Your own private Uffizi
Finding some peace, quiet and privacy during a high-season visit to the Uffizi is possible, especially if you let yourself be taken in by stories that you won’t find in the guidebooks. The rediscovery and restoration of the Rape of Proserpina by Giuseppe Grisoni is one such tale.
Picture the scene: Florence, 2002. Palazzo Serristori. Antonio Natali, director of the Uffizi Gallery, notices something wrapped in plastic and rolled around a lamppost. He calls over restoration expert Muriel Vervat and together they unroll it, discovering that it is a painting, its colors obscured by thick, dark mold. The smell is overwhelming.
The painting’s subject incomprehensible, they search for any identifying qualities, anything that might give them a clue as to what may be below the layer of black mold, but they find nothing. Then, a breakthrough: a small tag with an inventory number. The records entry reads ‘Painter from the XVII century; Pluto kidnapping a nymph.’
Now cross the river to the Uffizi Gallery. Room 42, the Sala della Niobe, in need of restoration. The splendid room was built in 1770, by order of Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine, to house the statues of Niobe and her children, which were discovered in 1583 in the Tommasini vineyards in Rome. The statues depict the myth of Niobe—the proud mother who boasted of having more children than the goddess Leto. Enraged by Niobe’s pride, Leto punished her by sending her own children, Apollo and Diana, in to kill all of Niobe’s sons and daughters.