The Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery) is an art museum in Florence and is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the Western world. In his Inferno Dan Brown mentions it many times, referring to it as “world-famous.”
The Uffizi Gallery has the world’s finest collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, particularly those of the Florentine school. It also has antiques, sculptures, and more than 100,000 drawings and prints.
Divided into several rooms prepared for schools and styles in chronological order, the Uffizi Gallery hosts some of the greatest masterpieces of humanity by artists ranging from Cimabue to Caravaggio, and the likes of Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Tiziano, Canaletto, as well as many others.
In 1559 the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I de’ Medici hired the painter-architect Giorgio Vasari to plan a building to hold the offices of the government judiciary, hence the name uffizi (“offices” in ancient Italian). Cosimo I wanted to bring together the thirteen most important Florentine office magistrates, previously located in various locations, in a single building under his direct supervision. His aim was to add to the Palazzo della Signoria a new seat of government, in keeping with the political and military power gained from Florence after the conquest of Siena.
Vasari conceived an architectural module that would be repeated all along the building: a portico flanked by two pillars, with niches on the ground floor and three windows on the upper story.
The Uffizi Palace, one of the most important examples of Italian Mannerist architecture, has been subsequently enlarged and remodeled by two italian architects, Alfonso Parigi and Bernardo Buontalenti, who completed the work in 1581, but always in keeping with Vasari’s original design.
In 1565, on the occasion of the marriage of his son Francesco I to Giovanna d’Austria, Cosimo I asked Vasari to design a raised passageway connecting Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, the new residence of the Medici family. Vasari built the so-called Vasari Corridor in only five months. The corridor starts from Palazzo Vecchio, passes through the Uffizi, runs parallel to the river above a portico, and crosses over the Ponte Vecchio. The Vasari Corridor then continues through the facade of the church of Santa Felicita to reach the Boboli Gardens.
After the death of Cosimo I, his son Francesco I de’ Medici commissioned Bernardo Buontalenti to create the famous Tribuna degli Uffizi, an octagonal room located in the east corridor of the Uffizi Gallery. Francesco transferred his private collections to this room from the Studiolo in Palazzo Vecchio.
Francesco I’s private collections included High Renaissance and Bolognese paintings, ancient statues, cameos, precious stones, jewels, bronzes, scientific instruments, and portraits of the Medici family and illustrious men.
He decided that this collection, hitherto accessible only to him and a few close friends, could be visited on request, making of the Uffizi Gallery the oldest museum in Europe.
The Tribuna degli Uffizi was the main attraction of the Grand Tour, the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly young upper-class European men since the seventeenth century, during which they would learn about politics, culture, art, and antiquities of European countries.
Over the years, other parts of the Uffizi palace have been used to display many of the paintings and sculpture collected by the Medici family or commissioned by them.
In the eighteenth century, after the House of Medici was no more, its personal property was bequeathed to the Lorraine family with a pact, negotiated by Anna Maria Luisa, the last Medici heiress, providing that the works of art should always remain in Florence.
The Grand Duke Leopoldo I gave the Uffizi its status as a museum in the eighteenh century. He had its collections reorganized and opened the museum to the public in 1765.
Leopoldo I provided for the construction of a new entrance and for the reorganization of collections completed in the years 1780 to 1782 by the Italian art historian and archaeologist Luigi Lanzi, who adhered to the rationalistic criteria of Illuminismo (Enlightenment).
The Enlightenment was a cultural movement of intellectuals beginning in late seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, to challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and to advance knowledge through the scientific method.
Lanzi wanted to concentrate in the Uffizi only paintings, separated by ancient sculptures and minor works of art, as opposed to the eclecticism of the Renaissance distinguishing science from art.
The Uffizi Gallery was damaged during one of the worst floods in the history of the city of Florence: the 1966 Flood of the Arno river. It was also damaged in 1993 due to a car-bomb explosion on Via dei Gergofili, a street next to the Uffizi. Six people were killed and parts of the gallery were seriously damaged, although few of its masterpieces were affected.
Many pieces belonging to the collection were placed in storage, being gradually put back into place in accordance with the renovations of the museum. The identity of the bomber(s) is unknown, but the tragedy was almost certainly attributable to the Sicilian Mafia.
Over the subsequent decade an expansion of the Uffizi’s gallery space was planned. The Nuovi Uffizi project was begun in 2007 with the goal of more than doubling the size of the Uffizi’s exhibition area. New galleries featuring foreign schools (Dutch, Flemish, French, and Spanish) were unveiled in 2011, and a series of rooms highlighting the works of sixteenth-century Tuscan artists were dedicated the following year.
In 2013, 127 new self-portraits of Italian and foreign artists of the twentieth century (paintings, and stone and bronze sculptures) from the deposit of the Uffizi were exhibited in the Vasari Corridor, in addition to those already in existence.
The Uffizi Gallery houses a superb collection of priceless works of art like La Nascita di Venere (The birth of Venus) and La Primavera (Spring) by Sandro Botticelli, and L’Annunciazione (The Annunciation) by Leonardo da Vinci.
In 2013 it was visited by 1,875,176 people, making it once again the most popular Italian museum.
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Pictures by CC Ehrenhard (The Uffizi Gallery Florence, Italy) and by casoli.iobloggo.com (Tribuna degli Uffizi Florence, Italy)