Uffizi Inaugurates Self Portrait Gallery


A detail of the Uffizi new self-portrait gallery (photo by Milla Elizabeth)

The Uffizi Gallery has recently opened a permanent exhibition in 12 rooms, showcasing 255 self-portraits of famous artists spanning the 1400s to the present day. The exhibition offers a glimpse into various artists’ lives and how they depicted themselves over the centuries. 

This grand collection, which began with Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici (1617 – 1675), who initiated and ensured its continuity, now contains approximately 2,000 works. Inside, an extensive collection from renowned historical artists such as Andrea del Sarto, Luca Giordano, Rubens, and Rembrandt. Before photography, portraiture were made exclusively for wealthy and upper-class families, or to exalt intelligent, powerful figures. Self-portraits on the other hand, focus on the artist and their identity. Other exhibits include self-depictions by Rosalba Carriera, Francesco Hayez, Eugène Delacroix, Arnold Böcklin, and Elisabeth Chaplin.

The Uffizi exhibition follows 250 artworks in chronological arrangement, guiding visitors through a curated selection of paintings, sculptures, installations, and graphics through time. Some of the more contemporary artists found towards the end of the exhibition include: Yan-Pei Ming, Antony Gormley, Maria Lassnig, Ai Weiwei, and Berlinde de Bruyckere, the latter two showcased by sculptures. In two separate rooms, enter the world of comics in a section titled “Fumettisti” or “Comic Book Artists,” where the visitor can find self-portrait work from artists in this field, such as Lorenzo Mattotti, Will Eisner, and Milo Manara.

Previously, a number of these self-portraits were exhibited in the Vasari Corridor, between Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti, from 1973 to 2016, accessible only during limited, guided visits. The Vasari Corridor, the most historic passageway in Florence, is undergoing a major restoration. Closed to the public since 2016, the corridor once featured the one of the world’s most extensive collection of self-portraits. Now, the renovation project underway, with a budget of 10 million euros, will install air conditioning and aims to enhance safety measures and accessibility, including ramps, platforms, and lifts for disabled visitors. The restored corridor will be open soon, offering stunning views of Ponte Vecchio, the Pitti Palace, and the Boboli Gardens. 

The financial support, thanks to the Pritzker, had not only facilitated the opening of the new rooms, but contributed to numerous restorations. Leading experts have also been involved, and were able to gain new insights and dispel previous misattributions, ensuring a highly accurate and representative selection for visitors to appreciate. (milla elizabeth)