Uffizi are not just Florentine painters: the vast collections that have reached us through different channels, in particular thanks to the Medici and the Lorraine families, include many “foreign” artists, and we are lucky to be able to admire them in this museum. For example: thanks to Vittoria della Rovere, who became wife of the Medici Grand Duke Ferdinando II in the 17th century, bringing a rich inheritance of artworks from Urbino to Florence, we have the Venus of Urbino by Titian, and The Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca; thanks to Ferdinando III of Lorraine, who fell in love in Siena with the Annunciation by Simone Martini, we can now admire this masterpiece in the first rooms dedicated to the 14th century; thanks to the Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici, who visited churches to find paintings to buy for his collection, we have many artworks in the Pitti Palace; or the paintings by Caravaggio, arrived here as a gift from the artist’s mentor, Cardinal Del Monte, to Ferdinando I Medici.
Here I would like to talk in particular about a purchase arranged by the Italian State, and about an artist, that, coming from the south, was able to introduce pictorial innovations coming from the north, specifically from Bruges in the Flanders, and masterfully combine them with those more typical of the Italian tradition. I am talking about Antonello da Messina, great interpreter of the Italian Renaissance, that lived between 1430 and 1479 ca: only few details about his life have reached us, starting with his uncertain date of birth.
The painting, displayed in room no. 20 along with artists like Mantegna and Bellini, is, in fact, a triptych, that a couple of years ago was at the center of a “reunification” process arranged, among others, by the Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi: the triptych parts actually belonging to the Uffizi (and therefore to Mibact, the Italian “Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism”) are two, while the third one belongs to Lombardy Region. Thanks to an agreement signed by both parties, the Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus and Angels by the Lombard painter Vincenzo Foppa has flown to Castello Sforzesco in Milan; in exchange, the missing Saint Benedict by Antonello has come here (right side). And it will stay here for 15 years. The other two parts, the Virgin Mary with Child and Angels, and the Saint John the Evangelist, were the result of a purchase made by the Italian State in the 90s, to fulfill a wish: that expressed by Ugo Bardini, son and heir of the Tuscan antique dealer Stefano Bardini (1836-1922) who died in 1965, appointing the Italian State as his sole heir.