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Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti

The Palazzo Pitti, in English sometimes called the Pitti Palace, is a vast mainly Renaissance palace in Florence, Italy. It is situated on the south side of the River Arno, a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio. The core of the present palazzo dates from 1458 and was originally the town residence of Luca Pitti, an ambitious Florentine banker.

The palace was bought by the Medici family in 1549 and became the chief residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It grew as a great treasure house as later generations amassed paintings, plates, jewelry and luxurious possessions.

Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti

The cortile and extensions:With the garden project well in hand, Ammanati turned his attentions to creating a large courtyard immediately behind the principal facade, to link the palazzo to its new garden. This courtyard has heavy-banded channelled rustication that has been widely copied, notably for the Parisian palais of Maria de' Medici, the Luxembourg. In the principal facade Ammanati also created the finestre inginocchiate ("kneeling" windows, in reference to their imagined resemblance to a prie-dieu, a device of Michelangelo's), replacing the entrance bays at each end. During the years 1558-70, Ammanati created a monumental staircase to lead with more pomp to the piano nobile, and he extended the wings on the garden front that embraced a courtyard excavated into the steeply sloping hillside at the same level as the piazza in front, from which it was visible through the central arch of the basement. On the garden side of the courtyard Amannati constructed a grotto, called the "grotto of Moses" on account of the porphyry statue that inhabits it. On the terrace above it, level with the piano nobile windows, Ammanati constructed a fountain centered on the axis; it was later replaced by the Fontana del Carciofo ("Fountain of the Artichoke"), designed by Giambologna's former assistant, Francesco Susini, and completed in 1641.

In 1616, a competition was held to design extensions to the principal urban facade by three bays at either end. Giulio Parigi won the commission; work on the north side began in 1618, and on the south side in 1631 by Alfonso Parigi. During the 18th century, two perpendicular wings were constructed by the architect Giuseppe Ruggeri to enhance and stress the widening of via Romana, which creates a piazza centered on the facade, the prototype of the cour d'honneur that was copied in France. Sporadic lesser additions and alterations were made for many years thereafter under other rulers and architects.

Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti

To one side of the Gardens is the bizarre grotto designed by Bernardo Buontalenti. The lower facade was begun by Vasari but the architecture of the upper storey is subverted by "dripping" pumice stalactites with the Medici coat of arms at the centre. The interior is similarly poised between architecture and nature; the first chamber has copies of Michelangelo's four unfinished slaves emerging from the corners which seem to carry the vault with an open oculus at its centre and painted as a rustic bower with animals, figures and vegetation. Figures, animals and trees made of stucco and rough pumice adorn the lower walls. A short passage leads to a small second chamber and to a third which has a central fountain with Giambologna's Venus in the centre of the basin, peering fearfully over her shoulder at the four satyrs spitting jets of water at her from the edge.

>Houses of Lorraine and Savoy:The palazzo remained the principal Medici residence until the last male Medici heir died in 1737. It was then occupied briefly by his sister, the elderly Electress Palatine; on her death, the Medici dynasty became extinct and the palazzo passed to the new Grand Dukes of Tuscany, the Austrian House of Lorraine, in the person of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. The Austrian tenancy was briefly interrupted by Napoleon, who used the palazzo during his period of control over Italy.

When Tuscany passed from the House of Lorraine to the House of Savoy in 1860, the Palazzo Pitti was included. After the Risorgimento, when Florence was briefly the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II resided in the palazzo until 1871. His grandson, Victor Emmanuel III, presented the palazzo to the nation in 1919. The palazzo and other buildings in the Boboli Gardens were then divided into five separate art galleries and a museum, housing not only many of its original contents, but priceless artefacts from many other collections acquired by the state. The 140 rooms open to the public are part of an interior, which is in large part a later product than the original portion of the structure, mostly created in two phases, one in the 17th century and the other in the early 18th century. Some earlier interiors remain, and there are still later additions such as the Throne Room. In 2005 the surprise discovery of forgotten 18th-century bathrooms in the palazzo revealed remarkable examples of contemporary plumbing very similar in style to the bathrooms of the 21st century.

Palatine Gallery:The Palatine Gallery, on the first floor of the piano nobile, contains a large ensemble of over 500 principally Renaissance paintings, which were once part of the Medicis' and their successors' private art collection. The gallery, which overflows into the royal apartments, contains works by Raphael, Titian, Perugino (Lamentation over the Dead Christ), Correggio, Peter Paul Rubens, and Pietro da Cortona. The character of the gallery is still that of a private collection, and the works of art are displayed and hung much as they would have been in the grand rooms for which they were intended rather than following a chronological sequence, or arranged according to school of art.

Palazzo Pitti

Raphael's La donna velata

The finest rooms were decorated by Pietro da Cortona in the high baroque style. Initially Cortona frescoed a small room on the piano nobile called the Sala della Stufa with a series depicting the Four Ages of Man which were very well-received; the Age of Gold and Age of Silver were painted in 1637, followed in 1641 by the Age of Bronze and Age of Iron. They are regarded among his masterpieces. The artist was subsequently asked to fresco the grand ducal reception rooms; a suite of five rooms at the front of the palazzo. In these five Planetary Rooms, the hierarchical sequence of the deities is based on Ptolomeic cosmology; Venus, Apollo, Mars, Jupiter (the Medici Throne room) and Saturn, but minus Mercury and the Moon which should have come before Venus. These highly ornate ceilings with frescoes and elaborate stucco work essentially celebrate the Medici lineage and the bestowal of virtuous leadership. Cortona left Florence in 1647, and his pupil and collaborator, Ciro Ferri, completed the cycle by the 1660s. They were to inspire the later Planet Rooms at Louis XIV's Versailles, designed by Le Brun.

The collection was first opened to the public in the late 18th century, albeit rather reluctantly, by Grand Duke Leopold, Tuscany's first enlightened ruler, keen to obtain popularity after the demise of the Medici.

Royal Apartments:This is a suite of 14 rooms, formerly used by the Medici family, and lived in by their successors. These rooms have been largely altered since the era of the Medici, most recently in the 19th century. They contain a collection of Medici portraits, many of them by the artist Giusto Sustermans. In contrast to the great salons containing the Palatine collection, some of these rooms are much smaller and more intimate, and, while still grand and gilded, are more suited to day-to-day living requirements. Period furnishings include four-poster beds and other necessary furnishings not found elsewhere in the palazzo. The Kings of Italy last used the Palazzo Pitti in the 1920s. By that time it had already been converted to a museum, but a suite of rooms (now the Gallery of Modern Art) was reserved for them when visiting Florence officially.

Gallery of Modern Art:This gallery originates from the remodeling of the Florentine academy in 1748, when a gallery of Modern Art was established. The gallery was intended to hold those art works which were prize-winners in the academy's competitions. The Palazzo Pitti was being redecorated on a grand scale at this time and the new works of art were being collected to adorn the newly decorated salons. By the mid-19th century so numerous were the Grand Ducal paintings of modern art that many were transferred to the Palazzo Croncetta, which became the first home of the newly formed "Modern Art Museum".

Following the Risorgimento and the expulsion of the Grand Ducal family from the palazzo, all the Grand Ducal modern art works were brought together under one roof in the newly titled "Modern gallery of the Academy". The collection continued to expand, particularly so under the patronage of Vittorio Emanuele II. However it was not until 1922 that this gallery was moved to the Palazzo Pitti where it was complemented by further modern works of art in the ownership of both the state and the municipality of Florence. The collection was housed in apartments recently vacated by members of the Italian Royal family. The gallery was first opened to public viewing in 1928.

Today, further enlarged and spread over 30 rooms, this large collection includes works by artists of the Macchiaioli movement and other modern Italian schools of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The pictures by the Macchiaioli artists are of particular note, as this school of 19th-century Tuscan painters led by Giovanni Fattori were early pioneers and the founders of the impressionist movement. The title "gallery of modern art" to some may sound incorrect, as the art in the gallery covers the period from the 18th to the early 20th century. No examples of later art are included in the collection since In Italy, "modern art" refers to the period before World War II; what has followed is generally known as "contemporary art" (arte contemporanea). In Tuscany this art can be found at the Centro per l'arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci at Prato, a city about 15 km (9 mi) from Florence.

Links:The Museums of Florence-Pitti Palace-Galleria Palatina