The Uffizi Gallery in Florence discover lost frescoes during the COVID closure
TheIn Florence, the winter COVID shutdown was used to advance renovations and discover lost frescoes that visitors will greet when the premier archive of Italian Renaissance art reopens on May 4th.
Uffizi director Eike Schmidt said the six months of closure had been put to good use: 14 new rooms renovated, which will be open to the public next month, and discover frescoes that would otherwise have remained hidden.
However, he hopes the final reopening – the third during the pandemic – will be the last.
“We very much hope that we can now open stably and without further closures. We hope this for the museum, but we also hope it for the world and for human society,” said Schmidt.
Previously hidden frescoes include a life-size figure of a young Cosimo II de Medici – part of the Renaissance family who commissioned the Uffizi – from the 17th century, as well as decorative plant motifs from the 18th century on the walls and ceilings of the nearby one Spaces.
They are in the west wing of the museum, which is where the new visitors’ entrance will be when the Uffizi reopens.
Schmidt said the new entrance to the Arno would provide “a wonderful introduction” to visitors. In the future, classical statues will be added to the entrance.
The workers have also completed the restoration of new rooms dedicated to high and late Renaissance art from the 16th century from central and northern Italy outside of Tuscany. They complete the path through the history of art from the Middle Ages with Giotto via the Renaissance masters Botticelli, Raphael and Michelangelo to the Counter-Reformation and the Venetian galleries.
“You can now step or wander through art history seamlessly if you want,” Schmidt said.
As part of the Uffizi Gallery’s new access system, visitors buy tickets, deposit coats and bags in the west wing, and walk through a courtyard to the east wing, where they pass metal detectors and pick up audio guides before starting their museum tours.
The number of visitors to the museum last year fell to around a quarter of visitors in 2019 due to the COVID lockdowns in the spring and fall. Around 1.2 million people visited in 2020, compared with 4.4 million in the previous year.
Booking inquiries have already been received for the summer months, which the museum can now fulfill, since an opening date is official, said Schmidt.
Schmidt assumes that the gallery will work with around half of its capacity for the foreseeable future, as the prospect of a resumption of international tourism is only gradually coming into focus. Before the pandemic, the main visits reached up to 12,000 people a day.
“If you visit the museum now and for the next several months, you will feel even more part of the de Medici family,” said Eike. “Especially if you come early in the morning, you might be in the Botticelli room for two or three minutes before someone else arrives. That never happens.”
The Uffizi Gallery has been closed since November 5th, with the exception of two weeks in January when Tuscany was subject to Italy’s lowest restrictions. Italy will begin a gradual reopening on Monday. In addition to allowing museums to open their doors, restaurants in low risk zones are allowed to dine outside on Mondays before 10:00 p.m. Curfew.
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