The painting represents a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Perseus kills the sea monster which has been sent by Poseidon to sacrifice Andromeda. Perseus frees Andromeda who has been chained into a rock. On the top right, you can see Perseus flying with winged sandals and him decapitating the monster with his sword in the center.
On the left chained Andromeda turns and tries to move away from the terrible creature. The figures in the foreground witness the scene wearing antique style clothing. Some of them are playing instruments, some are singing, laughing and celebrating, some are desperately crying. Among them is Cepheus, the king of Aethiopia, wearing a white turban and you can see him both in the right group and the left group of people. The bearded man with red clothing who is turned facing the observer is believed to be a self-portrait of the author.
The scene is dominated by the horrible sea monster, a fantasy animal with dog’s head with long fangs, mane and a lizard’s tail. Even the landscape has some bizarre fantasy elements, resembling the prints of Durer. This can be seen also in the various characters playing fantasy instruments, who express their joy and sorrow with excessive gestures and poses.
The work was probably commissioned by Filippo Strozzi the Younger, husband of Clarice de’ Medici, in 1513 when the Medici family returned to Florence after the republican parenthesis and the Carnival organized by Compagnia del Broncone.
According to Luciano Berti, Perseus and Andromeda is a symbol that celebrates the return of the family who had beaten the Florentine Republic, depicted as a defeated monster. Berti suggested the character of Cepheus could represent Filippo Strozzi and Perseus his brother-in-law Lorenzo de’ Medici, the leader of the Compagnia del Broncone.
There’s a copy of the panel in Museo di Palazzo Davanzati in Florence, painted by Maestro di Serumido in the first half of the 16th century (inv. 1890, 510) and another one in Gemäldegalerie in Vienna, which was originally in the Albani collection (inv. 1896, 108).
Piero di Lorenzo di Chimenti was born in Florence in 1462 and he took his name after his master Cosimo Rosselli, with whom he painted the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel.
Vasari described him as a difficult and restless man with a bizarre spirit that is often reflected in his works, especially in those with mythological subjects, which are often teeming with grotesque figures and excessive expressions.
His art is original and eccentric like the subjects of his works and his style non-classic, which can be seen in his surreal fantasy landscapes, influenced by Northern European prints and paintings as well as religious themes.
His works with the theme of Madonna and Child represent kindness and tenderness between mother and her child. In his portraits he has hidden secret meanings and messages (Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci) and they are often influenced by Flemish art (Portrait of Giuliano da Sangallo, 1482 – 1485) and with strong psychologic aspect.
Among his most famous works are the series of paintings describing the life of primitive man, painted for Francesco del Pugliese (1500-1505) and panels with the stories of Vulcan.
Piero di Cosimo died in Florence in 1522.
The Uffizi gallery was established in 1560 when Cosimo I Medici, the Duke of Tuscany, wanted to put together the Florentine offices and magistrates (hence the name uffici, offices) in a single building, to have a better control over them.
The work was entrusted to Giorgio Vasari and the construction started the following year. The building was designed in U-shape, consisting of a long east wing, a short corridor overlooking the Arno river and a short west wing, forming classic pattern of a Tuscan loggia. The entrance of the gallery is situated right next to Palazzo Vecchio, the house of the dukes.
The first museological exhibition was organized by Francesco I, the Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1574 to 1587. Thanks to the architect Buontalenti and the initiative of Ferdinand II, the gallery became a representation site, decorated by Antonio Tempesta, where the artworks were conserved as well as the series of the portraits of the Illustrious Men which were placed next to the portraits of the Medici family.
The overall space consists of 8000 square meters and forty-five rooms, all in the third floor, where the art collection includes some of the greatest masterpieces of Italian and European art, such as Giotto’s Maestà di Ognissanti, Simone Martini’s Trinity, the altarpieces of Duccio, Gentile da Fabriano and Mantegna, the Annunciation and Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo Da Vinci, many works of Botticelli, among them the Venus and the Spring, Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola and Madonna of the Goldfinch, Tiitan’s Venus of Urbino, Caravaggio’s Bacchus and Rubens’s Triumph of Henry IV.
Ferdinand II wanted to add other rooms in the gallery: the room of Mathematics, a terrace and the armory. Between 1696 and 1699 the Grand Duke Cosimo III ordered the decoration of the corridor overlooking the Arno river with frescoes of religious subjects and he sent to Florence some of the most famous examples of ancient statues conserved in Villa Medici of Rome. In this occasion was built the Sala della Niobe, where the ancient sculptures were placed. Other self-portraits of ancient and contemporary painters were acquired and placed in the Vasari Corridor. Cardinal Leopoldo de Medici added to Uffizi his collection of graphic art and created the cabinet nowadays known as the department of drawings and prints.
After the extinction of the house of Medici due to lack of heirs, in 1737 Anna Maria Luisa de Medici donated the treasures of the Uffizi gallery to the city of Florence, so that the collection would always stay where it was created. In 1769 the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo opens the gallery to the public. In the 1770s’ Uffizi was seen as a advantaged laboratory for the studies of art history and for preparation of art, thanks to the work of Luigi di Lanzi and Giuseppe Pelli Bencivenni.
During the Kingdom of Italy, the renaissance statues were moved to the new museum of Bargello and the gallery was gradually taking the function of Pinacoteca. More and more visitors came, and the magistrates were transformed to public archives.
In 1900 the gallery acquired the painting collection of the Arcispedale of Santa Maria Nuova, including artworks such as the Portinari Triptych of Hugo van der Goes, from the church of Sant’Edigio. In the beginning of the 20th century the gallery reinforced the collection by acquiring many works of the 14th and 15th centuries from churches and other religious institutes, which were still absent in the museums historical framework.
The first renovation of Uffizi’s rooms dates back to 1956, when the architects Giovanni Michelucci, Carlo Scarpa and Ignazio Gardella renewed the rooms with light tones of colors that highlight the wooden ceiling. In 1969 the gallery purchased the collection of Contini Bonacossi including Giovanni Bellini’s St. Jerome, Cima da Conegliano’s St. Jerome, Francesco Francia’s St. Francis, Savoldo’s Mary Magdalene, Tintoretto’s canvases and Velazquez’s Waterseller of Seville and Portrait of Philip IV of Spain.
In 2006 the Uffizi galleries started the architectural restoration work, adjustments of the implantation and new layouts for the rooms. The museum remained always open and with the reform of the Italian museum system in 2014 the museums of Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens were joined to the Uffizi.