The Daddy of Them All
Florence has the most fabulous art museum in Italy, and as usual we have the Medici to thank; for the building that holds these treasures, however, credit goes to Grand Duke Cosimo’s much maligned court painter. Poor Giorgio Vasari! His roosterish boastfulness and the conviction that his was the best of all possible artistic worlds, set next to his very modest talents, have made him a comic figure in most art criticism. Even the Florentines don’t like him.
On one of the rare occasions when Vasari tried his hand as an architect, though, he gave Florence something to be proud of. The Uffizi (‘offices’) were built as Cosimo’s secretariat, incorporating the old mint (producer of the first gold florins in 1252), the archives, and the large church of San Pier Scheraggio, with plenty of room for the bureaucrats needed to run Cosimo’s efficient, modern state.
The matched pair of arcaded buildings have cold elegant façades that conceal Vasari’s surprising innovation: iron reinforcements that make the huge amount of window area possible and keep the building stable on the soft, sandy ground. It was a trick that would be almost forgotten until the Crystal Palace and the first American skyscrapers.
Almost from the start the Medici began to store some of their huge art and knick knack collection in parts of the building. There are galleries in the world with more works of art – but the Uffizi overwhelms by the fact that every one is worth looking at. And very soon more than ever will be more than ever on display.
Recent Changes: the Nuovi Uffizi
Because of increased visitor numbers, a restoration of the main collection was planned back in 1965 only to be interrupted twice, first by the 1966 flood and later by the 1993 Mafia bombing.
The first improvements were on a practical level, starting in the vaulted rooms on the ground floor. There are now three entrances (for individuals, for groups and for pre-paid tickets), bookshops, cloakrooms, video and computer facilities and information desks, and a new exit to improve crowd flow.
Designated the Nuovi Uffizi in 2006, the €65 million project (now under the museum's first non-Italian director, Eike Schmidt, a German Medici-scholar who was brought in as an outsider to clean up the place, a bit like a medieval podestà)— a whole new section has opened up on the first floor, expanding the Uffizi from 45 rooms to 101, allowing many paintings to be brought out of storage. As work continues various rooms may be closed, and key works displayed elsewhere.
Another change: rooms have been colour-coded to make it easier for visitors to hone in on what they really want to see: the Dark Blue Halls are for Spanish, French, Flemish and Dutch Painters from the 16th-18th centuries. Dark green for Greek and Roman antiquities. Red for the 16th century and Mannerists. Dark Yellow for 17th-century Florentines. Yellow for the Caravaggistas. A new, larger exhibition area is planned as well facing Piazza Castellani.
The Cabinet of Drawings and Prints
From the ticket counter you can take the lift or sweeping grand stair up to the second floor, where the Medici once had a huge theatre. Although the bulk of this extensive and renowned collection is only open to scholars with special permission, a roomful of tempting samples gives a hint at what they have a chance to see.
Vestibule and Room I: Classical Sculpture
Nowadays we tend to think of the Uffizi as primarily a gallery of paintings, but for some hundred years after its opening, visitors came almost exclusively for the fine Hellenistic and Roman marbles. Most of these were collected in Rome by Medici cardinals, and not a few were sources of Renaissance inspiration. The Vestibule at the top of the stair contains some of the best, together with Flemish and Tuscan tapestries made for Cosimo I and his successors. Room 1 contains excellent early Roman sculpture, notably a sarcophagus carved with the Labours of Hercules.
Room 2: 13th Century and Giotto
The roots of the Early Renaissance are strikingly revealed in Room 2, dedicated to the three great Maestà altarpieces by the masters of the 13th century. All portray the same subject of the Madonna and Child enthroned with angels. The one on the right, by Cimabue, was painted around the year 1285 and represents a breaking away from the flat, stylized Byzantine tradition.
To the left is the so-called Rucellai Madonna, painted in the same period by the Sienese Duccio di Buoninsegna for Santa Maria Novella. It resembles Cimabue’s in many ways, but has a more advanced technique for creating depth, and the bright colouring that characterizes the Sienese school.
Giotto’s altarpiece, painted some 25 years later for the Ognissanti, takes a great leap forward, not only in his use of ‘false’ perspective, but in the arrangement of the angels, standing naturally, and in the portrayal of the Virgin, gently smiling, with real fingers and breasts.
Room 3: Trecento Sienese
As a contrast to the Florentines, this room contains representative Sienese works of the 14th century, full of fairy tale poetry and gold backgrounds, especially in the beautiful Gothic Annunciation (1333) by Simone Martini and his brother-in-law Lippo Memmi. In contrast, the paintings by the brothers Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, who worked in Florence, show Giotto's influence on the decorative style.
Room 4: Trecento Florence
Rooms 5 and 6: Lorenzo Monaco and International Gothic
The rooms also contain two beautiful works by Lorenzo Monaco, the Adoration of the Magi and the courtly golden Coronation of the Virgin (1415). Here to the Thebaid of Gherardo Starnina, depicting the rather unusual activities of the 4th-century monks of St Pancratius of Thebes, in Egypt – a composition strikingly like Chinese scroll scenes of hermits.
Domenico Veneziano’s pastel Madonna and Child with Saints (1448) is one of the rare pictures by this Venetian master who died a pauper in Florence. It is a new departure not only for its soft colours and warm spring light, the hallmark of the new pittura della luce as advocated by Alberti, but also for the subject matter, unifying the enthroned Virgin and saints in one panel, in what is known as a Sacra Conversazione.
Rooms 7: Gentile da Fabriano
This houses one of the greatest works of the International Gothic school, Francesco di Gentile da Fabriano’s dazzling Adoration of the Magi (1423), painted for the banker Palla di Nonfri Strozzi, and a landmark: it was the first painting where the artist tried to capture light and shadow realistically, and it was the first in Florence that shows the client and his son – just behind the youngest king – as splendid full-sized figures directly involved in the action of the story, instead of being shunted off to one side, in miniature.
The Strozzi’s even prouder rivals, the Medici, would take the concept even further in their scene of the Magi in the Palazzo Medici.
In the Uffizi, at least, it’s but a few short steps from the superbly decorative International Gothic to the masters of the Early Renaissance.
Room 8: Filippo Lippi
This room is devoted to the works of the rascally romantic Fra Filippo Lippi, whose ethereally lovely Madonnas were modelled after the brown-eyed nun he loved. In his Coronation of the Virgin (1447) she kneels in the foreground with two children, while the artist, dressed in a brown habit, looks dreamily towards her; in his celebrated Madonna and Child with Two Angels (1445) she plays the lead before the kind of mysterious landscape Leonardo would later perfect.
A similar stillness and fascination floats over into the surreal in Uccello’s Rout of San Romano (1456), or at least the third of it still present (the other two panels are in the Louvre and London’s National Gallery; all three once decorated the bedroom of Lorenzo il Magnifico in the Medici palace).
Both Piero della Francesca and Uccello were deep students of perspective, but Uccello went half-crazy; applying his principles to a violent battle scene has left us one of the most provocative works of all time – a vision of warfare in suspended animation, with pink, white and blue toy horses, robot-like knights, and rabbits bouncing in the background.
Room 9: the Pollaiuolos
Here are two small scenes from the Labours of Hercules (1470) by Antonio Pollaiuolo, whose interest in anatomy, muscular expressiveness and violence presages a strain in Florentine art that would culminate in Mannerist excess. He worked with his younger brother Piero on the refined, elegant SS. Vincent, James and Eustace, transferred here from San Miniato.
Piero della Francesca’s famous Double Portrait of the Duke Federigo da Montefeltro and his Duchess Battista Sforza of Urbino (1465) depicts one of Italy’s noblest Renaissance princes – and surely the one with the most distinctive nose. Piero’s ability to create perfectly still, timeless worlds is even more evident in the allegorical ‘Triumphs’ of the Duke and Duchess painted on the back of their portraits.
This room also contains the Uffizi’s best-known forgery. The Young Man in a Red Hat, or self-portrait of Filippino Lippi, is believed to have been the work of a clever 18th-century English art dealer who palmed it off on the Grand Dukes.
Rooms 10–14: Botticelli
To accommodate the bewitching art of ‘Little Barrels’ and his throngs of admirers, the Uffizi converted four small rooms into one great Botticellian shrine. When the space reopened in 2016, it was again divided into smaller spaces, to make room for more of his works and better control the crowds around the key works, now illuminated with vastly improved state of the art LED lighting.
Although his masterpieces displayed here have become almost synonymous with the Florentine Renaissance at its most spring-like and charming, they were not publicly displayed until the beginning of the 19th century, nor given much consideration outside Florence for another hundred years.
Sandro Botticelli’s best paintings date from the days when he was a darling of the Medici – family members crop up most noticeably in The Adoration of the Magi (1476), where you can pick out Cosimo il Vecchio, Lorenzo il Magnifico and Botticelli himself (in the right foreground, in a yellow robe, gazing at the spectator).
His Cestello Annunciation (1490) is a graceful, cosmic dance between the Virgin and the Angel Gabriel, with a Flemish-style background, which now hangs next to his earlier large fresco of Annunciation painted in 1481 for the Hospital of San Martino in Via della Scala. In the Tondo of the Virgin of the Pomegranate the wistfully lovely goddess who was to become his Venus makes her first appearance.
Botticelli is best known for his sublime mythological allegories painted for the Medici and inspired by the Neoplatonic, humanistic and hermetic urrents that pervaded the Florentine intelligentsia of the late 15th century. Perhaps no painting has been debated so fervently as La Primavera (1478). Commissioned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco, this hung for years in the Medici Villa at Castello. The subject of the Allegory of Spring may have been suggested by Marsilio Ficino, translator of Plato and natural magician; the figures and colour scheme supposedly represent the ’beneficial’ planets able to dispel sadness.
Pallas and the Centaur seems to be another subtle allegory of Medici triumph – the rings of Athene’s gown were a family device. Other interpretations see the taming of the sorrowful centaur as a melancholy comment on reason and civilization.
Botticelli’s last great mythology, The Birth of Venus, was also commissioned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco and inspired by a poem by Poliziano, Lorenzo il Magnifico’s Latin and Greek scholar, who described how Zephyr and Chloris blew the newborn goddess to shore on a scallop shell, while Hora hastened to robe her, a scene Botticelli portrays once again with dance-like rhythm and delicacy of line. Yet the goddess of love floats towards the spectator with a melancholy expression – perhaps reflecting the artist’s own feelings of regret; artistically, the poetic, decorative style he perfected in this painting would be disdained and forgotten in his own lifetime.
Spiritually, too, Botticelli turned a corner after creating this haunting, uncanny beauty – it would be his, and Florence’s, farewell to a road not taken. Although Vasari’s biography portrays Botticelli as a prankster rather than a sensitive soul, the painter absorbed more than any other artist the fin-de-siècle neuroticism that beset Florence with the rise of Savonarola.
So thoroughly did he reject his former Neoplatonism that he would only accept commissions of sacred subjects or supposedly edifying allegories like his Calumny, a small but disturbing work, and a fitting introduction to the dark side of the quattrocento psyche.
Room 15: Botticelli and Hugo van der Goes
This large room houses two more by Botticelli, his Coronation of the Virgin and the Adoration of the Magi Lami. Another Adoration of the Magi, by Ghirlandaio, shows the influence of Leonardo’s unfinished but radical work in pyramidal composition (in the next room); Leonardo himself got the idea from the magnificent Portinari Altarpiece (1471) by Hugo van der Goes, a work brought back from Bruges by Medici agent Tommaso Portinari to hang in Santa Maria Nuova.
Room 15: Leonardo da Vinci
Here are works from Leonardo’s early career in Florence. His master Andrea del Verrocchio began The Baptism of Christ (1470), when called away, leaving the young Leonardo to paint the angel on the left, and the distant landscape, in oils; the story goes that Verrocchio took one look at it and was so awed that he put his brushes away for good, and concentrated on sculpture.
Most critics concur that Leonardo’s next work was the large Annunciation (1475) – the soft faces and blurring contours, the botanical details, the misty, watery background that would become the trademarks of his magical brush are there, although some bits, such as the Virgin’s table, were completed by others (Leonardo often left paintings unfinished, his interest drawn by something else).
His least finished, but most influential work that he left in Florence before moving off to Milan, was his wash drawing for The Adoration of the Magi (1481). Difficult to make out at first, the longer you stare, the better you’ll see the strikingly unconventional composition, of a serene Madonna and Child surrounded by turmoil of anxious, troubled humanity, with an exotic background of ruins, trees and horsemen, all charged with expressive energy.
Other artists in Room 15 include Leonardo’s peers: Lorenzo di Credi, whose religious works have eerie garden-like backgrounds, and the wonderfully nutty Piero di Cosimo, whose dreamy Perseus Liberating Andromeda includes an endearing mongrel of a dragon that gives even the most reserved Japanese tourist fits of giggles.
Room 17: Map Room
With several fine works by 15th-century Dutch painter Hans Memling, including his elegant Madonna and Child with two Angels.
Room 18: The Tribuna
The octagonal Tribuna, with its mother-of-pearl dome and pietra dura floor and table (1649) was built by Buontalenti in 1584 for Francesco I, and like the Studiolo in the Palazzo Vecchio, it was designed to display Medici treasures. Some have called it the first modern museum.
For centuries the best-known of these was the Venus de’ Medici, a 2nd-century BC Greek sculpture, farcically claimed as a copy of Praxiteles’ celebrated Aphrodite of Cnidos, the most erotic statue in antiquity. In the 18th century, amazingly, this rather ordinary girl was considered the greatest sculpture in Florence; today most visitors walk right past, snubbing her without a second glance.
Other antique works include The Wrestlers and The Knife Grinder, both copies of Pergamese originals, The Dancing Faun, The Young Apollo, and The Sleeping Hermaphrodite in the adjacent room, which sounds fascinating but is usually curtained off.
Paintings include Titian's Venus with a Partridge, the partridge symbolic of lust, the barking dog representing fidelity, keeping lust at a distance—all elements of a successful marriage. The small Allegory by Raffaellino del Garbo with a scene of Florence in the distance is one of the museum's mysteries. 'No plague is worse than a hostile relative' is the translation of the medieval Latin scrolling over the scene. A young man is bitten by a snake. Jupiter watches, holding his thunderbolts. Hmmm.
Room 19-23: Italian Quattrocento
The five small rooms beyond the Tribuna, the Salette, were originally part of the Medici armoury and have fascinating ceiling frescoes by Ludovico Buti, including some depictions of the newly discovered New World. They house works from around Italy. First come the Sienese (Vecchietta's Madonna Enthroned with Saints), followed by a couple of rooms of Venetians, Antonello da Messina, Andrea Mantegna's (Madonna of the Cave) and Giovanni Bellini's great, mysterious Sacred Allegory, which has never been satisfactorily explained.
The same room has a typically fairy tale-ish Soldiers and Men in Oriental Clothes by Vittore Carpaccio. Bombs in 1944 destroyed part of the ceiling frescoes in Room 22. The art on the walls is by the courtly painters of is dedicated to painters from Emilia-Romagna, Francesco Francia and Lorenzo Costa. In Room 23 the ceiling frescoes, showing weapons manufacturing in the 16th century; among the paintings of Lombard Quatroccento, is Boltraffio’s strange Narcissus with an eerie Leonardo-esque background.
Room 24: Miniatures
Mostly portraits from various periods, collected by the indefatigable Medici
These are currently being restored as part of the New Uffizi project, although some of the masterpieces they hold by the likes of Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto are displayed in Rooms 43-44 at the moment.
Room 35: Michelangelo and the Florentines
By most accounts, Michelangelo’s only completed oil painting, the Tondo Doni (1506), was the spark that ignited Mannerism’s flaming orange and turquoise hues. Michelangelo was 30 when he painted this, in a medium he disliked (sculpture and fresco being the only fit occupations for a man, or so he believed).
In itself, the Tondo Doni is more provocative than immediately appealing, and it's a typical Michelangelo story that when the purchaser complained that the artist was asking too much for it, Michelangelo promptly doubled the price. As shocking as the colours are the spiralling poses of the Holy Family, sharply delineated against a background of five nude, slightly out-of-focus young men of uncertain purpose (are they pagans? angels? boyfriends? or just filler?) – an ambiguity that was to become a hallmark of Mannerism and in particular of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Around the Tondo are works by Francesco Granacci, a friend of Michelangelo (Joseph Presents his Brothers and Father to Pharaoh, Fra Bartolommeo(Apparition of the Virgin) and Alonso González de Berruguete, Spain's top Renaissance painter and friend of Michelangelo, whose Madonna and Child really does look as if the Virgin is tickling baby Jesus.
Room 42: Sala della Niobe
This beautifully restored series of statues of Niobe and her Sons (Roman copies of Hellenic works, brought here from the Villa Medici in Rome) and others are housed in the high, arched-ceilinged room covered in pristine plaster and gold leaf. On the walls are two massive paintings from the Henri IV series by Rubens.
Room 45: Paintings from the Closed Rooms
Currently some of the works of the rooms under restoration are housed here, including Mantegna's Adoration of the Magi Triptych and paintings by Perugino, Signorelli, Durer and Hans Memling.
The first series of Blue Rooms are dedicated to foreign artists.
Room 46: 16th-17th century Spanish Art
There are some real gems here: a Self-portrait by Velazquez and Goya (Portrait of the Countess of Chincón) Ribera's Caravaggesque Repentant St Jerome and El Greco's St John the Apostle and St Francis.
Room 47: 17th-century Dutch Art
A short corridor with small genre scenes by Frans van Mieris the Elder and Gerrit Dou.
Room 48: 17th-century French Art
Paintings here are by Charles Le Brun, Jacques Stella and Simon Vouet; the prize is the Portrait of de Bossuet by Hyacinthe Rigaud, the court painter of Louis XIV.
Room 49: 17th-18th century Amsterdam Painters
Three portraits by Rembrandt, including two striking ones of himself, young and old, are the stars here. But there are other good works too—landscapes by Ruysdael and the mysterious 16th-century master Henri Met de Bles, known in Italy as La Civetta for his little owl signature (The Copper Mines).
Room 50: 17th-century Painters from the Hague
This is dedicated to Godfried Schalcken, famous for his candlelit scenes.
Room 51: 18th-century French Art
Two beautiful recently acquired portraits by Chardin, Girl with a Badmitton Birdie and the Boy with a House of Cards are here, along with Xavier Fabre's portraits of Vittorio Alfieri and his lover, Louise of Stolberg, Countess of Albany.
Room 52: Flemish 17th century
Allegories and landscapes here, including a prize one Landscape with a Ford, (not a car, but a River Crossing) by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Paul Bril. Other paintings include Jan Brueghel the Younger's Allegories of Air and Fire and Allegories of Earth and Water, and genre paintings by David Teniers the Younger.
Room 53: 17th-18th century Delft and Rotterdam Painters
Here are genre, and intricately detailed scenes by Adriaen van der Werff and Leonaert Bramer.
Room 54: 17th-century Haarlem and Utrecht
Standouts here are Cornelis Bega, The Lute Player and Cornelis van Poelenburgh's Mercury stealing the flock of Apollo and Landscape with Farmers.
Room 55: More Flemish 17th century
This room is dedicated with lush, brand-name art by Rubens, including his Baccanale may be the most grotesque canvas in Florence, as well as a self portrait and portrait of his wife. Here too are Van Dyck's Charles V on Horseback.
Room 56: Hellenistic Marbles
This faces the Loggia dei Lanzi, and as an introduction to the rooms that follow, houses copies of statues from the 4th to 2nd century BC that helped to inspire the emotionally charged Mannerist movement. There's even an original: the muscular, 2nd-century BC Gaddi Torso.
Rooms 57-59: Andrea del Sarto and Friends
Room 57 highlights the influence of antiquity in the 16th century with Andrea del Sarto's monochromes on ancient figures side by side with a Roman sarcophagus frontal.
Room 58 holds Andrea's most original work, the almost fluorescent Madonna of the Harpies (1517), named after the figures on the Virgin’s pedestal, although the harpies are said to be really the 'locusts' mentioned in the Book of Revelations, and symbolize the Virgin's triumph over evil. Painted for the nuns of San Francesco dei Macci, the painting was so coveted two centuries later by Ferdinando de' Medici that he not only offered to exchange it for a copy, but paid for the total restoration and decoration of the nun's church.
In Room 59, dedicated to the circle around the artist, look for Andrea's own Woman with a Basket of Spindles, Franciabigio's *Portrait of a young Man and Pontormo's Leda and the Swan, a rare and unintentionally funny one, showing the two hatched eggs that resulted their union.
Room 60: Rosso Fiorentino
Mannerism hits full flow here, with Andrea del Sarto's student, Rosso Fiorentino’s violent Moses Defending the Children of Jethro; its intention to shock the viewer puts a cap on what Michelangelo's Tondo Doni began 20 years earlier. Yet Rosso had a softer side: his enchanting Angel Musician with a lute is one of the Uffizi's celebrities.
Room 61: Pontormo
Pontormo, another student of Andrea del Sarto, painted the portrait of Cosimo il Vecchio and Supper at Emmaus (1525), a strange canvas with peasant-faced monks emerging out of the darkness, brightly clad diners with dirty feet, and the Masonic symbol of the Eye of God hovering over Christ’s head.
Rooms 62: Vasari and Allori
Rooms 62 and 63 are known as the Ademollo Rooms for their monochrome frescoes by Luigi Ademollo. The first holds paintings by Giorgio Vasari, the architect of the Uffizi: his mythologies, including Vulcan's Forge, a busy allegory of the arts, painted on copper, and his portraits of Alessandro de' Medici and the often-reproduced one of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Master portraitist Alessandro Allori checks in with Portrait of Bianca Cappello
Room 63: Late 16th-century Florentines
Here you'll find classic Mannerist Allegories on the Age of Iron, Age of Silver and Age of Gold by Vasari's pupil Jacopo Zucchi and works by the painters who rebelled against Mannerism, Jacopo da Empoli (Noah's Inebriation and the Sacrifice of Isaac) and his teacher, Santi di Tito.
Rooms 64 and 65: Bronzino and the Medici
These two rooms are dedicated to the works of the meticulous Bronzino, perfectionist at getting the richness of costumes and jewellery just so; even the Virgin in his Panciatichi Holy Family (1540) has the cool elegance of a fashion goddess.
The real stars here are the Medici court portraits in Room 65, which formerly held pride of place in the Tribuna. Bronzino could not only catch the likeness of Cosimo I, Eleanor of Toledo and their children, but he aptly portrayed the spirit of the day – these are people who took themselves very seriously indeed. Here too is the double front and back portrait of the little person in Cosimo's court, Braccio di Bartolo, better known the Nano Morgante, naked and hunting small birds; elsewhere in Florence he's portrayed as Bacchus. They were different times.
Room 66: Raphael
Raphael was in and out of Florence in 1504–8 before moving on to Rome. Never temperamental or eccentric like his contemporaries, the good-natured Raphael was the sweetheart of the High Renaissance. His Virgins, like The Madonna of the Goldfinch, a luminous work painted in Florence, have a tenderness that was soon to be over-popularized by others and turned into holy cards, a cloying sentimentality added like layers of varnish over the centuries.
It’s easier, perhaps, to see Raphael’s genius in non-sacred subjects, as in his Self Portrait and keenly perceptive portraits of Pope Julius (a second version of the painting in London's National Gallery) and Leo X with Two Cardinals a study of the first Medici pope with his nephew Giulio de’ Medici, the future Clement VII.
Rome 68: Correggio
Two fine works by the great late Renaissance master from Parma: Rest on the Flight to Egypt with Saint Francis (1520) and the Adoration of the Child.
Room 71: Roman Painters, Early Cinquecento
Painters not from Rome, but who were summoned there by a patron even richer than the Medici. There's Saint John the Baptist, attributed to Raphael or his workshop, and works by his students Giulio Romano and Perin del Vaga, and paintings by Daniele da Volterra and Francesco Salviati.
Room 74: Parmigianino
Parmigianino’s hyper-elegant Madonna with the Long Neck (1536) is a fascinating Mannerist evolutionary dead-end, possessing all the weird beauty of a foot-long dragonfly. Here too is his almost as uncanny Madonna and Child with Saints, and his Portrait of a Man, long believed to be a self portrait.
Room 75: Giorgione and Sebastiano del Piombo
The Venetians of the High Renaissance check in here. There are two minor but unusual works Moses Undergoes Trial by Fire and The Judgment of Solomon by the elusive Giorgione, and the striking Portrait of Warrior with his Equerry (1509), generally attributed to the painter's later period— in 1510 he would be dead.
Sebastiano del Piombo’s Death of Adonis is notable for its melancholy, lagoony, autumn atmosphere and the annoyed look on Venus’ face.
Room 83: Titian
The Venetian High Renaissance hit its apex with Titian, who is well represented here with fine portraits of a Knight of Malta and of Francesco Maria della Rovere and his wife Eleonora Gonzaga. Her son Guidobaldo commissioned the incomparably voluptuous Venus of Urbino who raises the temperature in the room by several degrees. Did Titian use Guidobaldo's mother's features for his goddess of love? Here too is one of his warmest and most beautiful youthful works, Flora.
Room 88: Lombard Painters of the Cinquecento
Lorenzo Lotto checks in with a couple of religious paintings, but the stars in this room are the portraits, by Giovan Battista Moroni; the Portrait of a Young Man, long thought to depict Raphael, has been attributed to Lotto or Raphael's teacher Perugino.
Beyond, the long hall or Verone sull'Arno overlooking the river, is used for temporary exhibitions, but has several permanent residents: the Medici Vase, a beautiful work by a 1st-century BC Attic workshop, and two statues formerly at the Villa Medici: Mars Gravidus by Ammannati and Silenus with young Bacchus, a copy of a Roman original by Giacomo del Duca.
Room 90: Caravaggio
Struggle on gamely into the Nuovi Uffizi's yellow rooms to see three striking Caravaggios. His Bacchus and The Head of Medusa are believed to be self-portraits; in its day the fleshy and heavy-eyed Bacchus, half portrait and half still life, but lacking the usual mythological appurtenances, was considered highly iconoclastic.
The violence in the Sacrifice of Isaac is surpassed by one of the best Judith and Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi; after she was allegedly raped by a fellow artist (who was acquitted in court), the subject of a woman slicing off a man’s head became her favourite theme.
Rooms 91-93: Followers of Caravaggio
The next three works are by the many who were inspired by Caravaggio's almost cinemographic realism and chiaroscuro. The first room has works by one of his closest followers, Bartolomeo Manfredi, but minus his Musical Concert that was lost in the 1993 bombing. Room 92 is dominated by works by Dutch painter Gerard van Honthorst, better known in Italy as Gherardo delle Notti for his dramatic night scenes, most famously The Adoration of the Child in which baby Jesus himself is the only source of light.
Rooms 95-100: Florentine and Sienese 17th-century Painters
Room 101: Guido Reni
Like Michelangelo, Guido Reni (1575-1642) from Bologna, was nicknamed 'Il Divino' in his lifetime, although it's rare to find 21st century museum goers with the same opinion. But in his day Reni was appreciated for converting the immediate realism of Caravaggio into a more classical style, as in his David with the Head of Goliath here.
Once part of the Uffizi, Vasari's famous catwalk, the Corridoio Vasariano filled with artists' self portraits, is now only accessible by booking a private tour.
Collezione Contini Bonacossi
Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, who died in 1955, left his private collection, one of the greatest in the world, to Italy. Unfortunately, he hadn't had time to dot all the i's and cross the t's in his arrangement, and his heirs pounced, starting a horrific legal battle that lasted fifteen years. In the end it took a decree from the President of Italy to resolve the quarrel, and the state got only 35 of the 148 paintings the Count had assembled, and twelve sculptures.
But they're choice. There are some quite famous works here, such as Andrea del Castagno's striking Madonna di Casa Pazzi (1445), a Madonna by Cimabue, and Cima del Conigliano's St Jerome in the Desert, not to mention works by Giovanni Bellini, El Greco, Goya, three Tintorettos and two Velázquezes and Bernini's masterful St Lawrence on the Gridiron.
After years of limbo in a nearby palazzo, the collection finally came home to the Uffizi's West wing in February 2018.
Piazzale degli Uffizi 6
Hours Tues-Sun 8.15am-6.50pm. On Tuesday evenings in August, the Uffizi Live features concerts and other performances in the museum after hours. More chances to visit the museum in the off hours are promised for the future: check the website
Adm from March-Oct €20, €10 EU citizens aged between 18 and 25 years; from Nov-Feb €12, reduced €6 free under 18. Combined tickets with the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens: Mar-Nov €38, reduced €21; Nov-Feb €18, reduced €11. Tickets to the Uffizi include free entrance to the Museo Archeologico.
Skip the queue by purchasing timed tickets in advance online through the official website with a €4 reservation fee (which includes tickets for the under 18s). Free (and crowded) the first Sunday of the month.
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