13 Uffizi Gallery masterpieces you need to know (PHOTO)
Made a selection of 13 masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence that are advisable to study before your first visit. And in the conditions of quarantine and self-isolation, you can even do it instead of visiting. Some of them you probably know. Others, hopefully, will be a pleasant discovery.
By the way, the beautiful Italian “uffizi” means “offices”. Originally, the building, where the Florentine masterpieces are housed today, was conceived as an administrative building. The idea belongs to Cosimo de Medici, who had the intention of gathering all the governing bodies of Florence in one place. A new comfortable building was needed. The location was picturesque (if only they knew how much the land would cost these days!) – between Piazza della Signoria, which has always been the center of political life, and the Arno promenade.
This is where the Uffizi Gallery’s famous paintings are based, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Raphael.
A new format of exploring the museums of the world is online tours. The 2-hour tour “Through the Uffizi with an art historian” appeared on Tripster. Soon there will be the Louvre, the Orsay Museum, the Hermitage and other galleries in Europe and Russia. In the meantime, you can enjoy an online tour of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
Uffizi Gallery Paintings: Top 13
1. “Birth of Venus,” by Sandro Botticelli
About 1486, Uffizi, Florence
“Birth of Venus” is masterpiece No. 1.
Botticelli borrowed the idea for the painting from the poet Angelo Poliziano, who inspiredly described the birth of the goddess. The prototype of Venus, the model of feminine attraction, is said to have been Simonetta Vespucci, the first beauty of her time. Her suitors included Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano de’ Medici (both of the richest dynasty). According to legend, the goddess of beauty was born from drops of blood of Uranus – they fell into the sea water and, in contact with it, turned into an airy foam. And already out of it emerged a naked Venus. Thanks to a fair wind, she on the shell reached Cyprus and there for the first time set foot on land. The author of the main masterpiece Uffizi follows the legend, depicting the beauty at the moment when she is about to leave the shell. One of the Graces is waiting for her on the ground. The shell sways on the waves, propelled by the breeze and the breath of Zephyr and his friend Chloris. But Venus is frozen in indecision before she takes a step.
This painting was intended for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, the customer of the painting. For some time, The Birth of Venus adorned his villa in Castella, while Lorenzo was also desperate to win the favor of Simonetta Vespucci.
2. “The Annunciation,” by Leonardo da Vinci.
1481-1481, Uffizi, Florence
This painting was at first attributed to the Florentine master of the early Renaissance, Domenico Ghirlandaio. But later art historians came to the conclusion that the work was painted by Leonardo da Vinci himself. Moreover, today it is considered to be the earliest of his famous paintings (he began to write it when he was 20 years old). The plot of the painting is as follows: the Virgin Mary is sitting at the door of a monumental building, and in front of an angel in a knee-begging pose. He has just descended to the ground and is preparing to deliver the fateful words of good news.
Leonardo masterfully plays with the elongated format of the painting: the horizontals of the parapet are balanced by the verticals of the slender cypresses. The clarity, peace and spaciousness that distinguish this composition mark the beginning of the High Renaissance.
3. “The Baptism of Christ,” a joint work by Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verocchio
1470-1475, Uffizi, Florence
A Work by Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio
Several masters were involved in the painting. Leonardo da Vinci painted the left angel and the landscape in the background. The master decided to depict his angel kneeling, with his face turned towards the main characters in the sacred action. And with his gaze lifted to the upper part of the composition – there is the sacrament of the reunion of God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit. To the viewer, Leonardo’s angel faces almost backwards. But the dramaturgy of the subject justifies this arrangement of the figure and allows us to perceive it naturally. After the completion of the painting, this position of the figure will be the hallmark of Da Vinci, and the Baptism of Christ will take an honorable place among the masterpieces.
4. “Springtime,” by Sandro Botticelli
1485-1487, Uffizi, Florence
Another work by Botticelli, “Spring.”
In the 1470s Botticelli became close to the Medici family and the circle of Florentine humanists. The new environment awakens the artist’s interest in antique and allegorical subjects. Botticelli’s appeal to mythology was groundbreaking: the previous generation of masters had not created large canvases devoted to the gods and heroes of antiquity. Botticelli takes the liberty of becoming a pioneer. And invents the iconography of such subjects, taking for example, the ancient ancient sculptures of antiquity. The painting “Spring” depicts the realm of Venus as a blooming garden. Above the goddess’s head her constant companion is Cupid. On the left, three graces have their arms intertwined in a leisurely dance. The garden of love is guarded by Mercury with his sword belt. On the right, the goddess Flora scatters flowers as a symbol of youth and spring renewal.
The huge painting, painted for the Villa Medici in Castello in the suburbs of Florence, was the centerpiece of a composition that told the story of divine love. To the left of The Spring was another painting, The Pallada and the Centaur.
Today, both masterpieces of the Uffizi Museum are available to the general public.
5. “Portrait of Carlo de Medici,” by Andrea Mantegna
1450-1466, Uffizi, Florence
Carlo de Medici, representative of the richest Florentine clan
The main feature of Mantegna’s portraits is their realism. In the case of this painting, also at the Uffizi, the artist chose a dark, almost impenetrable background to focus the viewer’s attention on the model. For the same purpose he chooses a submerged composition. The foreshortening is extremely well chosen: not in profile, but in a three-quarter turn, with the artist standing slightly below. All this adds dignity and heroic features to the image. Carlo de Medici, son of the legendary Cosimo de Medici, is depicted as a stern and unapproachable ascetic. The image of a man with an unyielding will is intensified by another device: Mantegna uses a meagre color scheme. The red tones of Carlo’s clothing dominate, and his face, with its bronze tan, stands out sharply against the emerald background.
6. “Madonna with a Cheek,” Raphael
1506, Uffizi, Florence
One of Raphael’s masterpieces at the Uffizi
During his first stay in Florence, Raphael painted a number of paintings depicting the Madonna. He sees the Virgin Mary as a blooming woman with a rounded face and correct facial features. The work “Madonna and the lamb” was painted for a friend of Raphael, Lorenzo Nazi, a wealthy Florentine, who combined the occupation of trade with a passion for painting. Nazi had just married and commissioned the painting immediately after the momentous occasion. Perhaps that is why it is full of joy and lyricism. The plot of the painting, which adorns the walls of the Uffizi today, is simple. Mary supports with her hand the little John the Baptist, who, while playing, holds out the baby Christ’s chirpkin. Raphael borrowed the noteworthy motif of Christ resting his foot on his mother’s leg from Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges.
7. “Tondo Doni,” Michelangelo Buonarotti.
1504-1506, Uffizi, Florence
Michelangelo’s painting “Tondo Doni”
Although Michelangelo exalted sculpture and painting was of secondary importance in his work, there are paintings by the master in the Uffizi that should not be overlooked. And number one on that list is The Holy Family (Tondo Doni). Michelangelo executed this painting for his friend, the wealthy Florentine merchant Agnolo Doni. As a result, the painting became the only easel-mounted work in the history of the artist. And, according to historians, he could agree to the order not because of money, but because of the rivalry with Leonardo da Vinci. He had just returned to Florence and had just presented a new painting of St. Anna (source http://smallbay.ru).
The main thing in Michelangelo’s painting is not the subject. With a sense of form and energy of movement peculiar only to the sculptor, he creates a “painterly relief.
8. “Madonna with a Long Neck,” Parmigianino.
About 1535, Uffizi, Florence
An unusual painting of the “Madonna with a Long Neck.”
One of the Uffizi’s world masterpieces, The Madonna with the Long Neck, is described in detail in the article “10 Baroque Paintings.” Parmigianino is considered one of the greatest painters of his time (he got his nickname from his place of birth – a resident of the city of Parma). He was fond of alchemy, and in each of Parmigianino’s works the viewer is presented with a version of a transfigured mystical reality: silvery color envelops the disproportionately elongated forms of exquisite figures. Parmigianino also contributes to the art of mannerism. He owns the so-called “serpentine contour” technique – wavy lines predominate in the drawing, drapery fabrics, gestures and poses of the characters. Madonna is sitting in a deliberately unnatural pose, as if she is about to slip off the edge of the chair. She holds the infant with one hand and holds the other to her breast in an unsteady gesture.
The architectural background is left unscripted. The figure of the saint standing next to him is unusually small compared to the monumental Madonna.
9. “Flora,” by Titian.
About 1515, Uffizi, Florence
Uffizi masterpieces: Titian’s Flora
Titian is on a par with Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo in terms of importance to the Italian Renaissance. All his long life the artist never left his brush – his last work was a painting for his own tombstone. Titian’s fame stretched far beyond Italy: he was invited to the French court, to perform the orders of the Holy Curia, to the court of the Holy Roman Empire. And yet Titian remained faithful to Venice: after completing this or that work he would return to his beloved “city on water”. One of his earliest works, Flora, adorns the gallery walls. Like all paintings of that period, it is distinguished by harmony and admiring beauty.
The female image is beautiful, filled with sensuality, radiating beauty and the joy of youth. In many of his canvases, mythical goddesses, stripped of their heroization and detachment, are transformed into real women.
10. “Bacchus,” Caravaggio.
About 1590, Uffizi, Florence
Caravaggio’s Bacchus, the god of wine
With Caravaggio’s work, a new style of “baroque” opens up in Italian art. The artist was born on the outskirts of Milan and in 1592 came to Rome, where by that time this style had already become firmly established in architecture. The works of the young Caravaggio struck by the choice of topics. In the early period he painted a number of genre portraits of young people, depicting them in various emotional states. “Bacchus” can be called the final work in this series. There is a degree of outrage in the picture: the young man’s pose is erotic, and with one hand he is preparing to untie the belt that supports his clothes. In his left hand the young Bacchus holds a glass of wine, offering it to the spectator. His posture and gesture are graceful, but if you look closely, you can see the boy’s repulsively dirty fingernails.
11. “Portrait of Lucrezia Panchatica,” by Agnolo Bronzino
1540, Uffizi, Florence
Masterpieces of the gallery: portrait of Lucrezia Panchatica
Agnolo Bronzino was the court painter of the Medici. His talent fully developed in the portrait genre. He often portrays a portrait against an abstract architectural background, in a solemn pose, paying much attention to the fine details of clothing and lovingly painting the texture of fabric. She also uses Mannerist techniques to create decorative effects with a beautiful combination of color patches. Lucrezia Panchatici was the wife of Bartolomeo Panchatici, Duke Cosimo’s ambassador to the French court. The portrait was commissioned before the couple left for France, where Bartolomeo would join the Huguenots. In today’s Uffizi Museum, everyone can admire the statuesque beauty of his wife, Lucrezia, who had to endure much during her marriage to her rebellious husband.
12. “Caravaggio’s Head of the Gorgon Medusa.
1598-1599, Uffizi, Florence
A painting in circular form: “The Head of the Medusa.”
This is one of the unusual paintings in the Uffizi collection. As ambiguous as the personality of its author, Caravaggio. His contemporaries say he was extremely intemperate and had rude manners, which is reflected in the subject of the Head of the Medusa. Severed, bleeding head of the Gorgon, the artist placed on the circle of the shield. Terrifying jellyfish, one look at which turned a man into stone, now and embraced the death horror itself. This is the whole point of Caravaggio: he chose subjects depicting emotion at the moment of highest intensity.
What is surprising is that the horrifying and unlike anything else circular painting was painted for Ferdinand I de’ Medici. It “adorned” the ceremonial shield of the Duke of Tuscany (source https://artchive.ru).
13. “Self-Portrait,” Ivan Aivazovsky
1874, Uffizi, Florence
Aivazovsky’s self-portrait is also kept in Florence
The Uffizi Picture Gallery, beginning in the second half of the 18th century, began collecting self-portraits of famous artists. The museum features self-portraits by Orest Kiprensky, Karl Bryullov, Ilya Repin, Marc Chagall and other Russian masters. The exhibition of marinist Ivan Aivazovsky held in Florence in 1874 was a great success. The Florentine Academy of Arts invited the artist to paint his portrait for one of the greatest museums of the world – the Uffizi.
How to get to the Uffizi
The gallery is located at Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6, 50122 Firenze FI. The nearest public transport stop is Galleria Degli Uffizi . You can get to the gallery by taking the C1 bus that passes through the city center.
The palace is located in the small Piazza Uffizi. You can also navigate to the more famous Piazza della Signoria in Florence, where the Palazzo Vecchio and a copy of the statue of David stand in its background. To the right of the palace you will see the Uffizi arcade, walking under it you will reach the central entrance. One of the facades of the Uffizi Gallery can be seen from the embankment of the Arno River and even the Vecchio Bridge.
Other options: the Condotta or Ghibellina Bargello stops – the C2 route goes through them. You can estimate in advance which of these is closer to the Uffizi Gallery in your opinion. From both you have to walk about 5-7 minutes.
Uffizi photo gallery
Question and answer.
What are online tours and is it worth ordering them?
This is a new format invented either by Tripster or the foreign Getyourguide . Many are homesick for travel and the opportunity to be on a webinar or walk the streets with a guide in “livestream” mode is a breath of fresh air! If we take the example of the world’s greatest museums, I personally listened to a tour from an art historian in Florence about the Uffizi Gallery. What can I say? Nothing supernatural from it you should not expect, but it’s ten times better than the story of a self-taught blogger on YouTube, who memorized a few phrases from Wikipedia.
Catherine, who worked with Tripster to develop the tour “Through the Uffizi Gallery with an Art Historian. , graduated from the Faculty of Art History of Florence and has been studying Italian painting for more than 10 years. Mostly Renaissance:
And these are the latest reviews of Catherine’s webinar on May 2:
How much do tickets cost and where do I buy them?
Let’s start with the prices of admission tickets to the Uffizi (you can buy them at the official website, https://www.uffizi.it). Visits to the gallery are divided into two periods:
- March 1 to October 31 : full ticket – 20€, reduced ticket – 10€. Uffizi + Pitti Palace + Boboli Gardens general admission ticket €38 (€21 if you have a discount);
- From November 1 to February 28: full ticket 12 €, discounted ticket 6 €. Uffizi + Pitti Palace + Boboli Gardens general admission ticket €18 (€11 subject to availability);
You can buy a Uffizi pass for 50€. Or an annual visit to three Florentine museums “Uffizi + Pitti Palace + Boboli Gardens” for 70 €.
There is a way to visit the Uffizi Gallery “for free”: for this you need to buy a Florence Card for 72 € for 72 hours. Its range includes most of Florence’s museums and public transport. If you plan a busy sightseeing program, the cost of the card is paid off rather quickly.
When and how to get to the Uffizi on your own (opening hours)?
The Uffizi Gallery and its famous masterpieces
The temple of Renaissance art is what the Uffizi Gallery, or Uffizi Museum, in Florence is all about. The 15th-century building in the center of the city houses the world’s largest collection of art created between the 15th and 16th centuries.
History of the Uffizi Gallery
Building the gallery
Locating a museum in the building where the Uffizi Gallery (Galleria degli Uffizi) is located was not originally intended. The Uffizi Palace was built by Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici of Tuscany as a new seat of government. Its purpose was to bring together the 13 most important Florentine magistrates who had previously been in different locations next to the government palace, the Palazzo Vecchio. In this way, these “offices” (from the Latin “uffici”) could be under his direct supervision.
The work was entrusted to Giorgio Vasari, the famous Italian architect, who designed the building in the shape of a horseshoe. The windows of the palace overlook the Arno River on one side and the courtyard overlooking Palazzo Vecchio on the other.
The beginning of the museum collection of the Uffizi Gallery
In 1581 Duke Francesco I de’ Medici, son of Cosimo, transformed the staircase on the top floor into a private gallery, where he installed a collection of 15th-century paintings as well as works of his contemporaries (statues, armour, scientific instruments, interesting naturalistic curiosities), portraits of the Medici family and important people. The collection he created soon became available to the public, although it was only possible to see it by request. Thus, the Uffizi Museum became one of the oldest museums in Europe.
The Medici family and the expansion of the collection
Under Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici the Uffizi Gallery’s collection was enriched by a series of portraits of important people (the Gioviana series), the Hall of Maps and the Hall of Mathematics, as well as halls devoted to manufactures, weapons collections, and a room of precious stones brought as a dowry by Christina of Lorraine around 1588.
During the reign of Ferdinando II de’ Medici his wife, Vittoria della Rovere, the last heiress of the Dukes of Urbino, brought as dowry a rich collection of works by Italian painters – Titian, Piero della Francesca, Raphael, Federico Barocci and others.
Other interesting works of the Venetian school appeared within the walls of the art gallery thanks to Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici, brother of the great duke, who began to collect drawings, miniatures and self-portraits with great passion. At the end of the 17th century, under Cosimo III de’ Medici, a new collection of self-portraits, fine porcelain, medals, drawings and bronzes appeared in the new rooms of the Uffizi Gallery, and in time Cosimo III acquired many Flemish paintings (including Rubens) and some valuable Roman statues, such as the Venus de’ Medici.
Famous paintings of the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is the world’s largest collection of the golden age of painting in Italy. Millions of tourists visit it each year. You can spend days on end here. But if time is limited, you can focus on the major masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery, which have become indispensable examples of Italian art history in the collective imagination.
1. The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
This work, the symbol of the Uffizi Gallery, the first example of Tuscan painting on large canvas, can be considered a veritable hymn to the Medici family, who, through diplomacy and culture, would create in Florence the kingdom of Love. Painted for the Medici family between 1482 and 1485, The Birth of Venus is one of the most famous works of art in the world.
Botticelli depicts perhaps the best embodiment of female beauty associated with the triumph of nature. The sea, the seashell, the favorable winds and, only slightly hinted at, the gesture of hiding the nakedness of the divine creation, the woman, extol her unsurpassed splendor. Sandro paints the picture on canvas, another sign of the times. The old wooden boards seem no longer sufficient for the dazzling explosion of Renaissance creative inspiration.
2 The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello
This is the centerpiece of a triptych painted in 1438 and shared between the Uffizi Gallery, the National Gallery in London, and the Louvre in Paris. The paintings were considered too similar to each other and it was decided to keep the best preserved one in Florence, selling the others as duplicates. The cycle tells the story of the Battle of San Romano, fought between Florentines and Sienese in 1432. The painting, preserved in Florence, depicts the Sienese general Bernardino della Carda on his white horse as he is struck by an enemy spear.
The experimental and daring use of perspective that made Paolo Uccello famous among his contemporaries is considered his serious and innovative work. The painter combines revolutionary Renaissance characteristics, such as perspective and the centrality of the human figure, with some of the details of late Gothic painting, such as naturalistic elements, hunting scenes, and the meticulous painting of armor and horses.
Madonna with Child and Two Angels by Filippo Lippi
This work, circa 1465, is one of the most famous works by the artist Filippo Lippi, a Carmelite monk who fell madly in love with the nun Lucrezia Buti. It is very likely that the pensive Madonna depicted in profile, with her hands joined in prayer, in front of a child supported by two angels, could be Lucrezia herself.
The landscape behind the characters’ shoulders is inspired by Flemish painting. The tenderness, the elegance of the gestures, the exquisite hairstyle of the Madonna, adorned with pearls and veil, would become a model for later artists, especially for Botticelli, a disciple of Lippi.
4. Piero della Francesca’s Double Portrait of the Dukes of Urbino
The most inscrutable of the Italian Renaissance painters-with his faces that seem to express nothing but a pensiveness about infinity, with his details full of symbols that are difficult to interpret-was of course Piero della Francesca . He was a painter without a surname who lived and worked between Tuscany and the smaller states closer to the Adriatic Sea, such as the Duchy of Montefeltro. This double portrait depicts Duke Federico da Montefeltro and his wife Battista Sforza, of the family that would later rule the Duchy of Milan. Mysterious and incomprehensible is still considered the painter’s idea of depicting unicorns pulling a chariot with the dukes on the reverse side.
6. The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci
Almost in the same years that Piero della Francesca depicted the rulers of the Montefeltro, another artist, named after his place of origin, was on his way to becoming the most famous painter in the entire history of Western art. The trees painted on the small panel give Leonardo’s Annunciation a very different background from that in which it was customary to see the Virgin Mary in the paintings of previous generations. Gold is no longer essential to the depiction of the divine. Sanctity became expressed in elegance . Instead of using precious materials, all attention turned to nature and the organization of humanity. And it is not strange that it is during this period that botany and the natural sciences begin to emerge.
7. Michelangelo’s Tondo Doni.
The picture was painted in the early 1500s by order of the famous Florentine banker Agnolo Doni in a very rare format for painting tondo (with the Italian tondo – round). Doni’s tondo is particularly notable because the famous author of large marble sculptures (as in the Medici tombs here in Florence) and entire fresco interiors (as in the Sistine Chapel in Rome) creates in this case a small tempera tondo: just over a meter in diameter. The peculiarity of the tondo also lies in the fact that it is virtually the only pictorial work by Michelangelo in which, however, the monumentality of Michelangelo’s sculptural vision is easily recognized.
8. Caravaggio’s Bacchus
The god Bacchus, usually depicted naked and wandering through the woods, here looks more like an ancient Roman. He is represented as a kind of seducer holding a refined glass of wine in front of a large fruit basket. But most of all, his luxurious wreath of grape leaves on his head is striking, giving the image of Bacchus an obvious allegorical character, associated with the seasons or something that the author has deliberately concealed from too accessible an interpretation. Everything is light, natural and too simple compared to the dark and tortured scenes to which Caravaggio has accustomed us. During the restoration, some analyses revealed an image of a man’s face inside the wine jug, which researchers believe to be Caravaggio’s self-portrait.
It is not difficult to see how the artistic language has changed since Botticelli’s time – reality is no longer expressed in the depiction of nature and perspective. Reality is now life itself.
Caravaggio’s Shield with Jellyfish Head
The legendary Medusa, who turns men to stone with one look: there is no better place to depict her than on a battle shield . Caravaggio does this in a cunning and innovative way: the convexity of the shield becomes a seeming concavity with a bleeding head, a perfect illusionistic device. Medusa’s gaze is fixed on one point, while the snakes move haphazardly in all directions. A special creepiness of reality is created precisely by the “splashing” stream of blood, which seems to enliven its epicness. This precise technique of the artist, which succinctly expressed the moment of the highest tension, became a counterweight to previous accusations of his lack of “action” and “movement” in the subjects he presents.
10. Titian’s Venus of Urbino
Intriguing, mysterious and sexy. Titian’s Venus of Urbino, painted in 1538 for Duke Guidonaldo II Della Rovere of Urbino, is an ideal representation of a Renaissance woman who, like Venus, became a symbol of love, fertility and beauty. The work, preserved in the hall dedicated to Titian’s works, is an allegory of marriage and was intended to serve as a “didactic” model for Giulia da Varano, the duke’s young wife. The little dog at the woman’s feet is a symbol of marital fidelity, and the maid, who in the background is looking at the little girl rummaging through the dresser, is a wish for early motherhood. The painting’s obvious erotic message served to remind the woman of her marital duties to her husband. As early as 1880 Mark Twain described it as “the most obscene, the most repulsive and the most vulgar painting in the world. Later this painting would become a model for new revolutionary turns in European painting.
Of course these 10 paintings are not all that are worth seeing in the Uffizi Palace Museum. In fact, it’s physically impossible to view the artwork from all 93 rooms in the museum, spread over two floors. But don’t despair: although the Uffizi Gallery is huge, concentrating only on its most famous masterpieces can still give you a good idea of what the museum offers, and perhaps start thinking about a future second visit to the gallery.