Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti courtyard

One of the largest palaces in Florence, the Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti) is laid out on the slopes of Boboli Hill, south of the Arno. It now houses the Galleria Palatina, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, the Museo degli Argenti, and other collections.

Pitti Palace History

Palazzo Pitti view

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 favor, 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.

Palazzo Pitti detail

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 favor 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 Fancelli.

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.

interiro decoration Palazzo Pitti

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.

Palazzo Pitti interior decoration

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 courtrooms through architectural and spatial illusionism.

Palazzo Pitti sculpture

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 moldings, 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

Palazzo Pitti garden

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.

Palazzo Pitti gardens

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 amphitheater, which was built against the natural hollow of the rising hillside and was the site of many court festivities.

Above the amphitheater 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 are 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 (originally now Florence, Bargello) in the center of the Ocean Fountain (1567–76).

Palazzo Pitti statue

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 Location

Palazzo Pitti Address: Piazza Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze, Italy

Pitti Palace Map

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