Uffizi, On Being Present returns: on the trail of black culture in museum works

The Uffizi Galleries presents the second installment of On Being Present: a virtual exhibition that brings together masterpieces with black characters.

As part of Black History Month Florence, now in its sixth year, the recovery of the African figure present in the paintings of the collections continues at the Uffizi Galleries: in fact, the second chapter of On Being Present, which traces a virtual itinerary with works from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, is now available on the Florentine museum’s website. Curator is artist Justin Randolph Thompson, director of Black History Month Florence, a review of events and projects organized in the Tuscan capital to celebrate the importance of black culture in Italian history.

Protagonists of the second edition of On Being Present are masterpieces, details of which can be seen in high definition, including paintings and drawings depicting black characters made by great artists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: Mantegna’s drawing Judith and the Handmaid with the Head of Holofernes, the one with which Dürer portrays the young maid Katerina, the canvas David and Bathsheba by Artemisia Gentileschi, but alsoHomer’s Enigma, the newly found masterpiece purchased by the Galleries from the Bolognese painter Bartolomeo Passerotti; as well as Filippino Lippi’sAdoration of the Magi, Filippo Napoletano’s Hunting of the Persian, Baldassarre Franceschini’sAllegory of America, and Jacopo Ligozzi’s Moor of Barbaria.

The Uffizi had also participated in the initiative last year: in addition to the first chapter ofHypervision, the museum had posted a series of videos on Facebook and a live broadcast on TikTok. That very virtual exhibition was the Galleries’ most viewed in all of 2020, reaching more than 270 thousand views, while about 100 thousand people followed the live TikTok broadcast.

“The second edition of our initiative,” declares Black History Month Florence director Justin Randolph Thompson, “is meant to be an invitation to join this circle that we all need to feel a part of, if the intention is to speak honestly about the past, to understand each one what his or her role is whenever we give voice to the works of art around us, and to appreciate the utter exceptionality and uniqueness with which each individual is and has been remembered in art.”

"We are continuing in the wake of the great success of the first edition of On Being Present," says Uffizi Galleries Director Eike Schmidt, “adding a second event that shows our paintings in a new light, different from the traditional one: a historical and at the same time social light that finally allows us to give back a voice to those who, for centuries, have not been heard or did not even have the chance to express themselves.”

Image: Baldassarre Franceschini known as Volterrano, Allegory of America, detail (1650-1670; Florence, Uffizi Galleries)

Uffizi, On Being Present returns: on the trail of black culture in museum works
Uffizi, On Being Present returns: on the trail of black culture in museum works

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