The collection of the Uffizi Gallery’s Department of Prints and Drawings is the oldest public collection of graphic art and among the most renowned in the world. Today, the collection comprises about 180,000 works. The primary role in establishing this heritage was played by a figure who showed his interest in prints by the masters of northern Europe on many occasions: Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici (1617-1675), son of Cosimo II, Grand Duke of Tuscany. At the time of his death, he owned about 12,000 drawings, including many works by Flemish and Dutch artists—a special interest of his— that he had acquired thanks to an extensive network of correspondents who operated directly in Flanders in some cases.
The works on paper from this area of the world constitute an important part of the collection even today. They include more than 9,000 drawings. Besides works by anonymous artists from the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—a valuable field for future related research—major artists are also represented, such as Lucas van Leyden, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens, Jacob Jordaens, Anthony van Dyck, and obviously Jan van der Straet and Justus Suttermans, who worked in Florence in a close relationship with the Medicis for many years. Major masters are also represented in the print collection: Lucas van Leyden, Hendrik Goltzius, Cornelis Cort and the numerous etchers who revolved around Hieronymus Cock’s publishing house in the second half of the sixteenth century. Finally, of special interest is the collection of etchings by Rembrandt, noted for its quality and quantity.
Laura Donati, Curator of Prints and Coordinator of the Print Room (April, 2022)