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The Uffizi Gallery

As one of the oldest and most well known art museums in the Western world, The Uffizi
Gallery is a plethora of masterpieces, that all lend a hand in piecing together Florences rich
history. As a tourist, one could take multiple trips and spend many hours in the museum and still
have more to learn. Its overwhelming in both its beauty and the story that it tells. Because of the
sheer size of the collection, many pieces have had to be moved to other museums. Still, it
remains one of the most visited places by tourists in Florence. We can examine the effectiveness
of the Uffizi as a museum and storyteller of Florence by looking at the layout, the pieces and
how they are presented, and the overall accessibility to visitors.
Construction of the Uffizi Gallery began in 1560 by Giorgio Vasari at the request of
Cosimo I deMedici to be the offices for the Florentine magistrates. In fact, the word Uffizi
means offices in Italian. The project would also serve to showcase the works of art in the Medici
collection. As well known painter and architect at the time, Vasari was a perfect choice for the
job, as he strategically planned the building. Vasaris design was continued by Alfonso Parigi
and Bernardo Buontalenti and was completed in 1581. Over the years, the palace became more
focused on displaying the works of art included in the Medici familys collection. Even after the
fall of the Medici, pieces of art remained in the Uffizi, forming one of the first modern museums.
It opened to the public in 1765.
Born in Florence in 1519, Cosimo I deMedici came into power at the young age of
seventeen, becoming the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He was recognized at the head of the
Florentine state by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and in return helped in fighting against
France in the Italian Wars. This allowed him to restore power to the Medici family, which would
last until the death of Gian Gastone deMedici, the last of the Medici family in 1737. Aside from

creating the Uffizi, Cosimo I was also recognized for finishing the Pitti Palace and the Boboli
Gardens.
Giorgio Vasari, born in 1511, was sent to Florence at the age of sixteen, where he became
the student of a skillful stained glass painter. It was at this time that he befriended Michelangelo,
who would influence his own work. A few years later, he visited Rome, where he studied
Renaissance works and started to gain recognition for his projects, leading him to become
employed by the Medici family. In fact, thanks to the architectural success of the Uffizi, Vasari
became better known for his architecture than for his paintings. The unique design of his loggia
acts as both a public piazza, and a short Renaissance street. The far end of the loggia opens up
the Arno, making it one of the only buildings that faces and opens up to the riverside. He is also
responsible for the Vasari Corridor, which connects the Uffizi with Pitti Palace, using enclosed,
elevated passes that cross the Ponte Vecchio. He also renovated both Santa Maria Novella and
Santa Croce.
The museum itself is huge, and spread over three floors. Without a doubt, there has to be
a specific layout in place to ensure that visitors see the pieces and can cover the entire gallery in
the most effective way. The ground floor holds the ticket office, entrance to the museum, and a
souvenir shop. The first floor has many interesting halls, including the Cabinet of Prints and
Drawings. The first floors also holds the newest additions to the museum called the Blue and
Red halls, where a wide variety of art pieces can be founds. On the second floor, youll find the
45 different halls that display the pieces of work, ranging from the 13th to the 18th century. The
three corridors that line the building are where many of the antique sculptures can be found.
There are also many other halls that hold temporary exhibits throughout the year.

Although the amount of pieces displayed in the Uffizi can be overwhelming, if one takes
the time to learn the story behind it, it naturally sparks their interest in the piece, making their
visit to the Uffizi much more enjoyable and efficient. The Portraits of the Duke and Dutchess of
Urbino by Piero della Francesca is an example of the piece that becomes much more meaningful
and enjoyable once the story behind it is learned. At a glance, it looks like just two people facing
each other. However, it is so much more than that. This painting is of the Duke and Duchess of
Urbino, completed between 1465 and 1472. The Duke of Urbino was a mercenary, and injured
his eye in battle, causing him to become blind in one eye. However, this did not stop him from
fighting in battle. He had an operation to remove the stop section of his nose, so he could see 180
degrees with one eye. And considering the time period, an operation like this was surely not easy
nor pleasant. The duchesss hairstyle is also important to notice. At this time, it was stylish to
shave the top section of the forehead. The duchess also wore plaster on her face to be more
white, which in theory would represent her to be pure. The artist, Piero della Francesca, was an
Early Renaissance painter born in 1415. His work was characterized by humanism and
perspective. He was heavily influenced by the work of leading Florentines, including Fra
Angelico, Donatello, Luca della Robbia, and Brunelleschi and developed a taste for classical
frescos and figures. In his later career, he received commission for painting fresco in various
churches throughout Tuscany.
One of the most famous pieces of work in the Uffizi is The Birth of Venus,
painted by Sandro Botticelli between 1482 and 1485. It stems from Ovids Metamorphoses, and
depicts Venus emerging from the sea, naked on a shell, as a fully grown woman. There are
references to the Stanzas by Neoplatonic poet Agnolo Poliziano. If interpreted according the
Neoplatonic philosophy, the piece represents the birth of love. Sandro Botticelli was an Early

Renaissance painter, who was born in Florence and received an education with other
Renaissance artists. By the age of 25, he already had his own workshop. In 1481, Pope Sixtus IV
requested many prominent artists, including Botticelli, to fresco the walls of the Sistine Chapel.
Botticellis works there are: Temptations of Christ, Punishment of the Rebels, and Trial of
Moses. One of his most famous pieces of work, aside from the Birth of Venus, is Primavera, a
panel painting completed in 1482 in Lorenzos town house in Florence. Many see the gathering
of mythological figures in a garden as an allegory for the growth of spring, while others interpret
it as illustrating the idea of Neoplatonic love. The piece originally carried no title, but rather it
was first called Primavera by Vasari.
Despite the impressive works of arts that reside there, the layout and setup of the Uffizi
Gallery is not without criticism. While it is an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures,
perfect for history buffs and those entering with preparedness, a visit to the Uffizi can be
overwhelming and confusing to visitors who dont have much background knowledge on both
the works inside the gallery, and the gallery itself. Although there is an abundance of resources
which can be used by prospective visits to better prepare them and make their visit more
effective, there remains an argument that the set up of the Uffizi isnt as efficient as it could be.
Additionally, along these same lines, an argument can be made against the rooms
themselves. Although there are many positives to having many pieces in one gallery, there is also
a risk of it becoming to cluttered and busy, which is something that can be said about the Uffizi.
It seems although they are trying to pack too many pieces, and in turn too much information, into
one small space. Again, this leads the visitor feeling both overwhelmed and defeated by the
magnitude of the history and information that is thrown at them, especially those who arent
prepared for it. Moreover, the newest additions of the red and blue rooms in the museum are an

added and unnecessary distraction from the pieces themselves. Instead of using a neutral wall
color to keep the focus on the artworks themselves, these rooms in the Uffizi utilize loud colors,
which draws the eye away from where the attention should be. Another criticism surrounds one
of the most important features of the Uffizi, The Tribuna. This octagonal room, designed for
Francesco I deMedici by Bernardo Buontalenti, holds the most important statues and paintings
from the Medici collection. However, the room is closed off, preventing the public from being
able to enter the room. Instead, visitors can only crane their necks and peek in while remaining
outside.
Another argument is one that can be applied to many other museums around the world: a
lack of information. When visitors look at a complex painting that is rich in history and meaning,
usually all the accompanies it is a small plaque with a few sentences stating the artist, year, and
maybe a short description. It is more of a short label than an aid in helping convey the meaning
of the piece. Because the information that visitors are given is both lacking and uninteresting,
they naturally show less interest in the artworks themselves than if they were to have readily
available and easy to understand information at their hands.
However, despite these critiques, the Uffizi Gallery remains one of the most prominent
modern art galleries in the world, and thus, its no surprise that its one of the most visited places
in Florence, a city rich in history and chalk-full of ancient masterpieces.