Renaissance Art Philanthropy

An Afternoon with the Contessa at the Uffizi in Florence

Dante Keeler

Dante Keeler

By Dante Keeler

Contessa Maria Vittoria Colonna

Contessa Maria Vittoria Colonna Rimbotti

South Florida Opulence has been a longtime proud media partner with Friends of the Uffizi Gallery, directed by Lisa Marie Brown in the United States and by the President, Contessa Maria Vittoria Colonna Rimbotti, in Florence.

South Florida Opulence has been a longtime proud media partner with Friends of the Uffizi Gallery, directed by Lisa Marie Brown in the United States and by the President, Contessa Maria Vittoria Colonna Rimbotti, in Florence.

It is October 2nd, in Florence, Italy. Recently, I finished a three-week blitzkrieg art history course surveying the greatest collections of on-location paintings, sculptures, and architecture of the Renaissance. The day before I visited the Uffizi Gallery: a superb and spectacular museum, born from the ducal collection of the Medici family, and one of the oldest and most visited museums in the world. Masterpieces such as Giotto’s Ognissanti Madonna, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation call the Uffizi their home. And today, I talk with the wonderful woman preserving the precious works of the Uffizi, Contessa Maria Vittoria Colonna Rimbotti.

The Contessa’s Mission to Preserve History
President of the Friends of the Uffizi Gallery and Chairman of the Amici degli Uffizi, Contessa Maria Vittoria collaborates with donors and other board members of both non-profit organizations to combat the decay of the Uffizi’s treasures. Since its inception in 1993, when the museum needed funds after a terrorist attack on the Gallery, the Amici degli Uffizi has raised money to preserve, restore, and promote the artworks within the Uffizi Gallery. Contessa Maria Vittoria has been with them since the beginning and founded the American sister branch, the Friends of the Uffizi Gallery, in Florida in 2006. Seeing the two countries as “brothers,” the Contessa united Italy and America to better protect the keystones of modern culture within the Uffizi. Rejoicing at America’s reception to the project, she said, “I’m glad to have founded the Friends of the Uffizi and to make this link between the two continents…I’m proud, really, I enjoy when I come in [sic] Florida to have the feeling that the people really appreciate what we are doing.”

david-statueRestoring such phenomenal works as Fra Filippo Lippi’s Madonna and Child with Two Angels and the Bacchus  sculpture, the Friends of the Uffizi Gallery have an impressive resume already. Spreading their network far and wide in search of investors, their reach can even strike close to home, as my father interviewed Contessa Maria Vittoria to write for South Florida Opulence’s Conserving Uffizi with a Contessa’s Touch in 2014, just prior to her visit to Miami. She remembered him so fondly that when she heard I was in Florence, we had to get in touch. So today I walk past the Cathedral, take a right at the Baptistery, keep walking past Gucci, and arrive at a small piazza where Maria Vittoria works.

Tucked away near the shopping district of downtown Florence, the Contessa’s discreet office contrasts the grand design of the Uffizi; sitting on the northern bank of the Arno and facing Palazzo Vecchio (City Hall), the “offices” cradle the political center of Florence with its long arms and the interior, with its frescoed ceilings and crimson showrooms, uplift and awe-inspire only as the ostentatious Medici Dukes could. According to Maria Vittoria, the Florentine people treasure the Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio as “Really, the heart, in a way, of the town, and also the identity of the town.”

When asked what the Uffizi meant to her, however, she smiles, looks up, and drifts back to her first night at the Uffizi: “It was almost dark,” she said, “I walked around and the lights were not too strong. And I had the impression that there was no door between the past and the present—the sense that your identity was, with everything, with the people around you—really, that it was yourself living in the past and in the present. And I’m just hoping that this can happen to others, in the future, that this atmosphere, the capacity to talk to your past and … this is what I’d like to remember, to transmit to the next generation, the possibility to have a rendezvous like that.” Preserving the enchantment of the Gallery drives the Friends, the Amici, and the Contessa every day.

Greatest Renaissance Art Gallery on Earth
The Uffizi eclipses all other Renaissance art galleries in the world, unique in its connection to a family pivotal to the patronage of Renaissance art. Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance, and thus the modern era. Looking forward with its growing contemporary self-portrait collection in the Vasari Corridor—a project Maria Vittoria takes interest in—the Gallery ensures its relevance for future generations.
Finally, looking back, the Contessa has another link to the past with her favorite painting of the Gallery; a painting by Piero Della Francesca of two of her ancestors, the Duke da Montefeltro and his wife, Battista Sforza. Their youngest daughter, Agnese, married a Colonna. “So I have a bit of the DNA of those people,” she said, “so every time I go to the Uffizi I pass through, I say, ‘Hello!’ hehe.” It is not every afternoon one meets a Contessa capable of ancestral rapport.

Renaissance Art Philanthropy