Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ufizzi Galleria

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.

King's Walkway

Vasari Corridor seen from inside Ufizzi, photo courtesy of Wikipedia CC
                Architect of the Ufizzi Giorgio Vasari built a secret corridor, the King’s Walkway now known as the Vasarian Corridor, after the original construction of the offices.  Commissioned by Cosimo I of the Medici family, the secret passageway connects from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti across the Arno river.  The Vasarian Corridor runs atop the Ufizzi and over the shops of the Ponte Vecchio, passing through the church of Santa Felicita (so the Medici could pause for mass in secret), before ending at the Boboli Gardens of the Palazzo Pitti.  The purpose for this corridor was to allow the Medici family and other important figures to pass safely throughout the city.  The Medici understood that they went unloved by many Florentine citizens at certain periods throughout their reign, and wanted to protect themselves from assassination attempts from rival families.  The corridor stretches a huge length of Florence’s antic district, and is today a vastly private passageway, holding some of the Ufizzi’s most prized paintings.

Vasari Corridor connecting from Palazzo Vecchio to Ufizzi, photo courtesy of WCC