More than 500 years of self-portraits are on display in the Uffizi Galleries in a new installation that covers a vast period from 15th-century masters to contemporary painters, sculptors, video artists and comic book artists.
On July 10, 12 new rooms were opened on the first floor of the gallery, consisting of 255 works in various media: paintings, sculptures, drawings and video art. From portraits of Gaddo, Agnolo and Taddeo Gaddi to Ai Weiwei, Antony Gormley and Yan Pei-Ming, the museum owns the world’s largest collection of artist portraits (both self-portraits and portraits of artists), with the collection started by Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici in the 17th century. Over the centuries, acquisitions and donations have continuously enriched the collection, which has now reached over 2,000 pieces.
The newly arranged walls are bright pink in a nod to Cardinal Leopoldo’s robes, with visitors greeted by a statue of the collection’s founder sculpted by Giovanni Battista Foggini. The works are displayed chronologically, with Rubens, Rembrandt, Francesco Hayez, Elisabeth Chaplin, Hélène de Beauvoir, London street artist Endless and Gilbert & George among the faces to be viewed.
Part of the collection was on display in the Vasari Corridor from 1973 to 2016, at a time when there was neither a air conditioning system, nor adequate lighting. With many works now having undergone major conservation work, they can be admired to their fullest, including the self-portrait of Ruben, which was restored by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure as well as that of Rembrandt, financed by American donor Diana Bell. Other items have been taken from the museum’s storages, with the Uffizi planning on rotating the display in order to vary the artists on show.
Director of the Uffizi Galleries, Eike Schmidt, commented, “This new arrangement was made possible thanks to the Pritzker family’s gift of 1.5 million euro; the many masters whose works can be admired in the Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti are back in the rooms where artists and artisans have worked since the 16th century.”
The temporary exhibition dedicated to comic book artists is a first among the world’s major museums. Thanks to the Italian Culture Ministry’s project Fumetti nei musei and the cooperation between the gallery and Lucca Comics & Games launched in 2021, the Uffizi displays 54 self-portraits, including Milo Manara, Lorenzo Mattotti, Altan and Will Eisner, on show in the two rooms frescoed by Luigi Ademollo in the 19th century.
Another new room is dedicated to 16th-century Lombard painting. Grey walls match the decor of the adjacent rooms dedicated to the same period. 11 paintings can be admired, including the recently acquired Saint Paul by Giovanni Pietro Gnocchi and Pellegrino Tibaldi, Leda and the Swan by Leonardo’s student, Francesco Melzi, and the large Madonna and Child with Saints Martha and Mary Magdalene by Girolamo Figino.