from the uffizzi gallery, you have a perfect view of the ponte vecchio, and you can spot a small row of windows above the arches and the jewelry shops… this row of windows is the vasari corridor, a relatively wide and high-ceilinged corridor linking the uffizi and pitti palaces. that way, the medicis could cross the arno river in all privacy and comfort (without having the hassle of going on the street and taking their body guards). they also now had an easy way to flee the city in case shit got real…

this corridor, however, is also lined with a spectacular collection of self-portraits dating back to the early renaissance period, all the way up to the post-1945 period. indeed, after the medicis went out of power, the director of the uffizi continued to commission self-portraits by famous artists, and so the collection grew.

these self-portraits are organised chronologically, but also according to artistic schools of thought. for example, you have the florence school of thought on one side (as previously mentioned, they only painted over perfected drawings) and the venetian school of thought on the other (those venetians were far more rash, sometimes skipping the drawing process and putting brush straight to canvas) (they were really focussed on ‘colour’). in the latter half of the corridor, foreign schools are also displayed, whilst the last strip of corridor is multi-cultural, transnational and modern.

as you walk down the corridor, you realise that the paintings almost always portray the artist in a favourable light. by this, i don’t mean that they are portrayed as ‘beautiful’ or anything; rather, artists paint themselves with, or doing, or pointing to, something that they are very proud of. some examples:


here, you have the self-portrait of dr joshua reynolds (1723), first president of the royal academy, adorned of his oxford doctoral robes and phd certificate (looks a lot like my facebook profile pic circa 2011)


or here, albert dürer (1500) wanted to shine in his beautiful, trendy, expensive outfit, and his long golden locks (now, we are reminded of phil’s facebook profile picture, circa 2007)

these ‘selfies’ were not done only by men, however: women too, could paint. but only sometimes. and only some themes. (mostly flowers… a ‘female’ topic.) it is not surprising, therefore, that many chose to paint themselves in the act of painting – it was this which they were most proud of.


here is louise elisabether vigée le brun (1790) (note: what a date!), in the act of painting… marie antoinette.

these self-portraits change in style and focus over time, until we reach the post-war period. you have a small marc chagall, but also some more extraordinary self-portraits, like that by carl larsson, the renowned swedish painter with a clown, to underline his passion for children’s illustrations:

Q COLarsson 1853-1919 SelfP 1906 Uff BR

william orpen, the irish war artist, takes a comic approach to his trade, as he portrayed himself in a bright green bathrobe, painting bonnet and spectacles (on his head), or joseph beuys, the influential german artist of the first half of the 20th century, who chose to photograph his self-portrait.

(to be continued…)


One thought on “the vasari corridor (i)

  1. Great article! …pas eu le temps de tt lire, car occupe à préparer le ptidej !!!

    Bisous xxx Envoyé de mon iPhone


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