Galleria degli Uffizi
Situated in central Florence, the Galleria degli Uffizi is widely considered to be one of the most culturally and historically significant art museums in the world receiving 1.5 million visitors every year.
A total of 45 rooms display an art collection consisting primarily of paintings dating from the 13th century but there are also many sculptures. Additionally the architectural and decorative displays of the building itself include elaborate ceiling frescoes and a long narrow internal courtyard surrounded on three sides by columned walls with one end open to the Arno.
History of the Galleria Uffizi
Work was originally begun on the palace (then called the Palazzo degli Uffizi) in 1560 under the orders of Cosimo de Medici – the first Grand Duke of Tuscany – who had recently assumed his position of primary power in the city. This period marked the beginning of 200 years of absolute control and power which the Medici family wielded over not just Florence but much of Tuscany until their decline in the 18th century.
The building was originally constructed to house the Florentine magistrates’ offices (hence the name ‘Uffizi’ which literally means offices). However, it is believed that almost from the beginning the building also had an area set aside on the third floor where the Medicis displayed the best of their gradually amassing fine art collections. This collection was added to by subsequent generations of Medici members.
The Galleria Uffizi is linked to the Palazzo Vecchio and the Pitti Palace across the river by means of a covered and enclosed corridor known as the Vasari Corridor. The Palazzo Vecchio was the original private residence of Cosimo Medici but later became a governmental seat when he moved to the Pitti Palace on the southern side of the River Arno at which time its present name was given – ‘old’ palace.
The 1 km long corridor enabled the Medici nobility to move freely between their work duties and residence without having to mingle with the commoners who populated the streets of Florence. Additionally, family members could be sure of staying safe while unescorted during these turbulent times of frequent and violent power struggles.
In 1737, the last remaining heir of the Medici family, Anna Maria Luisa, gifted the entire art collection to the City of Florence with express instructions that their beauty be enjoyed by all.
The Collections of the Galleria Uffizi
The museum’s 45 rooms are arranged in chronological order ranging from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Along with the many famous Florentine painter collections, the Galleria Uffizi also houses the works of other renowned Italian painters throughout history as well as masterpieces of German, Spanish and Dutch artists spanning 400 years. The corridors between the rooms house the displays of sculpture. The Vasari Corridor has paintings of the 17th and 18th century exhibited from one end to the other.
Many priceless and world famous works are on display in the Galleria Uffizi, far too numerous to itemise here. Some of the most well-known names and works however include:
– Giotto‘s ‘Ognissanti Madonna’ in room 2
– Filippino Lippi‘s ‘Madonna and Child with Two Angels’ in room 8
– The Botticelli collections in rooms 10 to 14 which include ‘Primavera’ and ‘Birth of Venus’ – a picture which has been so often reproduced that it will be familiar to most people.
– Leonardo Da Vinci‘s collection in room 15
– Titian‘s ‘Venus of Urbino’ in room 28
Visiting the Galleria Uffizi
The Galleria Uffizi is open every day of the week except Mondays from 8.15 am to 6.50 pm. It is closed on 1 January, 1 May and Christmas Day.
As such a popular attraction, queues for the museum can mean several hours of waiting at particularly busy times, especially in the summer. However, buying tickets in advance or online can avoid long waits. Visits to the Vasari Corridor must be booked in advance as only limited numbers are allowed access.
There are several guided tours available which are generally recommended for those who have no prior art knowledge to enrich the museum experience. Expert guides help explain the artistic techniques, history, iconography and symbolic meanings with regard to each painting and the building itself.