Giovanni Battista di Jacopo (Rosso Fiorentino)
Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy
The small panel depicts an angel who plucks the strings of a large lute. The angel has curly hair, long eyelashes and thick eyebrows and he seems concentrated with his ear pressed on the instrument and holding firmly the strings with his fingers. The background is dark and he is illuminated by lateral light that hits his arm and the right wing, leaving in shade his face and the left side of the body. The cool tones of his skin, hair and wings contrast with the warm colors of the musical instrument and shades.
The painting was probably a part of a larger altarpiece, similar to the works of Fra Bartolomeo, who often used this kind of angels in his paintings. The dark background covers some engravings and stairs on which the small angel was probably sitting on, perhaps at the feet of Mary with Child.
The painting was brought to Uffizi on 29 June 1605. It was taken to Tribuna and attributed to Rosso Fiorentino and probably the background wasn’t dark. Later the small panel was attributed to Domenico Beccafumi, as documented in the inventories of 1635-1638 and 1753, while in 1784 it was believed to be a work of Francesco Vanni, who also had painted a similar angel in the same position (Collegiata di Asciano, ca. 1600). The panel was once again assigned to Rosso Fiorentino in the inventory of 1825. Closer inspection of the painting has shown that there is a signature on the angel’s left arm “R[u]beus Florentini fecit?]”. It is possible that the signature isn’t original and it was added after the panel was disconnected from the rest of the painting.
The panel is dated before the artist’s return to Florence in 1521, because he used to sign the work only if he was working outside his hometown Florence.
Giovan Battista was born in Florence in 1494, where he studied in Andrea del Sarto’s workshop. He concentrated on Michelangelo and Baccio Bandinelli’s works, especially on their drawings. At young age in 1515 he worked on the construction of the equipment for Pope Leo X de’ Medici’s entrance in Florence receiving many compliments.
Giovan Battista produced many works in this period, which already showed his unusual imagination and brilliant mind. Among his most important works were The Assumption for the Basilica of SS. Annunziata in Florence (1517), and the dramatic Deposition from the Cross in Volterra (1521). In 1523 he made the Marriage of the Virgin (Pala Ginori) in the San Lorenzo Basilica. The following year he went to Rome where his works were even more influenced by Michelangelo. He studied the works of Raphael, Parmigianino and ancient painting and developed his eccentric and dramatic style with contrasts of bright colors and shadows. The figures are characterized by certain expressions and sharp lines, which can be seen in works like Moses Defending the Daughters of Jethro (Uffizi)..
In 1526 the artists fled from Rome which was overrun by mercenaries (Sack of Rome). He arrived to Borgo San Sepolcro, where he painted the Deposition. Then he went to Città di Castello where he painted the bizarre Glory of Christ in 1528. In 1530 he moved to France, invited by Francis I. He worked as an artist in his court and made decorations for parties, masquerades and celebrations. He also worked as a goldsmith. In Fontainebleau he worked with Primaticcio painting frescoes and decorating interiors. One of these works was the famous Gallery of Francis I, decorated stucco with bizarre ancient inventions and mythological scenes of celebrations. He influenced local artists as well as Primaticcio and Benvenuto Cellini, who was working in Fontainebleau at the same time.
Rosso Fiorentino died in France on 14 November 1540.
All the artworks of
Giovanni Battista di Jacopo (Rosso Fiorentino)
The Uffizi gallery was established in 1560 when Cosimo I Medici, the Duke of Tuscany, wanted to put together the Florentine offices and magistrates (hence the name uffici, offices) in a single building, to have a better control over them. The work was entrusted to Giorgio Vasari and the construction started the following year. The building was designed in U-shape, consisting of a long east wing, a short corridor overlooking the Arno river and a short west wing, forming classic pattern of a Tuscan loggia. The entrance of the gallery is situated right next to Palazzo Vecchio, the house of the dukes. The first museological exhibition was organized by Francesco I, the Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1574 to 1587. Thanks to the architect Buontalenti and the initiative of Ferdinand II, the gallery became a representation site, decorated by Antonio Tempesta, where the artworks were conserved as well as the series of the portraits of the Illustrious Men which were placed next to the portraits of the Medici family. The overall space consists of 8000 square meters and forty-five rooms, all in the third floor, where the art collection includes some of the greatest masterpieces of Italian and European art, such as Giotto’s Maestà di Ognissanti, Simone Martini’s Trinity, the altarpieces of Duccio, Gentile da Fabriano and Mantegna, the Annunciation and Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo Da Vinci, many works of Botticelli, among them the Venus and the Spring, Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola and Madonna of the Goldfinch, Tiitan’s Venus of Urbino, Caravaggio’s Bacchus and Rubens’s Triumph of Henry IV.
Ferdinand II wanted to add other rooms in the gallery: the room of Mathematics, a terrace and the armory. Between 1696 and 1699 the Grand Duke Cosimo III ordered the decoration of the corridor overlooking the Arno river with frescoes of religious subjects and he sent to Florence some of the most famous examples of ancient statues conserved in Villa Medici of Rome. In this occasion was built the Sala della Niobe, where the ancient sculptures were placed. Other self-portraits of ancient and contemporary painters were acquired and placed in the Vasari Corridor. Cardinal Leopoldo de Medici added to Uffizi his collection of graphic art and created the cabinet nowadays known as the department of drawings and prints.
After the extinction of the house of Medici due to lack of heirs, in 1737 Anna Maria Luisa de Medici donated the treasures of the Uffizi gallery to the city of Florence, so that the collection would always stay where it was created. In 1769 the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo opens the gallery to the public. In the 1770s’ Uffizi was seen as a advantaged laboratory for the studies of art history and for preparation of art, thanks to the work of Luigi di Lanzi and Giuseppe Pelli Bencivenni.
During the Kingdom of Italy, the renaissance statues were moved to the new museum of Bargello and the gallery was gradually taking the function of Pinacoteca. More and more visitors came, and the magistrates were transformed to public archives. In 1900 the gallery acquired the painting collection of the Arcispedale of Santa Maria Nuova, including artworks such as the Portinari Triptych of Hugo van der Goes, from the church of Sant’Edigio. In the beginning of the 20th century the gallery reinforced the collection by acquiring many works of the 14th and 15th centuries from churches and other religious institutes, which were still absent in the museums historical framework.
The first renovation of Uffizi’s rooms dates back to 1956, when the architects Giovanni Michelucci, Carlo Scarpa and Ignazio Gardella renewed the rooms with light tones of colors that highlight the wooden ceiling. In 1969 the gallery purchased the collection of Contini Bonacossi including Giovanni Bellini’s St. Jerome, Cima da Conegliano’s St. Jerome, Francesco Francia’s St. Francis, Savoldo’s Mary Magdalene, Tintoretto’s canvases and Velazquez’s Waterseller of Seville and Portrait of Philip IV of Spain.
In 2006 the Uffizi galleries started the architectural restoration work, adjustments of the implantation and new layouts for the rooms. The museum remained always open and with the reform of the Italian museum system in 2014 the museums of Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens were joined to the Uffizi.