In Florence there is the “Black Presence”: African art in the Uffizi – Culture


Florence, 2 July 2020 – The project debuts at the Uffizi “Black Presence”, With museum paintings that pay homage to African protagonists, and which document the cultural presence of that continent in the consciousness of Renaissance Europe. The initiate started on July 4th, precisely on the occasion of the United States of America’s Declaration of Independence, with a live broadcast on TikTok and a concert on Facebook.

The paintings of the museum with African protagonists they are told in the company of Justin Randolph Thompson, founder of Black History Month Florence, and the multi-instrumentalist of Burkina Faso Gabin Dabirè.

Every Saturday video for “Understand history but also our present”, explains director Eike Schmidt. This is possible because in the Uffizi Galleries, between the Renaissance and Baroque paintings, an African heart also beats. Together with Botticelli’s Venus, Caravaggio’s Medusa, Michelangelo’s Toni Doni and many other masterpieces, the famous Florentine museum houses a nucleus of works in which a central role is entrusted to “black”, historical, biblical or mythological characters.

There are portraits of the kings of Abyssinia and Ethiopia made in the sixteenth century by Cristofano dell’Altissimo commissioned by Cosimo I de ‘Medici, for a series of paintings dedicated to illustrious men of the time; the Adoration of the Magi by Albrecht Dürer, where one of the three kings has unequivocally African traits; the mythological episode with Perseus freeing Andromeda – defined by Giorgio Vasari as the best painting by Piero di Cosimo – in which a musician with black skin and curly hair appears in the foreground; the trio of commoners immortalized by the Flemish Justus Suttermans in the “Madonna ‘Domenica delle Cascine’, the Cecca of Pratolino and Pietro Moro”, and many other works. And it is precisely from the need to go and rediscover the artistic elements of black culture disseminated in the Uffizi collection that the “Black Presence” project was born.

At its center, videos and direct on the social networks of the Galleries: through the thematic exploration of a group of nine paintings with African protagonists, illustrates and contextualizes the social and cultural presence of that continent in the consciousness of Renaissance Europe, testifying to the very fruitful exchange relationship that already took place between these two areas of the planet.

At the same time, food for thought is offered in the debate on racial issues that animates the news and the current political discussion. So, on July 4th on Tik Tok, from 8pm, Justin Randolph Thompson, director and co-founder of Black History Month Florence, a festival dedicated to black culture organized annually in Florence, in a walk through the corridors and halls of the museum, it will tell the works, also focusing on the instances of racial equality recently returned to the limelight. To follow, on Facebook, from 9 pm, always live from the Gallery of Statues and Paintings, the multi-instrumentalist of Burkina Faso Gabin Dabirè will perform in a concert with traditional African instruments in front of Perseus freeing Piero di Cosimo’s Andromeda. To complete the Black Presence event will be a series of eight videos published every Saturday on Facebook starting from 4 July, where Thompson will illustrate in detail each painting of the social review.

Director Eike Schmidt: “The Uffizi is not a ‘turris eburnea’ of art and rather in their collections they include the great contemporary themes: through art, the museum can tell the great story of the past and bring works to life in the present. In fact, the masterpieces speak a universal language that helps not only to better understand their time, but also the future we intend to build “.

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