|Ufizzi Galleria, photo courtesy of Wikipedia CC|
Built in 1581 under request of Grand Duke Franciso de’ Medici, son of Cosimo I, the Uffizi Galleria was originally designed by Giorgio Vasari. In 1560, work was began to create the horseshoe-shaped building that reaches from the Ponte Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria, to and along the Arno River. The building was originally intended for offices and to host bureaucratic meetings for various magistrates, but evolved into a sort of museum, housing the Medici’s many art pieces (2). Once Vasari had died, building and extension work continued, with each successive member of the Medici clan adding to the increasingly rich treasure trove of the family's art collection.
The façades of the Uffizi bordering the courtyard are decorated with niches containing statues of important historical figures and has been described as the focal point of both the architecture and sculpture of the Uffizi. Some argue that Vasari’s use of the triumphal arch motif for the façade may reflect a modification for dramatic effect of Bartolommeo Ammannati’s apparently unsolicited suggestion, embodied in a drawing in the Biblioteca Riccardiana, to repeat the arch as a structural and decorative motif along the ground level of the lateral wings. It is suggested that the building was actually meant to be two separate facing buildings as indicated in Domenico Poggini’s foundation medal of 1561 (1). Conceived by Cosimo I Medici, the project to arrange the Gallery on the 3rd floor of this large building, was realized by his son Francesco I. Later Cosimo III had the Gallery made larger in order to house the works inherited from his uncle Cardinal Leopold. With the extinction of the Medici dynasty, the last of the family, Anna Maria Ludovica, who died in 1737, arranged that all the art treasures gathered by the powerful dynasty forever remain at the disposal of the Florentines and of the visitors of the entire world.