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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Uffizi Gallery

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery is located in the historical Centre of Florence and is one of the largest and best-known museums in the world. It holds a collection of priceless works, mainly from the period of the Italian Renaissance.  The Gallery had been open to visitors by request since the sixteenth century, and in 1765 it was officially opened to the public, formally becoming a museum in 1865.

The Uffizi building began in 1560 to accommodate the offices of the city’s magistrates, hence the name Uffizi or “offices”. The top floor was made into a gallery for the family and their guests. The gallery included and included their collection of Roman sculptures. The Gallery was intended to display the artworks of the Medici collections, and it became famous and an essential attraction of a Grand Tour.

Over the years, larger sections of the palace were converted into exhibition spaces for paintings and sculptures collected or commissioned by the Medici. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo frequented the Uffizi to look at the collection. Today, the Uffizi is one of the essential tourist attractions of Florence and one of the most visited art museums in the world.

A Tour of the Uffizi Gallery

Highlights of the Uffizi Gallery

  • The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli
    • “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli depicts the goddess Venus emerging from the sea after her birth fully grown. Venus is the Roman goddess of love, beauty, desire, fertility, prosperity, and victory. In mythology, she was the mother of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Venus was central to many religious festivals and revered in the Roman religion.

      The Romans adopted Venus from the myths of her Greek counterpart Aphrodite for their art and literature. In the later classical tradition of the West, Venus becomes one of the most famous figures of Greco-Roman mythology as the embodiment of love and sexuality.

  • Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli
    • “Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli depicts a group of figures from classical mythology in a garden, brought together by Botticelli as an allegory based on the promised renewal of Spring and the seasons. The meaning of this masterpiece is debated by art historians, as the composition draws from many classical and Renaissance literary sources. Viewed from right to left, at the right is Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, who kidnaps the nymph Chloris, whom he later marries, and she becomes the goddess of Spring. Chloris, the nymph overlaps Flora, the goddess she transforms into, as her future state, of Flora, is shown scattering or collecting roses from the ground. In the center stands Venus, gazing at the viewer and appears to be blessing the scene or cycle. The trees behind her form a broken arch, and the blindfolded Cupid aims his bow to the left. On the left of the painting, the Three Graces are joining hands in a dance; however, one of them has noticed Mercury. She is the target of cupids arrow. At the left Mercury, clothed in red with a sword, and a helmet raises his rod towards the emerging clouds.
  • Venus de’ Medici
    • The Venus de’ Medici or Medici Venus is a marble sculpture depicting the Greek goddess Aphrodite. It is a 1st-century BCE marble copy, made in Athens, of a bronze original Greek sculpture. The Roman name for Aphrodite is Venus, and this was the description used during the early publicity of this Greek masterpiece. This masterpiece is in the classical depiction of the female form and a beautiful representation of the human body. Mythological tradition claims that Aphrodite was born naked in the seafoam off the coast of a Greek island, and Hellenistic sculptors leaped at this tradition to experiment with the nude female form. Aphrodite is the ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. She is identified with the planet Venus, which is the name of the Roman goddess Venus, who the Romans called their equivalent of the Greek goddesses, Aphrodite. The cult of Aphrodite was derived mainly from that of the Phoenician goddess Astarte, who was acquired from the East Semitic goddess Ishtar of Sumeria. In Homer’s Iliad, along with Athena and Hera, Aphrodite, she was one of the three goddesses whose feud resulted in the Trojan War, and she plays a significant role throughout the Iliad. Aphrodite has been featured in western art as a symbol of female beauty and has appeared in numerous works of western literature.
  • The Battle of San Romano” by Paolo Uccello
    • “The Battle of San Romano” by Paolo Uccello is a set of three paintings depicting events that took place at a battle between Florentine and Sienese forces in 1432. This painting is exhibited at the Galleria Uffizi, Florence, and the other two companion paintings are shown at the National Gallery, London, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris. The three pictures were designed to be hung high on three different walls in one large room, and the perspective was created for that purpose, which accounts for anomalies in the perspective when viewed at standard gallery height. This panel was designed to be the central painting of the triptych and is the only one signed by the artist. The sequence most widely agreed among art historians is The London panel, followed by the Uffizi and then the Louvre panel. They also represent different times of day starting with dawn (London), mid-day (Florence) and dusk (Paris) as the battle lasted eight hours. In the foreground, broken lances and a dead soldier are aligned to create perspective. Painted with a view similar to that of a tapestry, the landscape rises up in the picture rather than receding into the background. The illusion of a backdrop resembles a stage, and war is depicted as a theatrical event.
  • Adoration of the Magi” by Botticelli
    • The “Adoration of the Magi” by Sandro Botticelli is based on the traditional subject of the Nativity of Jesus. It shows the three Magi, who found Jesus by following a star and then laid gifts before him and worship him. This story is in the Bible by Matthew 2:11: “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary, and they knelt and paid homage to him. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh”. In this painting by the Italian Renaissance master Botticelli, there are many more people present, and the scene is dominated by members of the Medici family and their close friends. Painted in 1475, it is one of at least seven versions of The Adoration of the Magi created by Botticelli and one of the earliest in his career. Inserted in the painting are portraits of three generations of the Medici.
  • Judith Slaying Holofernes” by Artemisia Gentileschi
    • “Judith Slaying Holofernes” by Artemisia Gentileschi depicts the beheading of an Assyrian general by an Israelite heroine, as recorded in the apocryphal Book of Judith in the Old Testament. In the story, the Assyrian General Holofernes, who lusts after Judith, a beautiful widow, invites her to his tent. Holofernes was planning to destroy the city of Bethulia, which was Judith’s home. This knowledge forced Judith to find a way to kill the general. Judith, with the help of her servant, decapitated the general when he was drunk and passed out.

      The painting shows the moment when Judith, helped by her maidservant, starts to behead the general. He has just woken from his drunken sleep to realize he is being killed. The scene of Judith beheading Holofernes was famous in art since the early Renaissance. It is part of the group of subjects, that art critics have called the “Power of Women,” which show women triumphing over powerful men.

  • Self-Portrait by Lucas Cranach the Elder
    • Portrait of Lucas Cranach the Elder depicts the painter aged 77, wearing a cloak of black brocade and a white shirt just visible at the neckline. He has short grey hair and a long, split white beard. His steady gaze and his serious expression portray seriousness and dignity. Cranach’s shadow is cast over his left shoulder, and a strange marking floats above his right shoulder.
  • Self-Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger
    • Self-Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger, shows the artist with a steady gaze that suggests he was looking into a mirror. Holbein died not long after completing this self-portrait, most probably of the plague. The gold background is of a later date. The inscription, although late in date,  records an earlier one, of which slight traces remain.

Other key artworks to explore include:

  • Medusa by Caravaggio:
  • Self-portrait as a Young Man by Rembrandt
  • Santa Trinita Maestà by Cimabue
  • Rucellai Madonna by Duccio
  • Ognissanti Madonna by Giotto
  • Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus by Simone Martini
  • Presentation at the Temple by  Ambrogio Lorenzetti
  • Hugo van der Goes: Portinari Triptych

The Uffizi Gallery is organized as an extended network of rooms with incredible works of art in somewhat of a historical order n Renaissance building, which was formerly the offices of the city’s magistrates, hence the name Uffizi which means “offices”. Cosimo de’ Medici commissioned the grand complex next to Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s seat of power. The Uffizi was created as the offices of the city’s magistrates, the Florentine Guilds, a theatre, and judiciary offices.

Today the Gallery entirely occupies the first and second floors of the U-shaped building that was constructed between 1560 and 1580. The art collections include:

  • Sculptures from the Middle Ages to the Modern period
  • Paintings from the 14th-century and Renaissance period
  • Italian Masterpieces by Giotto, Simone Martini, Piero della Francesca, Beato Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Mantegna, Correggio, Leonardo, Raffaello, Michelangelo and Caravaggio
  • Works by other European  mainly German, Dutch, and Flemish.painters
  • Statues and busts from the Medici family.
  • Roman copies of lost Greek sculptures.

Questions and Answers about the Uffizi Gallery

  • What are the top Artworks in the Uffizi Gallery?
    • The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
    • Doni Tondo by Michelangelo
    • Venus of Urbino by Titian
    • “Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli
    • Portrait of Pope Leo X with Two Cardinals by Raphael
    • Coronation of the Virgin by Fra Angelico
    • Laocoön and his Sons by Baccio Bandinelli
    • Madonna with the Long Neck by Parmigianino
    • Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio
    • Medusa by Caravaggio
  • Tickets for the Uffizi Gallery
    • The Uffizi Gallery is one of Florence’s famous museums and can have very long lines for ticketing. It is recommended that bookings during the peak season to avoid a long wait in the ticketing line. Or.
    • Considering purchasing one of the combined city or combined museum tickets which provide skip the line through the fast track lane options. Check the museum website for all the options.
  •  What are the key museums in Florence?

Uffizi Gallery

  • Name:             Uffizi Gallery
  • Italian:             Galleria degli Uffizi
  • City:                 Florence
  • Country:           Italy
  • Established:    1581
  • Type:               Art Museum, historical site
  • Location:        Piazzale degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy

A Tour of Rome Museums and Historical Sites

Florence Museums

Milan Museums

Bologna Museums

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“What I have dreamed in an hour is worth more than what you have done in four.”
– Lorenzo de’ Medici

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Photo Credit: By Chris Wee [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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