The Tribune is the nucleus of the Uffizi gallery collection, a small room designed by Bernardo Buontalenti in 1584. The really bad news is that, once restored, we will no longer be able to go inside this room.
The Tribune, or Tribuna, was designed to hold the variegated collection of ancient sculpture and modern painting collected by Grand Duke Francesco I de’Medici (1541-1587). It features a marble-inlay floor and a delicate seashell-encrusted cupola. At the end of the Cinquecento, Buontalenti’s octagonal room with red velvet walls contained the roman Medici Venus Pudica, small bronze busts, recent paintings by Bronzino, Allori, Rosso Fiorentino and Vasari (Mannerist painters who were the height of style at the time), pietre dure works, natural curiosities and ancient and modern plaquettes. The current arrangement, now being dismantled for restoration, is the closest the Uffizi Museum gets to its original display.
In recent years, we accessed the Tribuna from the hallway designed by Vasari, often lining up when the gallery was busy. The delicate floor was covered by a ramp and we shuffled along on this ramp, constrained by its metal handrails. Crowds pushed us along as we attempted to spend some time analyzing the costume and props of the Bronzino ladies or of the fat little Giovanni de’ Medici (see photo). The lighting in this room is almost entirely natural, as its historic arrangement makes it difficult to install other lighting, and we dealt with some awful glare. But at least we were in there.
After the restoration – generously paid for by the Friends of Florence foundation – the Tribune will be closed to the public in order to preserve the floor. We will be able to look in on it from the current doorway as well as from the two rooms that connect to the Tribune on either side. The restoration is due to be finished in June 2011.
The paintings from this room will be displayed in the nearby Barocci room (#35), whose walls will be painted the same red as the original velvet. This display will permit better reading of the paintings in artificial light, but in doing so we lose their historic display in the Tribune, where some rather mediocre pieces were interesting precisely (and only) because of this location. The Tribune will be outfitted with replacement paintings of even more mediocre quality, put however in very fancy gold frames in order to keep the princely feeling of the room.
I guess you can tell how I feel about this. What do you think? Do visitors to the Uffizi cause so much damage to this room that they should not be able to go inside it? Will we fully understand this room and its historic importance when we can only see it from its doorways, with replacement paintings hanging on its red walls?
[photo credit: www.artmediaeditori.com].