The Uffizi Gallery is the oldest museum in the world, as well as one of the greatest. The Uffizi displays an amazing collection of sculpture, paintings, tapestries, ceramics, and furniture by artist from the 13th to 18th century. With 45 rooms each devoted to a different era and or artist the whole museum contains about 4800 works of art: 1700 paintings, 300 sculptures, 46 tapestries, and 14 pieces of furniture and/or ceramics. Italian and foreign artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Rembrandt adore the walls of this great museum due to the great Medici family collectors of Florence and other patrons who donated works of art to the gallery.
This famous gallery was not even built for the purpose of housing works of art but instead for magistrates. Duke Cosimo I dei Medici decided to hire Giorgio Vasari in 1560 to construct this building near the Arno River to house the administrative offices (or “uffizi”) of the Government. It wasn’t until 1581, that his son Francesco closed the top floor of the gallery and began displaying works of art such as statues, medals, jewelry, weapons, paintings, and scientific instruments in there. The Medici family frequently added to the gallery famous works of art and when the last Medici Grand Duke, Gian Gastone, died, his sister Anna Maria Ludovica left the entire collection to the city of Florence “to be an ornament to the Government, useful to the public, and to attract the curiosity of foreigners.” So it wasn’t until 1765 that the great gallery officially opened its doors to the public.
One will find the main gallery occupies the second floor of the building and this is mainly where tours will take visitors. This floor contains 45 rooms that contain works by specific artists or eras. The list of rooms is as follows:
The Uffizi Gallery, contains many great works of art, throughout all forty-five rooms, but one can’t possible see all of them unless they have a quite a bit of time. So there are a few that should specifically be sought out. One includes the Ognissanti Madonna (1310) by Giotto located in the 2nd room (13th Century and Giotto). This painting is a devotion to the virginity, maternity, and royalty of Mary. With Christ in her lap, saints surround her and angels kneel at her feet to pay her homage.
One must also make sure to view The Birth of Venus (1484) by Sandro Botticelli found in 10-14 rooms (The Botticelli Room). This painting is often misinterpreted as Venus arising from the sea but she is actually thought to be arriving at the Kythera or Cyprus. She is being pushed towards the shores with the help of the winds of Zephyrus and Aura. Hora of Spring or one of the Three Graces welcomes her. Another famous painting by Botticelli is Primavera (1482). This painting described by Vasari is “Venus as a symbol of spring, being adorned with flowers by the Graces.” The woman in the center is thought to be possibly Venus and this is her garden. The three women to the left are thought to be the Three Graces representing a symbol of Liberality. Cupid is flying above. The man to the left is thought to be Mercury, herald of Jove, who may represent knowledge here. To the right is Zephyrus the springtime wind, who is chasing after Flora, the Latin goddess of Spring.
In room 8 (The Filippo Lippi Room) one must view Madonna with Child and Two Angels (1465) by Filippo Lippi. This painting is one of the most admired in the Gallery. The woman in the picture is believed to be Lucrezia Buti, a nun with whom the friar/painter was scandalously in love with. The background painting seems to one of the landscapes of Leonardo. Another work of art by Lippi is the Coronation of the Virgin (1439-1447). This painting is quite interesting because not only did Lippi work on this but so did other various artists. The work of art was originally hung in Sant’ Ambrogio on the main altar. The blue in the painting was later added by Lippi and is thought to represent the arrival of the Virgin in Heaven.
One must also visit the Leonardo da Vinci, room15, to see the Adoration of the Magi (1481). This is an unfinished work by Leonardo. The panel painting has been varnished over several times and makes it difficult to see. Madonna sits in the middle with Christ while hectic scenes unfold around her. Much symbolism exists in the painting; in fact in the background the ruins suggest a fall to paganism at the arrival of Christ. Another painting by da Vinci in this room is the Baptism of Christ (1475-1480). This painting was originally painted for the Church of San Bartolomeo a Oliveto. This painting has recently been restored and has allowed more detail to be shown. A couple interesting facts about the painting include the disproportionately of the Virgin’s arm reaching towards the lecture as well as the shadow of the angel being too dark for the light which is suppose to be dawn.
Doni Tondo (1506-1508) by Michelangelo is another great work of art to view at the Gallery. It’s located in room 25 with other great works from Michelangelo and Florentine artists. This painting is considered by some to be one of the most important of the 16th century. In it the Virgin is taking (or offering) Jesus from St Joseph while five nude males sit in the background. The meaning of this piece may come from Biblical passages but it’s meaning is still uncertain.
In room 26, one can view Pope Leo X with CardinalsGiulio de’ Medici and Luigi de’ Rossi (1518) by Raphael. The figures in this painting were praised by Vasari because they are quite realistic as is the fur lining on Pope Leo X. Also one should take notice of the golden knob on the chair which is a reflection of all that surrounds it (extraordinary detail!). Since the paintings last restoration, many think the two cardinals may be additions to the painting by another artist.
In room 28, another famous painting resides by Titian and his Venus of Urbino (1538). This is said to be a cultural icon because it is one of the most famous and erotic images of all time. In this painting a young naked bride lies on a bed looking at the spectator knowingly yet allusively. Symbols of fidelity in the picture include the little dog lying on the bed as well as the two maidservants searching for clothes in the background. This painting was to serve as an instructive “model” for Giulia Varano, the Duke’s young bride at the time.
The Madonna of the Long Neck (1534-1539) by Parmigianino is also a great painting to take notice of. It was first painted for the Servi church in Parma; however, the work remains unfinished and was found in Parmigianino’s studio at the time of his death in 1540. It’s famous for the exaggerated lenth of its figures.
A final painting one should definitely view at the Uffizi Gallery is Medusa (1600) by Caravaggio. The woman in this picture has locks of snakes and will turn anyone that looks at her into stone. This work was originally painted in Rome for the Cardinal Del Monte as a gift to Ferdinando de’ Medici.
These are just a few of the 4800 great works of art in the Uffizi Gallery. If one really enjoys the history behind the paintings, it would be greatly recommended that one purchases the official guide to the Uffizi in Florence outside the Gallery, in order to fully appreciate the great artists and works the gallery contains.