One of the largest palaces in Florence, the Pitti Palace
(Palazzo Pitti) is laid out on the slopes of the Boboli Hill, south of the Arno.
It now houses the Galleria Palatina, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, the Museo degli Argenti and
Pitti Palace Architecture
The palace was commissioned by Luca Pitti, who had owned the site from as
early as 1418. It was probably begun in 1457 and was certainly well advanced by 1469 when the
Pitti family was already installed. By the latter date, however, Luca Pitti had fallen from
official favour, and the building work seems to have been interrupted; it was certainly halted
by Pitti’s death in 1472.
It has been suggested that Brunelleschi produced the original design,
consisting of seven bays with three large ground-floor openings and heavy rustication on each
of its three levels, which appears on the predella of an altarpiece (Florence, Uffizi) from
Santo Spirito by Alessandro Allori.
The Palazzo Pitti has traditionally been linked with the great new palace
built for the Medici family in Via Larga (now Via Cavour) between 1444 and 1460. Brunelleschi’s
plan for the latter was rejected in favour of the less grandiose project put forward by
Michelozzo, but he may have subsequently offered similar designs to Luca Pitti.
The architect responsible for the actual construction of the Palazzo
Pitti is unknown, although some attempts have been made to identify him with Luca
In 1550 the palace was bought from the Pitti family by Eleonora de’ Medici,
wife of Cosimo I, and it became the residence of the main branch of the Medici family; it was
connected with the Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi by the Corridoio Vasariano in 1565.
In 1560 Bartolomeo Ammanati was given instructions to enlarge the building
and construct a courtyard. He broke away from the contained classicism of the earlier building
and, under the Mannerist influence of such contemporaries as Michelangelo and Jacopo Vignola,
introduced curiously shaped windows, broken arches and a variety of rustication.
At the same time the surrounding land was developed to form one of the first
great Italian gardens. The garden façade of the palace was arranged as an open loggia on the
first floor, giving a magnificent view over the grounds.
The palace was substantially altered under later members of the Medici
family: from 1618 to 1635 the façade was doubled in length by the Parigi family; and during the
second half of the 18th century, Ignazio Pellegrini added a great northern wing and Gasparo
Maria Paoletti created the Meridiana wing. The palace was finally completed in the 19th century
with the construction of the southern wing, the great internal staircase and the completion of
the Meridiana wing.
Pitti Palace Decoration
The decoration of the Pitti palace began under Ferdinand I de’ Medici during
the last years of the 16th century. The first part to be decorated was the right wing, which
had been constructed by Ammanati for Cosimo I.
At the beginning of the 17th century much work took place under Bernardino
Poccetti, who painted the impressive Battle of Bona and Prevesa in the Sala di Bona, as well as
a series of grotesques inspired by the Antique in the small courtyard.
A number of other artists, including Lodovico Cigoli, Cristofano Allori,
Giovanni da San Giovanni and Baldassare Franceschini, took part in and continued the massive
scheme of decoration begun by Poccetti—much of it glorifying the Medici.
Most of the existing interior decoration was carried out during the 17th and
18th centuries in the late Mannerist and Baroque styles. Artists from many parts of Italy came
to Florence in the mid-17th century. Many of the large-scale wall and ceiling decorations
radically extended the apparent size of the court rooms through architectural and spatial
Landscape views were later produced, mainly for the private rooms, where the
interior decoration was continued under Ignazio Pellegrini, Jacopo Chiavistelli and Sebastiano
Ricci, among others.
Many of the smaller rooms were lined with silk tapestries and painted with
elaborate architectural extensions and floating figures that anticipate the Rococo style of
Giambattista Tiepolo. Some areas were also articulated by fine stucco mouldings, creating such
dazzling small spaces as the oval Gabinetto and the Sala da Lavoro, or queen’s music-room.
In the later 18th century and early 19th, further projects took place; the
Sala Bianca was decorated by Gasparo Maria Paoletti, and some rooms, such as the Sala d’Ercole,
were decorated in the Neo-classical style during the early 19th century.
Pitti Palace - Boboli Gardens
The gardens of the Palazzo Pitti were designed on
several levels with wild and cultivated vegetation, pools and fountains. They comprise two
principal sections, the original one commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici. In 1550 Niccolò
Tribolo designed the waterworks and the basic lines of the central axis, which extends behind
the Palazzo Pitti up to the Forte di Belvedere.
After 1560 Bartolomeo Ammanati linked the Pitti palace and the garden by a
courtyard and ramp. Bernardo Buontalenti created the fanciful tripartite great grotto (Grotto
Grande); this contains frescoes by Bernardino Poccetti, a figure of Venus by Giambologna and
Helen and Paris sculpted by Vincenzo de’ Rossi.
On the exterior of the grotto is a group of Adam and Eve by Baccio
Bandinelli, whose statue of God the Father, intended for the high altar of Florence Cathedral,
was transformed into a figure of Jupiter and set in an adjacent rose garden. The Grotticina di
Madama contains marble goats by Giovanni Fancelli.
Above the palace courtyard is the large Artichoke Fountain by Francesco
Susini. This is set on the main axis of the palace and faces the stone amphitheatre, which was
built against the natural hollow of the rising hillside and was the site of many court
Above the amphitheatre is the Neptune Fountain by Stoldo di Gino Lorenzi,
and to the left is the Rococo Kaffehaus by Zanobi del Rosso. By the walls of the Forte di
Belvedere is a small casino and the Giardino del Cavaliere, a walled garden enclosing the
Monkey Fountain by Pietro Tacca.
The second section of the garden, designed by Giulio Parigi and his son
Alfonso, stretches down a slope to the Porta Romana gate. A magnificent cypress avenue lined
with Classical statues leads to the Isolotto, a circular island surrounded by a moat, on which
stands a replica of Giambologna’s Neptune (original now Florence, Bargello) in the centre of
the Ocean Fountain (1567–76).
This section of the garden contains a rich collection of 18th-century genre
statues. The areas flanking the avenue were formerly subdivided with mazes, flowerbeds and
thickets for hunting birds.
When the barco (park) of Francesco I de’ Medici at Pratolino was redesigned,
many of the statues were sent to the Boboli Gardens.
Tribolo’s original design can be studied in one of 14 lunettes depicting the
Medici villas in and around Florence by Giusto Utens.
Despite minor planting changes and the reorganization of statues, the
gardens remain largely intact, thus presenting a rare, extant example of a late Renaissance
garden on this scale.
Pitti Palace Map&Location
Palazzo Pitti Address: Piazza Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze, Italy
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