The Line of the Sun
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The gnomon in the Uffizi

The Tribuna in the Uffizi was built by Bernardo Buontalenti (1536-1608) between 1581 and 1583, but the work of furnishing it, including the decoration of the cupola, went on until 1610. The edifice was designed to display some of the greatest masterpieces of painting in the Medicean collection. Around 1590, at the order of Ferdinando I, an anemometer and a sundial were installed on the octagonal cupola. No trace of the sundial remains, but a coeval description tells us that it was a "camera obscura" type, similar to the by-now famous one on the Florentine cathedral. These scientific applications in the temple of the arts undoubtedly served the purpose of symbolically celebrating Medicean power. The cosmic order that cast light on Cosimo's descendants was subtly evoked by the four elements highlighted by art and science: Air, indicated by the wind rose as well as the statue of Zephyr; Fire, represented by the gnomon and the statue of Apollo; Earth, by the precious stones, the metals and the statue of Juno; and Water, by the encrusted mother-of-pearl on the cupola and the statues of Venus and Galatea.

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