After being concealed from public view for more than 20 years, maps representing Renaissance Tuscany are now on exhibit at the Uffizi Galleries in Florence.
The wall paintings, which show the newly united area, were commissioned in the late 1500s by Ferdinando I de’ Medici after the republic of Florence conquered its rival Siena, resulting in the formation of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
The three maps drawn by cartographer Stefano Bonsignori and painted by Ludovico Buti include over 1,200 cities and towns whose names are inscribed in gold.
The maps were the first large-scale representations of Tuscany, and they are on display in the museum’s “hall of geographical maps,” where Dario Argento filmed a scene from his 1996 film The Stendhal Syndrome, about a mysterious illness thought to strike visitors to Florence after they become overwhelmed by the city’s artistic masterpieces.
The map of the Florence region is on one wall, while Siena is on the other. A map of Elba Island, off the coast of Tuscany, is shown on the third wall.
The chamber also has a large window that provides visitors with a bird’s eye perspective of modern-day Florence, including the Palazzo Vecchio and the basilicas of Santa Croce and San Miniato al Monte.
The maps were restored at €700,000 (£600,000).
“Even the tiniest and most remote towns are elegantly written in gold and are frequently accompanied by the first known pictorial representation of the various locations,” Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries, said. “In these large maps, residents of the [Tuscan] region will be able to recognize places they love.”
The chamber has been shuttered since the late 1990s, but it again has chairs for guests.
“It was a very old-fashioned, stuffy room in desperate need of restoration,” Schmidt recalled, “although the official reason for keeping it closed was always a lack of staff.” “The paintings on the walls had darkened, and you could really see the dust.” We were able to repair them, clean them, and add equipment that counts how many individuals are in the room at any one moment.”
From Tuesday, the maps will be on display to a maximum of 20 people at a time.
Ferdinando I commissioned the maps to commemorate Florence’s conquest of Siena. Ferdinando I was the son of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Tuscany’s first grand duke, who commissioned Giorgio Vasari to design the Uffizi palace in 1560.