owes a great deal to Anna Ludovica, the last descendant of the Medici
family, because she stipulated in her will that no part of her property
should ever leave the city, thus ensuring that the art works accumulated
by her family over a period of three centuries remained in Firenze. The
result is a collection of treasures which makes the Uffizi the oldest
gallery in Europe, one of the most widely-visited in the world, and the
second in Italy after the Musei Vaticani.
The museum is situated in the Palazzo degli Uffizi, on the southern
side of Palazzo Vecchio, and extends as far as the Lungarno, creating
an oblong piazza called Piazzale degli Uffizi. Built on the orders of
Cosimo I, it was designed around about 1560 by his architect and Minister
of Culture, Vasari, as the offices (Uffizi) of the 13 magistracy which
until then had been dotted around the city. It was built as an adjunct
to Palazzo Vecchio and was further confirmation of the centralised power
of Cosimo I.
Cosimo's son, Francesco I, decided in 1518 to exhibit the treasures
of the Grand Duke in the rooms of the Uffizi, and had the tribune of the
Uffizi especially built by Buontalenti. Since then, thanks above all to
the artistic sensibility first of the Medici and then of the Lorraine
dynasty, the gallery has accumulated antique sculptures, Italian and European
painting masterpieces ranging from the XIII to the XVIII century, collections
of prints and antique drawings …
It is impossible to list all of the masterpieces exhibited in this gallery,
so one has been chosen to represent them all: La Primavera by Botticelli
(1445-1510), one of the most-widely admired paintings in the world, which
enchants the viewer with its perfect harmony of forms.
There is still uncertainty as to when it was painted but it is presumed
to have been around 1485. La Primavera was commissioned together with
his Venere by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco dei Medici for his villa at Castello,
where it remained until it was placed on display in the Uffizi in 1815.
It consists of nine figures in a luxuriant arboreal setting. In the
top-centre of the picture there is a winged Cupid shooting an arrow, under
whom there is a female figure who is looking to her right towards three
dancers. To their right (on the extreme left of the picture) there is
a youthful figure who is gazing up into the trees. On the right-hand side
of the picture we can see a female figure adorned with flowers, close
to whom there is another veiled female figure being grabbed by another
winged male figure. This is one of the many readings of this enigmatic
The Uffizi have recently been undergoing a historic transformation in
that with the creation of the Grandi Uffizi, the exhibition space is being
doubled in order to add a further two thousand works to the two thousand
already on display, using modern exhibition criteria and providing services
in order to make a visit to this vast gallery easier. All the space vacated
by the State Archives in 1988 will be turned over to the gallery, and
by 2002 the new rear exit designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki
will have been completed.
It is estimated that by 2004 the number of visitors that can be admitted
to the Uffizi at any one time will have increased from the current 650
to approximately 2000.
The estimated cost of the work, which has been approved and is being
financed by the Heritage Ministry, is 110 billion lira. The work should
be completed in 2004.
Picture by Sandro Santioli
Translated by Jeremy Carden