The building that is now seat of the Gallery was built in the mid-sixteenth century by the architect Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) in a period when Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, was bureaucratically consolidating this recently acquired position. The building was meant in fact to house the offices of the magistrates (Uffici=offices). From the beginning however, the Medici set aside some of the rooms on the third floor to house the finest works from their collection. Two centuries later, thanks to the generosity of the last heir of the family, Anna Maria Luisa, their collection became permanent public property.
The museum now comprises the rooms on the second floor of the building, that display in chronological order paintings ranging from the 13th to the 18th centuries. The most precious and famous group of paintings of the Uffizi are however represented by the works of the Italian Renaissance artists, although several sections of the museum are devoted to the works of foreign artists (German, Flemish, Dutch and French).
In addition to paintings, the Uffizi exhibits a fine collection of Roman sculptures (portraits, emperors and divinities) that are displayed in the corridors decorated with frescoed and sculptured ceilings of the 16th and 17th centuries.
On the ground floor it is still possible to admire the remains of the ancient Romanesque church of San Piero Scheraggio, which was partially destroyed by Vasari to build the Uffizi. The second floor houses the Prints and Drawings Department, which comprises one of the most important collections in the world that was started by a Medici, the Cardinal Leopoldo, during the 17th century.
If we follow the natural layout of the rooms, we enter the large rooms that display the great altarpieces of Cimabue, Giotto, Duccio di Buoninsegna, the first remarkable examples of western painting, followed by the remarkable works of 14th century Siennese artists, such as Simone Martini and the brothers Piero and Ambrogio Lorenzetti and the pupils of Giotto. The following rooms display some fine examples of the lnternational Gothic style: the Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano and another one by Lorenzo Monaco, before actually reaching the most important rooms of the museum that are dedicated to the early Renaissance. These rooms exhibit works by Masaccio, Paolo Uccello, Domenico Veneziano, Piero della Francesca, Beato Angelico, followed by the elegant Madonnas of Filippo Lippi, by the precious panels of the brothers Piero and Antonio del Pollaiolo to end with the mythological allegories and religious paintings of Sandro Botticelli.
Of this artist, the museum preserves perhaps the finest colloction of works, comprising the Birth of Venus, the Primavera, the Magnificat and Pomegranate Madonnas.
It is then the turn of Perugino, Signorelli, Piero di Cosimo and Leonardo da Vinci; the latter is represented both with the painting the Baptism of Christ painted together with Verrocchio, the largeAdoration of the Magi and his early work the Annunciation.
The following rooms (from n. 18 to n. 23) are the oldest of the museum; it is well worth stopping to admire the Tribuna that originally contained the most precious works and objects. Today it displays also a series of portraits of the Medici family by Agnolo Bronzino, in addition to the oldest sculpture piece of the museum, the Medici Venus. The following rooms, originally used as armouries, offer again more paintings by Renaissance artists, both Italian - with works by Bellini, Giorgione, Mantegna and Correggio - and foreign artists with paintings by Dürer, Cranach, Memling.
Continuing along the rooms on the western side of the Gallery, it is possible to admire more 16th century masterpieces, starting trom the "Tondo Doni" by Michelangelo, the Madonna of the goldfinch by Raphael and the Venus of Urbin and Flora by Titian.
Even the section dedicated to Mannerism is lavish and comprises works by Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino, Bronzino down to Parmigianino (Madonna with the lonq neck) and famous Venetian artists such as Sebastiano del Piombo, Veronese, Tintoretto, and Lombard ones like Savoldo and Moroni. Until not so long ago the visit to the gallery ended with some l 7th century works by famous Italian (Caravaggio, Carracci) and Dutch (Rembrandt) artists.
The museum has recently restored the last rooms of this section after the explosion of 1993, also in view of the eniargement of the lower floors of the building that were occupied by the State Archive until not so long ago.
The project for the "New Uffizi gallery", which is already underway, will significantly alter the original layout of the museum, doubling the exhibition rooms. Thanks to this new arrangement it will be possible to distribute more evenly works that are now concentrated in a few rooms, exhibit paintings that are now stored in the gallery's warehouses or include whole collections that had to be displayed elsewhere, like the Contini Bonacossi collection (see below), due to lack of space. It is too early to foresee the exact layout of the new gallery, althongh it is certain that the collections will be arranged in chronological order and by schools.
The eastern section of the ground floor will be instead used to welcome visitors and to house the bookshop, with the rooms designed to offer a more confortable and tidier approach to the large number of tourist thet visit the Uffizi all the year round.
The visit to the Gallery could ideally end with another section: that is the famous Vasari Corridor, built by Vasari in 1565. The Corridor joins the Uffizi to Palazzo Vecchio, crosses the river Arno above Ponte Vecchio and is connected with Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens. Recently restored after the explosion of the bomb, the corridor now displays over seven hundred works comprising mamly the Important group of Self-portraits (from Andrea del Sarto to Marc Chagall). At present the corridor can be visited only by groups and by reserving the visit ahead.
Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici. Born on 11 August 1667, she was the last descendant/heiress of the Medici and the only daughter of Cosimo III de’ Medici. Anna Maria was married to Elector Johann Wilhelm II and then became Electress Palatine. Apparently Elector Wilhelm II had syphilis so they were never able to have children. Upon her death on 18 February 1743, she gave the huge Medici art collection (over five centuries worth) to the the Tuscan state. This included what was contained in the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti and the Medici Villas as well as her Palantine treasures.