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The Uffizi

The Uffizi

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The Uffizi, literally translated as “the offices” is Florence’s world famous art gallery and the creation of one of its most iconic figures, Duke Cosimo I dei Medici. Cosimo I was both the Duke of Florence and, from 1569, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He was the first ever holder of this latter title.

The Uffizi was originally built from 1560 to 1580 to house the offices – hence the name – of Florence’s administration and judicial sectors. Initially designed and built by Giorgio Vasari, the Uffizi was continued by Alfonso Parigi and Bernardo Buontalenti. This occurred when Vasari, and also Cosimo I, died in 1574.

Cosimo I’s successor was his son, Francesco I, who first decided to use the Uffizi as an art gallery, an endeavour further undertaken by Francesco I’s brother and successor Ferdinando I and continued today.

The collections now held at the Uffizi include artwork from the gothic and renaissance eras by some of the world’s most prominent artists such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Titian, Carravagio and Giotto.

The Uffizi is part of the Historic Florence UNESCO World Heritage site.

Uffizi Gallery History

Uffizi: to someone knowing a little Italian, the same word Uffizi could already reveal the very first destination of this building.

Uffizi is in fact an ancient way of saying in Italian "Uffici" which could be translated with the English word "Offices".

Well, here is the solution to the "mystery": when, round 1560, Cosimo I de' Medici asked his favourite architect Giorgio Vasari to project a "Palazzo", a building, next to Palazzo della Signoria, where the Duke lived, it was actually to house the thirteen Florentine "Magistrature", the administrative and judicial offices of the Duchy of Tuscany.

That was indeed an immense project and works went on for a long time. All the area nowadays occupied by the U-shaped Uffizi Palace was totally transformed: many houses all around the area were destroyed and even the Church of San Pier Scheraggio, an ancient Romanesque church dating back to the 11th century, was in part destroyed, in part "closed" inside the new building.

When Giorgio Vasari passed away in 1574, the project was not finished yet and other two architects, Bernardo Buontalenti and Alfonso Parigi the Elder, completed the Uffizi round 1580.

Some years earlier, in 1565, on the occasion of the marriage between Francesco I, son of Cosimo I, and Joanna of Austria, Giorgio Vasari had projected an incredible aerial passage way which took his name, the Vasari Corridor: a long corridor connecting Palazzo della Signoria and Palazzo Pitti (which had just been acquired by the Medici family), passing through the Uffizi and over the Ponte Vecchio.

The official opening of the Uffizi as a gallery was in 1769, but already in 1591, on request, it was possible to see the marvellous paintings, precious objects and ancient statues which were part of the amazing collection belonging to the Medici family.

Nowadays the Uffizi Gallery is undoubtedly one of the most admired and visited museums all over the world.

Performances at the Uffizi: the history of the Medici Theatre

We already know the story of the theater of Baldracca, but - very close to it - there was another space dedicated to theater, inside the Uffizi Palace.

This is the Medici Theatre, built by Bernardo Buontalenti (1531 - 1608) for the Grand Duke Francesco I de' Medici. Most likely, the court architect worked at the theater between 1576 and 1586. However, already in 1589, by the will of the new Grand Duke Ferdinando I, Buontalenti profoundly modified the theater decorations.

Buontalenti is a master of Italian Mannerism, artistically influenced by Michelangelo. The Tribuna of the Uffizi is one of his masterpieces.
The architect had worked on a Mannerist and experimental architectural language for this theatre. Ferdinand I, however, wanted a space that would represent his authority: the decorations took on an allegorical character.

The room structure was inspired by classical antiquity theaters. However, Buontalenti was also very innovative: the floor of the room was slightly sloping: all the audience could see very well the stage. Many tricks and mechanisms also enlivened the performances.

When the court of the Medici moved to Palazzo Pitti and new theaters opened in Florence, the room was abandoned. The theater became the seat of the Senate, during the period in which Florence was the capital of Italy.

Today the two floors occupied by the Medici Theatre are separated. The last works date back to the Fifties, when also the architect Michelucci was involved. Downstairs are now the Rooms of the Primitives in the upper one, the Department of Drawings and Prints.

Even today, Uffizi visitors can admire the entrance to the theater built by Buontalenti.


The building of the Uffizi complex was begun by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 for Cosimo I de' Medici so as to accommodate the offices of the Florentine magistrates, hence the name uffizi, "offices". The construction was later continued by Alfonso Parigi and Bernardo Buontalenti it was completed in 1581. The top floor was made into a gallery for the family and their guests and included their collection of Roman sculptures. [6]

The cortile (internal courtyard) is so long, narrow and open to the Arno at its far end through a Doric screen that articulates the space without blocking it, that architectural historians [7] treat it as the first regularized streetscape of Europe. Vasari, a painter and architect as well, emphasised its perspective length by adorning it with the matching facades' continuous roof cornices, and unbroken cornices between storeys, as well as the three continuous steps on which the palace-fronts stand. The niches in the piers that alternate with columns of the Loggiato filled with sculptures of famous artists in the 19th century.

The Uffizi brought together under one roof the administrative offices and the Archivio di Stato, the state archive. The project was intended to display prime art works of the Medici collections on the piano nobile the plan was carried out by his son, Grand Duke Francesco I. He commissioned the architect Buontalenti to design the Tribuna degli Uffizi that would display a series of masterpieces in one room, including jewels it became a highly influential attraction of a Grand Tour. The octagonal room was completed in 1584. [8]

Over the years, more sections of the palace were recruited to exhibit paintings and sculpture collected or commissioned by the Medici. For many years, 45 to 50 rooms were used to display paintings from the 13th to 18th century. [9]

Because of its huge collection, some of the Uffizi's works have in the past been transferred to other museums in Florence—for example, some famous statues to the Bargello. A project was finished in 2006 to expand the museum's exhibition space some 6,000 metres 2 (64,000 ft 2 ) to almost 13,000 metres 2 (139,000 ft 2 ), allowing public viewing of many artworks that had usually been in storage.

The Nuovi Uffizi (New Uffizi) renovation project which started in 1989 was progressing well in 2015 to 2017. [10] It was intended to modernize all of the halls and more than double the display space. As well, a new exit was planned and the lighting, air conditioning and security systems were updated. During construction, the museum remained open, although rooms were closed as necessary with the artwork temporarily moved to another location. [11] For example, the Botticelli rooms and two others with early Renaissance paintings were closed for 15 months but reopened in October 2016. [12]

The major modernization project, New Uffizi, had increased viewing capacity to 101 rooms by late 2016 by expanding into areas previously used by the Florence State Archive. [13]

The Uffizi hosted over two million visitors in 2016, making it the most visited art gallery in Italy. [14] In high season (particularly in July), waiting times can be up to five hours. Tickets are available on-line in advance, however, to significantly reduce the waiting time. [9] A new ticketing system is currently being tested to reduce queuing times from hours to just minutes. [15] The museum is being renovated to more than double the number of rooms used to display artwork. [13]

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic The museum was closed for 150 days in 2020, and attendance plunged by 72 percent to 659,043. Nonetheless, the Uffizi was twenty-seventh in the List of most-visited art museums in the world in 2020. [16] Works from the Uffizi gallery collection are now available for remote viewing on Google Arts and Culture. [17]

On 27 May 1993, the Sicilian Mafia carried out a car bomb explosion in Via dei Georgofili and damaged parts of the palace, killing five people. The blast destroyed five pieces of art and damaged another 30. Some of the paintings were fully protected by bulletproof glass. [18] The most severe damage was to the Niobe room and classical sculptures and neoclassical interior (which have since been restored), although its frescoes were damaged beyond repair.

In early August 2007, Florence experienced a heavy rainstorm. The Gallery was partially flooded, with water leaking through the ceiling, and the visitors had to be evacuated. There was a much more significant flood in 1966 which damaged most of the art collections in Florence severely, including some of the works in the Uffizi. [19]

    : Santa Trinita Maestà : Rucellai Madonna : Ognissanti Madonna, Badia Polyptych : Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus : Presentation at the Temple , Adoration of the Magi : The Battle of San Romano : Lamentation of Christ : Madonna and Child, Coronation of the Virgin : Diptych of Duke Federico da Montefeltro and Duchess Battista Sforza of Urbino : The Baptism of Christ : Portinari Triptych : Primavera, The Birth of Venus, Adoration of the Magi of 1475 and others : The Holy Family (Doni Tondo) : The Annunciation, Adoration of the Magi : Perseus Freeing Andromeda : Adoration of the Magi : Madonna of the Goldfinch, Portrait of Leo X : Flora, Venus of Urbino : Madonna with the Long Neck : Bacchus, Sacrifice of Isaac, Medusa : Judith and Holofernes : Self-portrait as a Young Man, Self-portrait as an Old Man, Portrait of an Old Man

The collection also contains some ancient sculptures, such as the Arrotino, the Two Wrestlers and the Bust of Severus Giovanni

‘Laocoön and his Sons’ by Baccio Bandinelli

Displayed in the Uffizi’s breathtaking sculpture corridor, Bandinelli‘s sculpture teaches us much of what we know about artistic methods during the Italian Renaissance. Basing his work on a Hellenistic sculpture unearthed in 1506, Bandinelli’s version takes the ruined original and its description by Pliny the Elder and uses it to model a modern recreation for Pope Leo X to give as a gift to King Francis I.

Here, we have the entire story of the Renaissance in microcosm: an artistic commission from a powerful leader based on a work of antiquity, which is then refashioned for a contemporary audience by a master craftsman.

The Uffizi Today

Today, the Uffizi is one of the most visited museums in the world. It has been open to the public since at least the year 1765. In its early years, it gained popularity, a fact that rings true to this day. For many years, the museum has been undergoing a renovation project to expand its collections. Some of the most famous paintings to be found in the museum include the Birth of Venus, Venus of Urbino, Bacchus, Annunciation, La Primavera, and Flora. The museum itself is also a work of art, as it was designed by famous Italian architect Giorgio Vasari. In its early days, the grand space used to only be open to members of the royal family and select guests.

Florence's Uffizi Gallery discovers lost frescoes during COVID closures

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence used the winter COVID shutdown to push ahead with renovations, discovering lost frescoes that will greet visitors when the leading repository of Italian Renaissance art reopens on May 4.

Uffizi director Eike Schmidt said the six months of closure were put to good use: Renovating 14 new rooms that will open to the public next month, and discovering frescoes that would otherwise have remained hidden.

But he hopes that the most recent reopening &mdash the third during the pandemic &mdash will be the last.

"We very much hope that now we will be able to open stably and without further closures. We hope so for the museum, but we hope it also for the world and for human society,&Prime Schmidt said.

The previously hidden frescoes include a life-size figure of a young Cosimo II de Medici &mdash part of the Renaissance family that commissioned the Uffizi &mdash dating from the 1600s, as well as decorative plant motifs from the 1700s on the walls and ceiling of nearby rooms.

A full-length and life-size fresco depicting the young Cosimo II de 'Medici, with the allegories of Florence and Siena, to be attributed to the painter Bernardino Poccetti (1548-1612), is seen on a wall after renovation works in the underground of the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, Italy, on April 16, 2021. Uffizi Gallery via AP

They are located in the museum's west wing, which is where the new visitors' entrance will be when the Uffizi reopens.

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Schmidt said the new entrance facing the Arno River would provide "a glorious introduction" for visitors. Classic statuary will be added to the entrance in the future.

Workers also completed restoration on new rooms dedicated to 16th Century high and late Renaissance art from central and northern Italy, beyond Tuscany. They complete the sweep through art history from the Middle Ages with Giotto, to the Renaissance masters Botticelli, Raphael and Michelangelo, beyond to the counter-reformation and Venetian galleries.

"You can now seamlessly walk through, or hike through, art history if you wish to do so,&Prime Schmidt said.

Under the Uffizi's new entry system, visitors will buy tickets, deposit coats and bags in the west wing and cross through a courtyard to the east wing, where they will pass through metal detectors and pick up audio guides before starting their rounds of the museum.

The number of visitors at the museum last year dropped to about a quarter of those in 2019 due to the COVID lockdowns in the spring and fall, with some 1.2 million people visiting in 2020, down from 4.4 million a year earlier.

Booking requests have already started coming in for the summer months, which the museum will be able to satisfy now that an opening date is official, Schmidt said.

With prospects for the resumption of international tourism only beginning to come into focus, Schmidt expects the gallery will operate at about half its capacity for the foreseeable future. Pre-pandemic, peak visitation reached as many as 12,000 people a day.

"Actually to visit the museum now and over the next few months will mean you will really feel even more as if you are part of the de Medici family," Eike said. "Especially if you come in the early morning, you might be in the Botticelli room to yourself for two or three minutes before someone else arrives. That never, ever happens."

The Uffizi has been closed since November 5 except for two weeks in January when Tuscany was under Italy's lowest level of restrictions. Italy on Monday begins a gradual reopening. Along with museums being allowed to open their doors, restaurants in low-risk zones on Monday will be allowed to offer outdoor dining before a 10 p.m. curfew.

First published on April 23, 2021 / 9:59 PM

© 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Although having done work in Florence, Ambrogio Lorenzetti was known within the Sienese School of painters. This school of painting from Siena, Italy, was an elegant style that was said to rival, at time, even the Florentine painters throughout the 13th and 15th centuries.

Lorenzetti’s work survives in history with a painting from 1328 that contains the first documented existence of the hourglass. Though he also contributed a piece of historic relevance called, Well-Governed Town and Country, which is a pictorial encyclopedia that depicts an idealistic countryside, or medieval “borgo.” This piece was a familiar style of Lorenzetti’s from frescos he created on the walls of Sala dei Nove (the Hall of the Nine), or the Sala della Pace (Hall of Peace) in Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico. They are important works in Siena’s preservation of history, and exhibit the artist as an astute political and moral observer.

These frescos, painted from 1337 – 1339, were secular representations of allegorical figures of virtue in how a republic was governed. Aside from, Well-Governed Town and Country, there are three more, less preserved frescos, Allegory of Good Government, Effects of Good Government, and Allegory of Bad Government and its effects on Town and Country. They are complex, panoramic works that contained the Gothic influence of other Sienese painters like Simone Martini (1284 – 1344).

Though, Lorenzetti’s work showed more of a naturalistic approach than that of Martini or another Sienese artist, Duccio. Another influence the artist had was that of his brother, the painter Pietro Lorenzetti (1280 – 1348). The Lorenzetti brothers are both attributed for having introduced this naturalistic approach in the Sienese School. Through his brother, Ambrogio’s influence can also be traced to that of Giotto.

Very few of Lorenzetti’s pieces have survived and his earliest known work was the, Madonna and Child, painted in 1319. His other works, additional to the wall frescos on the Sala dei Nove, include a fresco at San Francesco titled The Investiture of St. Louis of Toulouse (1329), an altarpiece in San Procolo from 1332 titled, Madonna and Child with Saints Nicholas and Proculus, another fresco at San Francesco titled Franciscan Martyrdom at Bombay (1336), and an altarpiece of Santa Petronilla commissioned for the altar of San Crescenzo in Siena Cathedral from 1342.

It is sometimes mentioned that Lorenzetti’s work was in a style that anticipated the Italian Renaissance. As the bubonic plague ravaged the area during his time, it is believed that this is how both the Lorenzetti brothers died.

Uffizi Gallery Highlights

Room 2, Tuscan School of the 13th Century and Giotto: The beginnings of Tuscan art, with paintings by Giotto, Cimabue, and Duccio di Boninsegna.

Room 7, Early Renaissance: works of art from the beginning of the Renaissance by Fra Angelico, Paolo Uccello, and Masaccio.

Room 8, Lippi Room: paintings by Filippo Lippi, including a beautiful "Madonna and Child," and Piero della Francesco's painting of Federico da Montefeltro, a truly iconic work of portraiture.

Rooms 1014, Botticelli: some of the most iconic allegorical works of the Italian Renaissance from Sandro Botticelli, including "The Birth of Venus."

Room 15, Leonardo da Vinci: dedicated to the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci and to artists who inspired (Verrocchio) or admired (Luca Signorelli, Lorenzo di Credi, Perugino) him.

Room 25, Michelangelo: Michelangelo's "Holy Family" ("Doni Tondo"), a round composition, surrounded by Mannerist paintings from Ghirlandaio, Fra Bartolomeo, and others. (Traveler's tip: Michelangelo's most famous work in Florence, the "David" sculpture, is located in the Accademia.)

Room 26, Raphael and Andrea del Sarto: approximately seven works by Raphael and four works by Andrea del Sarto, including his portraits of Popes Julius II and Leo X and "Madonna of the Goldfinch." Also: "Madonna of the Harpies" by Andrea del Sarto.

Room 28, Titian: dedicated to Venetian painting, particularly that of Titian, with his "Venus of Urbino" among approximately a dozen of the artist's paintings.

West Hallway, Sculpture Collection: numerous marble sculptures, but Baccio Bandinelli's "Laocoon," modeled after a Hellenistic work, is perhaps best known.

Room 4 (First Floor), Caravaggio: three of Caravaggio's most famous paintings: "The Sacrifice of Isaac," "Bacchus," and "Medusa." Two other paintings from the School of Caravaggio: "Judith Slaying Holofernes" (Artemisia Gentileschi) and "Salome with the Head of John the Baptist" (Battistello).

In addition to the outstanding works listed above, the Galleria degli Uffizi also contains works by Albrecht Dürer, Giovanni Bellini, Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino and countless other greats of Italian and international Renaissance art.

Watch the video: Uffizi Gallery Tour 4K. Galleria Degli Uffizi, Firenze (May 2022).