Palazzo Pitti’s 7 Galleries – Largest of Florence’s 70+ Museums – Filled With Priceless Treasures

Palazzo Pitti (also called the ‘Pitti Palace’) is the largest museum complex in Florence, Italy. It houses a vast amount of priceless artwork that has been acquired over a period of hundreds of years.

The palazzo has not always been a museum. The original section of the building was constructed in 1458, as the home of a Florintine banker. In 1549 the Medicis purchased the palazzo, and, for a time, it was used by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany’s ruling families for their main residence. During this time, the palazzo was expanded, as later generations that used it acquired vast quantities of luxurious possessions. Subsequent to this, the palazzo was used for various purposes, and in 1919 it (with its contents) was donated to the people of Italy by King Victor Emmanuel III. It is now used exclusively as a museum.

It can be difficult to fully comprehend the importance of the museum and its art collection. Listed below are the palazzo’s galleries, with brief descriptions of the priceless treasures that they contain, to help in gaining a full appreciation of the museum.

THE PALATINE GALLERY

This is the largest of the galleries, and contains more than 500 paintings, mostly by famous Renaissance artists. The gallery consists of 28 separate rooms, including the following:

— Apollo room, with paintings by 16th century artists Il Rosso (Madonna with Saints – which originally hung in the San Spirito church), and Titian (an English Nobleman’s portrait, and a Magdalen).

— Ark room, which has a work by 17th century artist, Giovan Caracciolo, and frescoes by 19th century artist Luigi Ademollo.

— Castagnoli room (named after Giuseppi Castagnoli, who painted the room’s ceiling frescoes), which contains both Medici family portraits and Lorraine family portraits, and a famous stone tablet in the stone-inlaid ‘Table of the Muses’.

— Iliad room, which contains two Madonna paintings by 16th century artist del Sarto: Madonna Passerini and the family Panciatichi Madonna, and works by 17th century artist Artemisia.

— Jupiter room, with paintings by 16th century artist Raphael, as well as works by del Sarto, Rubens, and Perugin.

— Justice room, with ceiling frescoes done by 18th-19th century artist Antonio Fedi, and portraits by 16th century artists Paolo Veronese, Titian, and Tintoretto.

— Mars room, with paintings by Rubens, including his Four Philosophers (where Rubens, himself, is portrayed), and his Consequences of War allegories (after which the room was named). Pietro da Cortons’s fresco the Medici Triumph is painted on the room’s vault.

— Poccetti hall (named after Bernardino Poccetti, who was originally thought to have painted the vault frescoes – it is now thought that they were done by Matteo Rosseooi), which has works of Pontormo and Rubens.

— Prometheus room (named after frescoes that were done by 19th century artist Giuseppe Collognon), which has a number of round paintings, including 15th century artist Filippino Luppi’s Madonna with Child, two Botticelli’s portraits, and paintings done by Domenico Beccafumi and Pontormo.

— Psyche room (named after its ceiling frescoes which were done by Giuseppe Collignon), which contains a number of paintings done by 17th century artist Salvator Rose.

— Saturn room, with paintings by 16th century artists Raphael (Madonna of the chair, and Agnolo Doni and Cardinal Inghirami portraits), a del Sarto Annunciation, and Fra Battolomeo’s Jesus with the Evangelists.

— Ulysses room (frescoed by 19th century artist Gaspare Martellini), which has early paintings by Raphael and Fillippino Lippi.

— Venus room, which has a painting (commissioned by Napoleon) by 19th century artist Canova (the Venere Italica), landscapes by 17th century artist Salvator Rosea, and four works by 16th century artist Titian (including La Bella, and Pope Julius II’s portrait).

— White hall (originally the palazzo’s ball room, with mainly white decorations), which is where temporary exhibitions are sometimes held.

ROYAL APARTMENTS

The royal apartments have 14 rooms that were formerly used as living quarters for the Medicis and their successors. They now house portraits of Medici family members, many done by Giusto Sustermans. Most of the original furnishings in the apartments have been replaced, but a few of the original pieces are still left.

GALLERY OF MODERN ART

The collection of paintings in this gallery includes 18th century to 20th century works, and takes up more than 30 rooms. The paintings include works from 19th and 20th century Italian movements. The most notable of these was a 19th century Macchiaioli movement of Tuscan impressionist painters.

SILVER MUSEUM

This is also known as “The Medici Treasury”. It includes works in cameos, silver, semi-precious gemstones, and ancient vases. The collection also includes fine German gold items and silver items. The rooms also have magnificent 17th century frescoes.

PORCELAIN MUSEUM

This museum is in a building within the Boboli Gardens, which is located behind the museum. The artifacts in the museum are from some of Europe’s finest porcelain factories.

COSTUME GALLERY

This gallery takes up 13 rooms, and is the sole Italian museum dealing with Italian fashion history. It has theatrical costumes and other types of clothing dating from, respectively, the 16th and 18th centuries, and costume jewelry from the mid-20th century.

CARRIAGES MUSEUM

This museum has 18th-19th century carriages and additional means of conveyance used by dignitaries of the time.

Melanesian Art: Reflections of the Creativity of the Pacific Ocean Dwellers

Melanesia is a fusion of two words ‘Mela’ which means ‘black’ and ‘nesia’ which means ‘islands’. Melanesia means ‘black islands’. It refers to the arts done by the black people in islands such as New Guinea, the dominant island, New Britain, Solomon’s island, New Caledonia, New Ireland and Fiji all in the Pacific Ocean. Their arts dates back to either 2000 BC or 3000 BC yet their arts have seen only a few changes in this modern age.

Among the Melanesians, political powers were vested in the hands of groups of elderly men and in some areas women. These elders usually referred to as ‘Big men’ handled the affairs of the people in a communal fashion. Such elders are renowned for their political, historical, economic and warrior skills. Power and position were earned through the acquisition of knowledge that allows one to advance in the society. This knowledge is imparted through the commemoration of several festivals and initiation rites during which various art forms are used.

The people believed in life after death. They also believed that all activities of this life are controlled by ancestral spirits. This includes agricultural activities like yam productions, fishing, hunting and trading of artifacts. Elaborate ancestral rites are performed to honour, praise and seek help from the ancestors. They were believed to facilitate the transition of the soul from the world of the living to the realm of the dead.

The Melanesians engaged in many art forms such as sculpture, painting, pottery, architecture, and basketry.

Male and female ancestral figures were sculpted and used in the mortuary and memorial rites of the dead in wood, clay, and stone. Sometimes ancestors’ skulls were over modelled with clay in a likeness of the deceased. The head of the carved figure may be made bigger to contain the skull of the deceased. These were used in the ancestral cults. Also, Ceremonial chairs, sacred flutes, and masks fashioned from soft wood, vegetable fibers and rattan were produced and worn by dancers during the ancestral cult (Tatanua masks) and initiation rites (Hevehe masks). Special yam masks were worn during the yam cult to petition the ancestors for a bumper harvest. Large carved slit-gongs were used as instruments for communication to the people and as voices of ancestral spirits in the initiation rites of young men.

Canoe prows shaped like crocodiles with images of humans, birds and serpents were carved with spells invoked on them to ensure successful fishing and trading of Kula (white conus-shell arm ornaments). Bisj poles which were extremely long poles were carved from the trunk of the mangrove tree and used in head-hunting ceremonies.

The people constructed massive men’s ceremonial houses that served as meeting houses for the local youth during initiation rites. Men’s discussions of community issues were carried out there. Communal meeting houses where the affairs of the community and among individuals are deliberated and settled were constructed.

Masks were painted in various colours and they had symbolic meanings. For example, the Tatanua masks used in the funeral rites of the deceased were painted with black, white, yellow and red. These colours symbolize warfare, magic spells, and violence. The interiors and exteriors of the ceremonial houses were lavishly painted with ancestral figures and animal forms which had spiritual charms. Body painting in the form of tattooing played a major part of their culture.

The Melanesians engaged in the production of a special type of pottery called Lapita which were elaborately decorated with incised and geometric patterns. These ceramic vessels were used in domestic chores such as storage of items and in keeping relics of ancestors during the ancestral

cults.

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