Uffizi Gallery in Florence: paintings, description

Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence is one of the most visited art museums in the world. Here unique works of art are collected: paintings by artists from the Middle Ages to the present day, perfectly preserved antique sculptures, tapestries and miniatures.

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Highlights

The collections of the Uffizi Gallery are considered some of the oldest in Europe. To house them, luxury palace buildings were built on the banks of the Arno River in the 16th century. It took more than 20 years to erect the palaces, and the old city quarters had to be demolished to accommodate them. Two centuries before its official opening, the art collection was well known, and by appointment anyone could view the works of art stored there.

In the XVIII century, the gallery was the first museum in Florence that was accessible to all. It happened in 1737, when the last representative of the powerful Medici dynasty, Anna Maria Louisa, donated the Uffizi Gallery to the Florentines.

Today the art collections are housed in an area of 13 thousand square meters. It is one of the most visited attractions in Italy. Uffizi Gallery is extremely popular with tourists, a visit to it is included in many excursion programs, and the line for a ticket lines up for several hours.

The collection of the famous museum is so large that a detailed tour of the collections will take more than a day. Works of art are exhibited in chronological order and occupy more than fifty halls. Walking through them, you can trace how painting traditions changed from the 13th to the 18th century, from the Byzantine period to the heyday of the Baroque.

How did the famous gallery come to be?

The history of the world-famous art collection began in 1560, when the Italian painter and architect Giorgio Vasari commissioned the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I to build a large palace in Florence. The grand building had two wings and housed the judicial and administrative offices of the Tuscan magistracy – the Uffizi (offices). In addition to consolidating all the government offices (thirteen ministries) in one place, the grand duke had another task. He wanted the new palace complex to perpetuate the power and wealth of his family.

The palace, built by the architect Giorgio Vasari

Five years later, within a few months, the talented architect had constructed an “air passage” that connected the Uffizi Palace, the new residence of the Medici rulers, Florence’s oldest bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, and the ancient Roman Catholic church of Santa Felicata. The covered gallery was 750 meters long. It was an architectural innovation and became known as the Vasari Corridor.

The Medici family was famous not only for its wealth and political influence. Its members valued works of art and gave maximum support to talented artists. The first collection of the Uffizi Gallery was created by Francesco I, son of Duke Cosimo I. Paintings from his personal collection were first hung in the Duke’s study, and in 1581 the entire top floor of the palace was devoted to them. The gallery was covered with wide stained-glass windows. Besides pictorial canvases, there were antique sculptures inside, and the ceiling was decorated with colorful frescoes.

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Later there was the unusual Hall of the Tribune, which was covered by an octagonal dome. A lantern illuminated the works of art inside, the elaborate furniture, and the shell-encrusted walls.

Since 1589, by order of Francesco I’s brother, Grand Duke Ferdinand I, the terrace adjacent to the Tribunal Hall was closed to the Hall of Geographic Maps. On the other wing of the Uffizi Gallery in those days there were hanging gardens. A sumptuous theater was also opened inside the palace.

The final construction work on the palace structures was completed 20 years later, after Cosimodo I died. In the Piazza della Signoria there was a large palace building in the shape of the letter “U”. It consisted of two blocks. On one floor were loggias. Both were connected by a third building and an extended arcade that faced the Arno embankment. Gradually, paintings and sculptures from other palaces of the Medici dynasty were transferred to the Florentine gallery.

One of the rooms of the gallery Courtyard Painting on the ceiling

Uffizi Gallery’s collections and most famous exhibits

From the entrance to the museum halls, you can enter through three vestibules. One contains busts carved in marble and porphyry. Another is decorated by Italian artist Giovanni Manozzi (Giovanni da San Giovanni). The third vestibule contains sarcophagi and statues from the ancient Roman period.

The third floor of the building is devoted to the picture gallery. In addition to this, the palace contains rare documents on the history of Florence and you can also see the Cabinet of drawings and engravings. Its unique collection began in the 17th century, thanks to Cardinal Leopold Medici.

The Uffizi Gallery has world-famous paintings by Sandro Botticelli: Birth of Venus, Spring, Madonna and Child with Angel, and Libel. Halls 10-14 are devoted to the works of the Italian painter and friend of the Medici family.

Two pictures by Leonardo da Vinci, “Annunciation” and “Adoration of the Magi” are exhibited in hall № 15. In other halls of the museum paintings by Titian “The Venus of Urbino” and Verrocchio “The Baptism of Christ” are exhibited.

Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” Fragment of Verrocchio’s “Christ’s Baptism” Fragment of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Annunciation” Sandro Botticelli “Spring” Sandro Botticelli “Birth of Venus” Sandro Botticelli “Slander” Piero di Cosimo “Perseus, Liberating Andromeda” Nicola Froman. Triptych “Resurrection of Lazarus” Polyptych from the Church of San Pancrazio

Room 25 of the Uffizi Gallery presents visitors with the young Michelangelo Buonarroti’s masterpiece, The Holy Family. It is a circular painting made in the popular at the time technique of cangiante, when the forms of human bodies were rendered with sculptural expressiveness. Part of the gallery space is devoted to the works of foreign masters of painting. In these halls you can see paintings by Dürer, Goya, El Greco, Velázquez, Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck.

Vasari’s famous air corridor contains about 1,500 paintings. These are self-portraits by Raphael, Rubens, Diego Velazquez, Giorgio Vasari and other artists. Among Russian painters, self-portraits by Boris Kustodiev, Ivan Aivazovsky, Orest Kiprensky and Viktor Ivanov are exhibited here. The collection of self-portraits is constantly replenished by purchases and donations. The opportunity to exhibit their self-portrait in the Uffizi Gallery is considered a great honor by all artists.

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Of the sculptures in the museum, the statue of Venus de’ Medici deserves special attention. It was created in the I century AD by an unknown artist. Recently, scientists made a research of the sculpture and found out that it was painted before. The woman’s lips were covered with scarlet paint and her hair was covered with gold. The sculpture, which is on display in Florence, is a copy of the famous statue of the ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles, which he created in the IV century BC. It depicted Aphrodite of Cnid, whose beauty was posed by the famous Athenian hetaera Frina. Pliny called this work of the famous sculptor the most beautiful statue on earth.

“Medici Venus” In the halls of the Uffizi Gallery

Useful information for visitors

The Uffizi Museum collections are open to visitors daily, except Mondays, from 8.15 a.m. to 6.50 p.m. Ticket offices close 40 minutes before closing time. The gallery is closed December 25, January 1 and May 1.

Full ticket costs 8 euros, reduced ticket costs 4 euros. To avoid wasting time in line, a ticket to the Uffizi Gallery can be reserved by calling 55-294-883 for an additional €4 reservation fee. It is more convenient to plan a visit to the museum after 2 p.m., since the gallery no longer offers tours for school groups in the afternoon.

On the first floor, you can take an audio guide in Russian. In addition to the exhibition halls, the Uffizi Gallery has a library, cafe and bookstore.

How to get there

The Uffizi Gallery is located at Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6. It occupies an area between Piazza della Signoria and the ancient bridge over the Arno – Ponte Vecchio. From the city center it is easy to get there on foot. If you take public transportation, take the C1 line to the Galleria Degli Uffizi – Farmacia Logge bus stop.

The Uffizi Gallery and its famous masterpieces

The temple of Renaissance art is what the Uffizi Gallery, or Uffizi Museum, is all about in Florence. The 15th century building in the center of the city houses the world’s largest collection of art created between the 15th and 16th centuries.

History of the Uffizi Gallery

Building the gallery

Locating a museum in the building where the Uffizi Gallery (Galleria degli Uffizi) is located was not originally intended. The Uffizi Palace was built by Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici of Tuscany as a new seat of government. Its purpose was to bring together the 13 most important Florentine magistrates who had previously been in different locations next to the government palace, the Palazzo Vecchio. In this way, these “offices” (from the Latin “uffici”) could be under his direct supervision.

The work was entrusted to Giorgio Vasari, the famous Italian architect, who designed the building in the shape of a horseshoe. The windows of the palace overlook the Arno River on one side and the courtyard overlooking Palazzo Vecchio on the other.

The beginning of the museum collection of the Uffizi Gallery

In 1581 Duke Francesco I de’ Medici, son of Cosimo, converted the loggia on the top floor of the building into a private art gallery, where he placed a collection of 15th-century paintings as well as works of his contemporaries (statues, armor, scientific instruments, interesting naturalistic rarities) and portraits of the Medici family and famous people. The collection he created soon became available to the public, although it was only possible to see it by request. Thus, the Uffizi Museum became one of the oldest museums in Europe.

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The Medici family and the expansion of the collection

Under Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici the Uffizi Gallery’s collection was enriched by a series of portraits of important people (the Gioviana series), the Hall of Maps and the Hall of Mathematics, as well as halls devoted to manufactures, weapons collections, and a room of precious stones brought as a dowry by Christina of Lorraine around 1588.

During the reign of Ferdinando II de’ Medici his wife, Vittoria della Rovere, the last heiress of the Dukes of Urbino, brought as dowry a rich collection of works by Italian painters – Titian, Piero della Francesca, Raphael, Federico Barocci and others.

Other interesting works of the Venetian school appeared within the walls of the art gallery thanks to Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici, brother of the great duke, who began to collect drawings, miniatures and self-portraits with great passion. At the end of the 17th century, under Cosimo III de’ Medici, a new collection of self-portraits, fine porcelain, medals, drawings and bronzes appeared in the new rooms of the Uffizi Gallery, and in time Cosimo III acquired many Flemish paintings (including Rubens) and some valuable Roman statues, such as the Venus de’ Medici.

Famous paintings of the Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery is the world’s largest collection of the golden age of painting in Italy. Millions of tourists visit it each year. You can spend days on end here. But if time is limited, you can focus on the major masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery, which have become indispensable examples of Italian art history in the collective imagination.

1. The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

This work, the symbol of the Uffizi Gallery, the first example of Tuscan painting on large canvas, can be considered a veritable hymn to the Medici family, who, through diplomacy and culture, would create in Florence the kingdom of Love. Between 1482 and 1485, The Birth of Venus is one of the most famous paintings in the world.

Botticelli depicts perhaps the best embodiment of female beauty associated with the triumph of nature. The sea, the seashell, the auspicious winds and, only slightly hinted at, the gesture of hiding the nakedness of the divine creation, the woman, extol her unsurpassed splendor. Sandro paints the picture on canvas, another sign of the times. The old wooden boards seem no longer sufficient for the dazzling explosion of Renaissance creative inspiration.

2 The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello

This is the centerpiece of a triptych painted in 1438 and shared between the Uffizi Gallery, the National Gallery in London, and the Louvre in Paris. The paintings were considered too similar to each other and it was decided to keep the best preserved one in Florence, selling the others as duplicates. The cycle tells the story of the Battle of San Romano, fought between Florentines and Sienese in 1432. The painting, preserved in Florence, shows the Sienese general Bernardino della Carda on his white horse as he is struck by the enemy’s spear.

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The experimental and daring use of perspective that made Paolo Uccello famous among his contemporaries is considered his serious and innovative work. The artist combines revolutionary Renaissance characteristics, such as perspective and the centrality of man, with some of the details of late Gothic painting, which appear in naturalistic elements, hunting scenes and in the meticulous painting of armor and horses.

Madonna with Child and Two Angels by Filippo Lippi

This work, circa 1465, is one of the most famous works by the artist Filippo Lippi, a Carmelite monk who fell madly in love with the nun Lucrezia Buti. It is very likely that the pensive Madonna depicted in profile, with her hands joined in prayer, in front of a child supported by two angels, could be Lucrezia herself.

The landscape behind the characters’ shoulders is inspired by Flemish painting. The tenderness, the elegance of the gestures, the exquisite hairstyle of the Madonna, adorned with pearls and veil, would become a model for later artists, especially for Botticelli, a disciple of Lippi.

4. Piero della Francesca’s Double Portrait of the Dukes of Urbino

The most inscrutable of the Italian Renaissance painters-with his faces that seem to express nothing but a pensiveness about infinity, with his details full of symbols that are difficult to interpret-was of course Piero della Francesca . He was a painter without a surname who lived and worked between Tuscany and the smaller states closer to the Adriatic Sea, such as the Duchy of Montefeltro. This double portrait depicts Duke Federico da Montefeltro and his wife Battista Sforza, of the family that would later rule the Duchy of Milan. Mysterious and incomprehensible is still considered the painter’s idea of depicting unicorns pulling a chariot with the dukes on the reverse side.

6. The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci

During almost the same years that Piero della Francesca depicted the rulers of the Montefeltro, another painter, named after his place of origin, was on his way to becoming the most famous painter in all of Western art history. The trees painted on the small panel give Leonardo’s Annunciation a very different background from that in which it was customary to see the Virgin Mary in the paintings of previous generations. Gold is no longer essential to the depiction of the divine. Sanctity became expressed in elegance . Instead of using precious materials, all attention turned to nature and the organization of humanity. And it is not strange that it is during this period that botany and the natural sciences begin to emerge.

7. Michelangelo’s Tondo Doni.

The picture was painted in the early 1500’s by order of the famous Florentine banker Agnolo Doni in a very rare format for painting tondo (with the Italian tondo – round). Doni’s tondo is particularly notable because the famous author of large marble sculptures (as in the Medici tombs here in Florence) and entire fresco interiors (as in the Sistine Chapel in Rome) creates in this case a small tempera tondo: just over a meter in diameter. The peculiarity of the tondo also lies in the fact that it is virtually the only pictorial work by Michelangelo in which, however, the monumentality of Michelangelo’s sculptural vision is easily recognized.

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8. Caravaggio’s Bacchus

The god Bacchus, usually depicted naked and wandering through the woods, here looks more like an ancient Roman. He is represented as a certain seducer, holding in his hand an exquisite glass of wine in front of a large fruit basket. But most of all, his luxurious wreath of grape leaves on his head is striking, giving the image of Bacchus an obvious allegorical character, associated with the seasons or something that the author has deliberately concealed from too accessible an interpretation. Everything is light, natural and too simple compared to the dark and tortured scenes to which Caravaggio has accustomed us. During the restoration, some analyses revealed an image of a man’s face inside the wine jug, which researchers believe to be a self-portrait by Caravaggio.

It is not difficult to see how the artistic language has changed since Botticelli’s time – reality is no longer expressed in the depiction of nature and perspective. Reality is now life itself.

Caravaggio’s Shield with Jellyfish Head

The legendary Medusa, who turns men to stone with one look: there is no better place to depict her than on a battle shield . Caravaggio does this in a cunning and innovative way: the convexity of the shield becomes a seeming concavity with a bleeding head, a perfect illusionistic device. Medusa’s gaze is fixed on a single point, while the snakes move haphazardly in all directions. A special creepiness of reality is created precisely by the “splashing” stream of blood, which seems to enliven its epicness. This precise technique of the artist, which succinctly expressed the moment of the highest tension, became a counterweight to previous accusations of his lack of “action” and “movement” in the subjects he presents.

10. Titian’s Venus of Urbino

Intriguing, mysterious and sexy. Titian’s Venus of Urbino, painted in 1538 for Duke Guidonaldo II Della Rovere of Urbino, is an ideal representation of a Renaissance woman who, like Venus, became a symbol of love, fertility and beauty. The work, preserved in the hall dedicated to Titian’s works, is an allegory of marriage and was intended to serve as a “didactic” model for Giulia da Varano, the duke’s young wife. The little dog at the woman’s feet is a symbol of marital fidelity, and the maid, who in the background is looking at the little girl rummaging through the dresser, is a wish for early motherhood. The painting’s obvious erotic message served to remind the woman of her marital duties to her husband. As early as 1880 Mark Twain described it as “the most obscene, the most repulsive and the most vulgar painting in the world. Later this painting would become a model for new revolutionary turns in European painting.

Of course these 10 paintings are not all that are worth seeing in the Uffizi Palace Museum. In fact, it’s physically impossible to view the artwork from all 93 rooms in the museum, spread over two floors. But don’t despair: although the Uffizi Gallery is huge, concentrating only on its most famous masterpieces can still give you a good idea of what the museum offers, and perhaps start thinking about a future second visit to the gallery.

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