The Italian Almanac

Venus by Botticelly

Virtual Gallery

Florence's Uffizi Gallery, which receives more visitors than any other museum in Italy, has flung open its doors to virtual visitors too thanks to Google. The Uffizi is one of 17 major international art museums featured on Google's newly launched Art Project website (, which allows Internet users to "visit" artwork in much the same way Google Earth and Maps allow visitors to look at the planet down to the street level. Major museums participating from the project's launch include the National Gallery in London, the MoMa in New York, and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

After choosing a museum, a website visitor can choose to examine the reproduction of a masterpiece in unusually high resolution, or visit the museum's galleries through photographs similar to "Street View" on Google, turning left or right, zooming in or out. The Uffizi selected Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus to offer in 14 billion pixels.

"The Uffizi Gallery is the oldest museum in modern Europe, created in the heart of Florence by the Medici (family) to gather their art collection," explained Cristina Acidini, superintendent for Florence's major museums at the Polo Museale di Firenze. "Now, thanks to Google, it will be accessible in any instant, from anywhere in the world. "Through the virtual trip in the gallery, the user can explore over 70 masterpieces, from Cimabue to Goya, with particular attention to Botticelli's Birth of Venus, that will be revealed to all with a wealth of detail as never before".

The Uffizi chose to feature the Botticelli painting in super resolution because, Acidini continued, "the Venus represents the supreme ideal of human beauty and culture, symbol of the flowering of Florence at the time of Lorenzo the Magnificent". It is also, the superintendent revealed, a choice of personal significance. "My theory is that the Venus is not being born but landing. That is she is taking refuge in Florence after Constantinople's fall into the hands of the Turks," Acidini explained. The idea came to her after having noticed a particular detail in a photographic reproduction. "I understood at that point that it's worth writing another book on Botticelli".

In other words, she says, masterpieces never stop teaching, never stop revealing new details, even to experts and specialists. And Google's technology may spawn fresh scholarship as well as the spread of art appreciation.