Palazzo Pitti – Florence
The Pitti Palace (Italian: Palazzo Pitti) is a monumental architectural complex in Florence which accommodates museums of fine art, decorative arts, and fashion. The complex also includes the famous Boboli Gardens.
Palazzo Pitti is located near the south bank of the Arno river (called the Oltrarno), connected to the Uffizi Gallery and the north riverbank by the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
The palace was built in the first half of the 15th century as the residence of the Pitti, a wealthy family of bankers; for a long time, the design of the palace was allegedly attributed to Filippo Brunelleschi, while its architect was probably Luca Fancelli, a Brunelleschi’s student.
The palace was intended to be the most magnificent and the largest in Florence; yet, the original project was so ambitious that the Pitti family was eventually unable to fully complete it due to a lack of sufficient funding.
The property was then bought in 1550 by the House of Medici who kept it for about two hundred years. Under the Medici family, the building was substantially renovated and enlarged after designs by architects Bartolomeo Ammannati, Giorgio Vasari (who designed the famous Vasari Corridor which connects the palace with the Palazzo Vecchio through the Uffizi), and Bernardo Buontalenti. In the same period also the grandiose Boboli Gardens were added to the Pitti Palace’s estate.
After the end of the Medici’s rule, the palace became the main seat of the Habsburg-Lorraine Grand Dukes of Tuscany, and thereafter the Royal Palace of the House of Savoy, during the short period in which Florence was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy between 1864 and 1871.
In 1919, the palace became a state-owned property and was subsequently converted into a public museum.
The Pitti Palace (center-left) and the Oltrarno quarter in Florence; photo: Paul Gravestock
Collections and museums
As previously mentioned, the palace accommodates five museums.
Located on the Pitti Palace’s piano nobile, the Palatine Gallery (Italian: Galleria Palatina) is a large collection of old masters’ fine art, mainly Renaissance and Baroque paintings, which features masterpieces by Perugino, Filippo Lippi, Pietro da Cortona, Raphael, Titian, Sandro Botticelli, Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi, Pieter Paul Rubens, and Antony van Dick, among others. The museum’s permanent exhibition somewhat resembles the private collection of an 18th-century noble family, with paintings displayed side by side with sculptures, objects of decorative arts, and Baroque furniture in the richly-decorated rooms of the palace.
Located on the second floor, the Gallery of Modern Art (Italian: Galleria d’Arte Moderna) is focused on Italian painting and sculpture from the 18th to the early 20th century, including works by Antonio Canova, Giovanni Fattori, Medardo Rosso, and Giacomo Balla.
The Fashion and Costume Gallery (Italian: Museo della Moda e del Costume) is the most important national museum in Italy exclusively dedicated to fashion. It features clothes and accessories dating from the 16th century to the present day, including a rare ensemble of 16th-century clothes belonging to the Medici family, and dresses by modern fashion designers and brands including Yves Saint Laurent, Versace, Gucci, and Chanel.
Also known as Museo degli Argenti (Silver Museum), the Grand Dukes’ Treasury (Italian: Tesoro dei Granduchi) features objects of decorative arts dating from the 16th century to the present, including ancient and modern jewelry, miniature portraits, jewel-encrusted furniture, silverware, cameos, and rock crystal vases.
Housed in the Casino del Cavaliere, an early-18th century pavilion located in the Boboli Gardens, the Porcelain Museum (Italian: Museo delle Porcellane) holds one of the world’s most important collections of European porcelains encompassing about 2,000 pieces, mostly Baroque and Neoclassical, by Italian, French, German, and Austrian historical manufacturers.
As mentioned, the Pitti Palace complex also includes the Boboli Gardens (Italian: Giardino di Boboli), one of the most eminent examples of Italian-style Renaissance gardens, designed in the 16th century and decorated with fountains, sculptures, statues, architectural follies, and artificial grottos.
The Palazzo Pitti features a vast program of events and activities which includes special exhibitions, concerts, conferences, fashion shows, and educational activities for children, families, and schools.
The museum also includes a book and gift shop, and a cafe.
Palazzo Pitti, Florence, north facade on Piazza Pitti; photo © Inexhibit
View of the main courtyard of the palace; photo © Inexhibit
The Palazzo Pitti’s south facade from the Boboli Gardens; photo: Steve Harris
Pitti Palace, the Palatine Gallery; photo: Dimitris Kamaras
Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio), Madonna della seggiola, 1513-1514, oil on panel; photo: Frans Vandewalle
View of the Grand Dukes’ Treasury, located on the ground floor of the Palazzo Pitti; photo © Inexhibit
A Renaissance-style rock crystal sauce boat, dating to the second half of the 16th century, on display in the Grand Dukes’ Treasury; photo © Inexhibit
One of the rooms of the Fashion and Costume Gallery; photo © Inexhibit
The “Casino del Cavaliere” pavilion in the Boboli Gardens which houses the Porcelain Museum; photo: Gerry Labrijn
Map and view of the Boboli Gardens; photo: sammydavisdog
Cover image: Palazzo Pitti, main facade on Piazza Pitti; photo © Inexhibit
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The Galleria del Costume (Costume Gallery) of Pitti Palace, is the only National Museum in Italy exclusively dedicated to the history of fashion
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