on  the  Flight  to  Egypt; Andrea  Mantagna’s  Epiphany,  Circumcision,  and  Ascension;  and,  in  room  25, Michelangelo’s magnificent Holy Family.

Speaking  of  Michelangelo,  it’s  too  bad you  have  to  pay  another  admission  fee (and  wait  in  line)  to  enter  the  Galleria dell’Accademia,  Via  Ricasoll  60,  where  the  only  thing  the kids  will  want  to  see  is  Michelangelo’s  colossal  statue  of  David.  We  cut  our losses, looked instead at the inferior copy outdoors in the Piazza della Signoria, and then headed out to St. Mark’s Museum, Museo di San Marco; Piazza San Marco 1. Originally a Dominican convent,  its  bleak,  bare  cells  are  decorated  with  frescoes  by  the  mystical  Fra Angelico, one of Europe’s greatest 15th-century  painters.  You’ve  been  telling  the kids for years not to write on the walls, but oh, if they could create scenes like these, you’d let them paint their hearts out.