The great palace built for the Florentine banker Luca Pitti dominates the Oltrarno quarter and is attributed to a design by Filippo Brunelleschi. For a period of four centuries, the palace was built around the original central body formed by seven windows on two floors. Formerly the palace of the Medici, Lorraine and Savoy dynasties, it was not until modern times that the building was used to house the prestigious collections of the Palatine Gallery, the Silver Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art.
Cosimo I, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, bought the original building and commissioned Bartolomeo Ammannati with adding two wings and a gallery forming a magnificent courtyard. For three centuries - until the annexation of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany to the Kingdom of Italy in 1859 - the palace was the backdrop to the most important events in the life of the Medici family, and, from 1736, onwards, in the life of the Habsburg-Lorraine family.
The most important part of the Palatine Gallery is housed in the six front rooms of the Pitti Palace, and in the back rooms, which were used as the winter quarters in the north wing by the Medici Grand Dukes. After being abandoned, these rooms were used from the late 18th century onwards for the exhibition of the most important paintings (then around 500 in number) present in the Pitti Palace, most of which originating from the Medici family collections.
Cosimo I created the nucleus of the collection around 1620. It was added to by his son, Ferdinando II, and housed in the first-floor rooms decorated by Pietro da Cortona and by Ciro Ferri. Cardinal Leopoldo, the brother of Ferdinando II, played a decisive role in enriching the collection, as did Cosimo III and his first-born son, Prince Ferdinando, who bought a number of important Flemish paintings, altarpieces originating from various Tuscan churches together with many outstanding works from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Visits start in the Statue Gallery which houses ancient sculptures from the Villa Medici in Rome, and in the Castagnoli Room. The adjoining wing, known as Ala del Volterrano, was occupied by the apartments of the Grand Duchesses until the period of Cosimo II; in 1743, Anna Maria Luisa, the last member of the Medici family died there, leaving her huge art collection to the people of Florence.
The works in the Palatine Gallery are laid out in accordance with the aesthetic criteria typical of 17th-century picture galleries. The magnificent carved frames blend in harmoniously with the ornamental motifs of the vault, creating that ideal artistic unity which is at the centre of baroque aesthetics.
In 1915, the Gallery was further extended when the Savoy family donated the entire palace to the State making it possible to double the number of paintings exhibited. Most of the works currently on display originate from the private apartments of the various members of the Medici family.
There are many masterpieces: the Madonna and Child and Episodes from the Life of St. Anne by Filippo Lippi, dating to around 1450; the Madonna and Child with the Child St John by Raphael (c. 1516) and by the same artist, La Velata; the Child St John by Andrea del Sarto (1523); famous portraits by Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto.
Piazza Pitti - Firenze
Ph: +39 055 2388614
For advanced reservations: Firenze Musei, Tel. 055 294883, costs € 3,00 per person (€ 4,00 per/for Galleria Uffizi or/and Accademia); School groups: Tel. 055 290112. On-line ticket sales: www.firenzemusei.it.