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The 2012 Josephine Waters Bennett Lecture: The Eighteenth-Century Invention of the Renaissance: Lessons from the Uffizi

Paula Findlen
Renaissance Quarterly
Vol. 66, No. 1 (Spring 2013), pp. 1-34
DOI: 10.1086/670403
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/670403
Page Count: 34
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The 2012 Josephine Waters Bennett Lecture: The Eighteenth-Century Invention of the Renaissance: Lessons from the Uffizi
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Abstract

This essay explores the role that the eighteenth-century Uffizi gallery played in the invention of the Renaissance. Under the Habsburg-Lorraine rulers, and especially during the reign of Grand Duke Peter Leopold (r. 1765–90), changes to the Medici collections and the gallery’s organization transformed an early modern cabinet of curiosities, paintings, and antiquities into a space in which a historical narrative of art, inspired by rereadings of Giorgio Vasari’s Lives, became visible in a building he designed. A succession of Uffizi personnel was increasingly preoccupied with how to see renaissance, and more specifically Tuscan rinascita, in the collections. The struggles between the director Giuseppe Pelli Bencivenni and his vice-director Luigi Lanzi highlight how different understandings of the Renaissance emerged in dialogue with antiquarianism and medievalism. At the end of the eighteenth century the Uffizi would definitively become a museum of the Renaissance to inspire new forms of historical writing in the age of Michelet and Burckhardt.

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