Russian Rooms to open at Palazzo Pitti

The world’s largest collection outside Russia has never been seen in its entirety

Editorial Staff
September 2, 2019 - 16:19

The new year will bring big changes to Palazzo Pitti, with 78 Russian icons set to go on display in four rooms of the former Medici residence. The ground floor spaces will be included in the museum ticket, allowing visitors to discover this little-known connection between Florence’s past rulers and the Eastern Orthodox Church.



How the icons came to be in Italy remain a mystery, though scholars have theorized that they may have been a gift for the Grand Duke on the part of an ambassador or, more likely, an offering to Francis I by the Orthodox community in Livorno as thanks for approving the construction of the Greek Orthodox Church of Santissima Trinità. What is known is that they were present in Florence as early as 1761, though a permanent home for them has never been established before now. Starting in 1796, they had been moved between the Medici Villa di Castello, the Galleria dell’Accademia and Palazzo Pitti, before being transferred to the Uffizi in 2013.




Muscovite workshop, St. John the Baptist Beheaded, c. 1590-1610



Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries, described the bond that has long existed between Florence and Russia, saying, “For example, the Demidoff built their magnificent villa atop the ruins of the Medici’s Pratolino residence, and a plaque on a building opposite Palazzo Pitti explains how Fyodor Dostoyevsky completed his masterpiece The Idiot while staying there in January 1869. The Uffizi’s important collection of icons is an early testament to this bond, and can finally, for the first time, be admired in all its splendor – in its entirety – by tourists from all over the world.”



Schmidt also announced the opening of the Palatine Chapel, adjacent to the icons’ new rooms. The space is decorated with 19th-century frescoes by Luigi Ademollo and has rarely been open to the public, save for special occasions. The chapel will now be open every day as part of the museum visit, offering an evocative juxtaposition between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  

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