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Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery began life as a building to house offices of the government in Florence, Italy. The building was conceived by Cosimo I di’Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany, as the building that originally contained the administrative offices had become too small for the purpose Architect Giorgio Vasari began construction in 1560 and the building was completed by Buontalenti.

Uffizi means offices, and hence it’s name, but, right from the start the ruling Medici family, inveterate collectors, set apart rooms in the new building to display some of their treasures.

In 1581Francesco I used one floor of the building to accommodate some of the Grand Ducal collection, including statues, medals, pieces of jewelry, weapons, paintings and scientific instruments. In 1591, the Grand Duke gave permission for the public to view the treasures in the gallery on request, and thus the Uffizi’s claim to being the world’s oldest museum.

Then, Francesco I died, and he was succeeded by his brother Ferdinand I, who renounced the office of Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church to become Grand Duke of Tuscany. Ferdinand brought with him a large collection of works of art from Rome to add to the Medici collection. Subsequent generations continued to augment the collection, aided in no small measure by the fact that they married into some of the best families of Europe.

Uffizi Gallery - Florence ItalyFor instance, Ferdinando II married Vittoria della Rovere, who brought with her some of the most valuable pieces exhibited in the gallery today. Another major contribution came from Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici, whose acquisitions formed the nucleus of the Gallery of Prints and Drawings.

The Gallery was continuously enlarged to accommodate this growing collection, and the items were arranged and re-arranged to suit the interests of the public down the decades. It was officially opened to the public in the year 1765.

When Gian Gastone, the last male in the Medici line, died, his sister Anna Maria Ludovica formulated what has come to be known as the “Family Pact”, leaving the priceless contents of the Gallery to the city of Florence and posterity. This document made it possible to retrieve some of the pieces of art that had been taken out of the Gallery to find homes elsewhere during the Napoleonic era.

The House of Hapsburg-Lorraines, who fell heir to the Medici wealth, also contributed to the Gallery, adding the group of marble statues of Niobe and her children struck by Apollo and Diana. The Niobe room was damaged by a terrorist blast in the 1990s but has been restored in part.

Uffizi Gallery - Florence ItalyThe Uffizi Gallery, which today belongs tot the State, has a total collection of some 4,800 works of art drawn from both Italy and abroad, but many of these works are in storage or on loan to other museums around the world. A total of about 1,700 paintings, 300 sculptures and sundry other items are displayed now in its 45 rooms.

Built in a horseshoe shape and covering an area of about 8,000 sq m, the Uffizi Gallery extends from Piazza Signoria to the River Arno and a bridge over the street connects it to the Palazzo Vecchio. The artworks are arranged chronologically, beginning from the 13th century and going on till the 18th. Plans are afoot to enlarge it, so that more treasures can be displayed.

Starting on the ground floor, visit the remains of the old Romanesque church of S. Pier Scheraggio, which was partially destroyed by Vasari in order to build the Uffizi. This ancient place of worship has now been restored, and visitors to the gallery can admire the frescoes of ''Famous Men'' by Andrea del Castagno, a 15th century artist.

Uffizi Gallery - Florence ItalyThe first few rooms house masterpieces from the 13th century to the 15th century. These include altarpieces by Cimabue and Giotto, with humanized figures of God, fine examples of Renaissance art, works by Duccio, Simone Martini and Larenzetti of the Sienese school, and two versions of Adoration of the Magi, one by Gentile da Fabriano and the other by Lorenzo Monaco.

Masaccio, Paolo Uccello, Domenico Veneziano, Fra’Angelico and Piero della Francesca are among the 15th century pre-Renaissance Florentine artistes whose works have made the Uffizi justifiably famous.

The Leonardo da Vinci Room, the Bottecelli Room, the Michelangelo and the Rembrandt Rooms are among the most famous in the Uffizi Gllery.

In the Leonardo Room, stop to gaze in wonder at the Adoration of the Magi, painted by the great master for the church of San Donato Scopeto. It was left incomplete because Leonardo was called away to Milan by Ludovico il Moro before it was done, but it clearly demonstrates the artist’s preoccupation with the technique of shading. It also depicts myriad human types and expressions, standing testimony to his fascination with nature and humanity in all its many hues.

Uffizi Gallery - Florence ItalyAnother master represented in this room is Verrochhio. He is believed to have begun the breathtakingly beautiful Baptism of Christ in the year 1470, when the young Leonardo was a part of his workshop. Take note of the little angel on the left. Do you see Leonardo’s hand in this small profile?

The Uffizi is the envy of the art world because it owns some stupendous works of Botticelli -- Birth of Venus and Calumny are both world-famous.

The former was painted in 1486, and is a work full of classical overtones. Its delicate coloring and the beauty of the subject, representing Simonetta, whom Giuliano, the brother of Lorenzo the Magnificient, loved, have to be seen to be appreciated properly.

Calumny is equally full of allusions to the Classics. The ass-eared King Midas sits on a throne, listening to his counselors, Ignorance and Suspicion, while Calumny raises his hand as an indication that he’s about to speak. Envy, Deceit and Hypocrisy drag Innocence, the victim, before the King while Remorse looks on and Truth gazes serenely towards Heaven.

Uffizi Gallery - Florence ItalyThere is also the famous Adoration of the Magi (1475), where three generations of the Medici have been painted in -- Cosimo the Elder, his two sons Piero and Giovanni; Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano. See if you can spot a figure in a yellow robe, believed to be a self-portrait of Botticelli.

Progress through other rooms with work by such greats as Fra Fillipo Lippi and the Flemish painter Nicolas Froment, until you come to the place dedicated to Michelangelo and the Florentines. As you enter, you will see the prestigious roundel that Michelangelo painted between the years 1504 and 1505. It depicts the Holy Family in spiral form.

Rosso Fiorentino, Berruguete of Spain, Albertinelli and Granacci are some of the other artists whose works, following the manner begun by Michelangelo, are displayed in this room.

Titian, that great 16th century Venitian artist, is represented by some of his greatest works in the Uffizi Gallery. The Portrait of Catherine Cornaro, Flora, the famous reclining Venus of Urbino, and of course the well-known Venus and Cupid which the master painted at the age of 73, albeit with the help of his students, are all here. Also in the room are works by Palma il Vecchio, a disciple of Titian.

Uffizi Gallery - Florence ItalyRubens and Rembrandt are both at Uffizi. The Triumphant Entry of Henry IV into Paris and a portrait of the artist’s wife are among the more remarkable works of the former which the Gallery is proud to display, while Portrait of an Old Man and two self-portraits done at two very different stages of the artist’s life are good representations of the Dutch master, Rembrandt.

The room set apart for the 18th century contains works by great artists of this period from Italy and other European countries, including France and Spain. Francis Goya is only one among the masters whose works can be seen here.

When planning a visit to the Uffizi Gallery, try to get permission to walk through the 1-km-long Vasarino Corridor. Built in 1565, it was a private passage linking Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace. The works of art in this stretch include the famous collection of self-portraits, begun by Cardinal Leopoldo di Medici. There is also the Iconographic collection, which is a set of portraits of historical personages. The corridor is opened only by prior appointment, for group visits.

Uffizi Gallery - Florence ItalyLocated at Loggiato degli Uffizi, 6 – Florence, the Gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 8.15 am to 7 pm. It is closed on Mondays, while Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and May 1 are holidays.
The ticket counter shuts 45 minutes before closing time each day.
Reservations can be made over telephone at +39 (0)55 294883) from Monday to Friday, from 8.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m, and on Saturdays from 8.30 to 12.30. Fax +39 (0)55.264406.
While there is an additional charge for booking and advanced sale, it is well worth the extra cost as it considerably reduces waiting time and enables the visitor to avoid the queues.