Universally known as the "Cradle of Renaissance", Florence boasts an artistic heritage that has no equal in the world. Its compact city centre is dotted with gorgeous monuments and squares of inestimable value.
But the city is also famous for the presence of the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most visited places in Italy, with over 1.5 million visitors each year. This amazing museum, located on the top floor of a 16th century monumental building, houses some of the greatest art pieces of all times.
Let's discover the top 10 masterpieces in the Uffizi Gallery you just cannot miss!
The first rooms of the gallery are arranged in chronological order, from the most ancient works to modern ones, and are divided by artists, masters and pupils.
One of those first rooms - Hall #2 - is dedicated to the 13th century Italian painting, in particular to Giotto di Bondone and the 200, is one of his most important work: the"Madonna Enthroned", better known as "Ognissanti Madonna". The same religious iconography has been depicted by other illustrious artists, but the most important innovation introduced by Giotto is the Virgin Mary portrayed as a real woman with feminine form.
The best part of the tour of the Uffizi is being introduced to the wonderful world of the Florentine painter Sandro Botticelli, whose masterpieces are displayed in the Halls #10-14, once part of the Medici theater.
One of the most famous among his works is the "Birth of Venus". Realized between 1482 and 1485, this painting has become a landmark of 15th century Italian art, so rich in meaning and allegorical references to classic literature. Venus, at the centre of the scene, is portrayed naked on a shell on the seashore, with her hair gently caressed by the winds and a shower of roses: elements that represent the birth of love and the spiritual beauty as a driving force of life.
Behind the philosophical meaning, the "Birth of Venus" is an ode to the Medici, the wealthy Florentine family who commissioned the work.
Another world-known masterpiece by Botticelli - in the Halls #10-14 - is the "Primavera", commissioned by the Medici Family and painted between 1477 and 1482.
Also known as the "Allegory of Spring", the "Primavera" is full of allegorical meanings, whose interpretation is still uncertain. According to the most validated theories, the painting depicts the realm of Venus, sung by the ancient poets. The incredible details of the nature (with hundreds of types of flowers), the use of the color, the elegance of the figures and the poetry of the scene, have made this fascinating art work famous all over the world.
As per the "Birth of Venus", also the "Primavera" hides several details that you can discover only with the help of an expert guide!
This incredible masterpiece was realized between 1475 and 1480 by Leonardo da Vinci, a name that needs no introduction: painter, inventor, military engineer, astronomer, architect and much more.
The “Annunciation” reveals some of the main, typical traits of da Vinci’s earliest art, such as “introducing” and “reproducing” the nature inside his works. An example are the wings of the Archangel Gabriel (announcing Virgin Mary she will be the mother of Jesus), depicted as real bird wings, and not just as an artistic representation of them. The element of “science within art” is the greatest characteristic of the genius Leonardo da Vinci.
The “Doni Tondo” is a special artwork, as it represent the only painting on panel by Michelangelo Buonarroti, same sculptor who realized the David, the giant marble statue housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia (the second greatest museum in Florence).
Considered one of the masterpieces of the XVI century Italian art, this round painting (“tondo” in Italian means round) was a commission by the rich Florentine banker Agnolo Doni (hence the name, “Tondo Doni”).
The splendor of this painting is characterized by the unnatural poses of the figures (Mary, Joseph and the Child) and shimmery intense colors, which can be now admired by the recently restored Hall #35. And if you want to admire other masterpieces by Michelangelo we highly suggest a guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’Accademia.
The “Venus of Urbino” is a masterpiece by the Venetian artist Titian (“Tiziano” in Italian). Completed in 1538, this painting was commissioned by the Duke of Urbino, Guidobaldo II Della Rovere, and is derived from the Sleeping Venus, painted in 1510 by Giorgione.
The painting is rich in allegories: the eroticism in the representation of Venus, goddess of love, is symbol of fidelity (represented the dog at her feet), motherhood and all the marital obligations women would have to fulfill to their husband. The incredible use of lights and colors by Titian reflects the sensuality of Venus’ naked body, to the point that she has been considered the perfect Renaissance woman, symbol of love, beauty and fertility.
You can admire the Venus of Urbino in the Hall #83, dedicated to Titian.
This impressive painting is only the central panel of a large triptych painted by Paolo Uccello approximately in 1438, now dispersed and divided between the Uffizi, the National Gallery in London and the Louvre in Paris.
The cycle depicts three events occurred during the battle of San Romano that took place in 1432 between Florence and Siena: in particular, the panel of the Uffizi - which can be admired in the Hall #7 - depicts the glorious victory of the Florentines over the Sienese, which occurredon the 1st June near Lucca, in Tuscany.
This masterpiece is characterized by an experimental use of the perspective, which made Uccello famous. The naturalistic elements, the hunting scenes in the background, the pernickety details of the armors and the horses are splendid examples of Renaissance art.
Among the masterpieces you cannot miss during your guided tour of the Uffizi, are those realized by Michelangelo Merisi, widely known as Caravaggio, whose life was tragically ended at 39 years old in 1610.
One of his most important artwork is the “Bacchus”, the god of wine, depicted by Caravaggio as an effeminate teenager, offering the viewer his goblet of wine, with extraordinarily detailed particulars that make the setting come to life. As most of his works, the "Bacchus" does not show any landscape, focusing on the humanity of the character. Caravaggio used here his famous realism, representing the god as a common person (with dirty fingernails, for example), taking inspiration from the street, where the rebel painter lived.
You can admire the "Bacchus" in the Hall #90 of the Uffizi Gallery.
Always in the Hall #90, is housed another great artwork by Caravaggio, the Shield with the Head of Medusa, commonly known simply as “Medusa”.
The theme of the Medusa, the mythological creature, is linked to the Medici family, as her head is symbol of knowledge and prudence. In fact, in Florence there are several representations of the Medusa, such as the bronze sculpture of Perseus with the head of Medusa, displayed in Piazza della Signoria.
With this painting, Caravaggio gives another proof of his talent, portraying a realistic terrified expression on the face of Medusa, screaming because of the imminent decapitation.
Along with the artworks of Caravaggio, the Hall #90 of the Uffizi houses another great masterpiece you cannot absolutely miss: the "Judith and Holofernes", by Artemisia Gentileschi, considered as one of the most famous women painter of the 17th century (an epoch when female artists were not easily accepted).
In this painting is clear the influence from Caravaggio’s style, in fact Artemisia was the daughter of Orazio Gentileschi, one of Caravaggio’s follower.
This controversial artwork depicts the biblical heroine Judith, icon of chastity, shown about to decapitate her despised enemy whom she has tricked by seduction while keeping her purity safe. Due to its violence, the painting was confined to a “dark corner” in the Pitti Palace, but it was later moved to the Uffizi Gallery.