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The Tribune

Author
Bernardo Buontalenti ( Florence 1531 - 1608)
Date
1581-83
Collection

The Tribune was realized between 1581 and 1583 by architect Bernardo Buontalenti “to keep jewels and embellishments of the Grand Duke”, Francesco I de’ Medici. According to the concept of museum in that period, the Tribune did not just display works of art, such as sculptures and paintings, but also extraordinary natural items, including precious stones. It was a cabinet of curios, containing a condensate of knowledge. The structure is octagonal because according to Christian tradition eight is the number which draws near Heaven. Besides, in ancient times octagonal plans were recurrent in the construction of important buildings as well as of baptisteries and basilicas. The dome, symbol of the Vault of Heaven, has an external lantern with a weathervane whose movements are internally reproduced on a painted wind rose. The lantern also works as a sundial: during both equinoxes and solstices the Sun passing through a hole displays the celestial mechanics also to “those who are inexperienced with planets and the motion of heavenly bodies”. Francesco I conceived the iconography of the Tribune’s decorations and furniture as a full cosmos featuring the four elements. Earth was represented by the floor realized by architect Buontalenti as a wide flower inlaid with polychrome marbles (alabaster from Northern Africa, green porphyry from Turkey, red porphyry from Egypt). Along the room’s perimeter at the base of the walls, Jacopo Ligozzi painted also plants and animals. On the dome Water was represented by 5780 mother of pearls coming from the Indian Ocean for the occasion and masterly set on a background painted with a scarlet varnish achieved - as it was usual in ancient times – by using millions of red cochineals. Under the varnish, 130 sq. meters of ceiling were then covered with layers of gold. Fire was represented by the precious red velvets on the walls provided with gold fringes. Air was symbolized by the towering lantern open to winds. The final effect is that of a treasure chest which catches the visitor by surprise almost astounding him. The Tribune was the core of the Medici's collections at the Uffizi and it is probably the room that during centuries has been rearranged more frequently.