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Art history with a side of mayonnaise: Uffizi Galleries launches new Facebook cooking show

Weekly video series “Uffizi da mangiare” invites Florentine chefs to present recipes inspired by the Italian museum's collection

The Italian-language videos "Uffizi da mangiare” (Uffizi on a dish), which will be posted on Facebook every Sunday, see Florentine chefs present new recipes inspired by artworks from the Uffizi’s collection Courtesy of the Uffizi Galleries

Before the pandemic, the Uffizi Galleries did not have a Facebook account. Since launching one in March 2020, however, followers on the page have boomed from 19,000 on day two to 66,000 in September and 88,000 today. A conveyor belt of fresh offerings has fuelled the trajectory. And if initial enthusiasm is anything to go by, the latest venture—“Uffizi da mangiare” (Uffizi on a dish)—looks set to sustain the trend. The Italian-language videos, which will be posted on Facebook every Sunday, see Florentine chefs present new recipes inspired by artworks from the Uffizi’s collection. In yesterday’s inaugural episode, the TV personality and restaurateur Fabio Picchi paired the contents of Giacomo Ceruti’s Ragazzo con la cesta di pesci e di aragoste (1736) with a simple mayonnaise.

The Uffizi has also been flexing its might on other social media platforms: it has reached 591,000 followers on Instagram, a watermark for Italian museums, and raised eyebrows with distinctively risque TikTok posts (it launched its account in April 2020). The Facebook series marks a major development in the museum's communications strategy during the lockdown. “As families cook and eat these dishes, the art will be the natural conversation topic,” the Uffizi's director Eike Schmidt tells The Art Newspaper. “We want to use social media to create something that is genuinely social.”

Six episodes are oven-ready and the museum is working on another dozen.

The chefs have exercised “total freedom”, with some lifting ingredients directly from paintings, and others taking more general cues from colour or form, Schmidt explains. In the end, Picchi’s mayonnaise—“lightened with a drizzle of lemon juice and oil”—was a minor accompaniment to his vivid analysis of the art. The painting depicts a sea bass, sole and what is usually described as a lobster spilling out of a tilted basket clasped by a grinning urchin. According to Picchi, however, the crustacean is actually a spider crab.

Picchi weaves culinary history with fantasy, imagining that the boy’s Elban mother will cook the costly bass for her noble master and the common spider crab for her own family. The painting is imbued with the smells and tastes of the past. A spider crab sauce would be “taken to the table with an enormous quantity of pasta”, Picchi says in the video. “The most fortunate would suck on the meatiest pieces, colouring their arms with red juice.”

The Uffizi's multigenerational Facebook following, 80% of which is Italian, makes the platform better suited to the family-friendly cookery series than Instagram or TikTok, which have younger fan bases, Schmidt says.

Six episodes are oven-ready and the museum is working on another dozen, most likely taking the weekly series up to at least the summer. Next, the pool of chefs could be extended beyond Tuscany to France, Spain or Britain. “We are looking at going in the direction of pastries. This should never become repetitive,” Schmidt reveals. Judging by the growing list of positive comments on Facebook, mouths are watering.