Its doors opened to the public in 1769. Before then, it was a private gallery for the ruling family of Florence, their friends and guests. And before that, it served as offices for Cosimo d’Medici – hence the name “Uffizi,” coming from the Italian word ufficio which means office.
Before you head to the Uffizi, decide if you want to wait in the line or not. Depending on the time and the day, off-season or not, you may have to wait for awhile. One way to avoid this is to buy your ticket online. This will include a shorter wait time and an added fee with a guided tour, if you want one. There will be people badgering you when you get in line to pay them to get you to the front. Personally, I would not trust these people because they may not be affiliated with the museum and they are trying to take advantage of you, charging you a lot of money to get you to the front. Proceed with caution!
Luckily, since it is not high season in Florence, Paul and I only waited about 30 minutes to get into the gallery. We paid extra to see the temporary exhibits which were worth it as well.
Once you get past security, you walk up a few flights of white marble stairs. At the top of the stairs you see ancient Roman busts and paintings of each famous Medici family member. Passing them through the center door you will enter the first corridor of the gallery.
Art surrounds you at every angle. Not only are there sculptures and paintings on every wall – but the building’s structure is a piece of art on its own. Each ceiling panel bares a mini-Sistine chapel like fresco, just as detailed as the last. Not only is each corridor filled with art (there are three corridors), there are rooms which line each corridor as well. Each room seems to be filled with art from the same period or artist.
Among my favorite artists from the Renaissance is Botticelli. To see his paintings in real life was a highlight of the Uffizi for me. All the faces he draws look very similar and once you see them enough you can spot them out quite easily. If you ever find a Botticelli face looking back at you from a canvas at a flea market – get closer.
Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi is a powerful piece to see, especially if you know who Artemisia is.
Born in 1593, Artemisia was an Italian Baroque painter. Artemisia is considered one of the most accomplished painters from the generation of painters that directly followed Caravaggio’s era. During her life, Artemisia’s art was overshadowed by the fact she was a female painter (rare during her time) and that she was raped and participated in the prosecution of her rapist. During the trial she received considerable publicity and the trial ruined her reputation. Her rapist was convicted, but later released by the judge.
Despite her assault and the fact that female artists at this time were not as respected, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence.
She’s know for painting pictures of strong and suffering women from myths and the Bible – victims, suicides, warriors. Her best-known work is Judith Slaying Holofernes.
I cannot help but think the trials and trauma she went through influenced her choice of subjects in her art, as well as the very real and relatable expressions they present. She was one of the few female artists of the time to capture a female perspective.