On 10 July, twelve new rooms were opened on the first floor of the Uffizi Gallery, consisting of 255 (self-)portraits in various media: paintings, sculptures, drawings and video art. The Florentine 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 seventeenth century. Over the centuries, acquisitions and donations have continuously enriched the collection, which has now reached over 2.000 objects.
After more than a century, the artists’ self-portraits are now displayed for the first time within the Uffizi’s visiting itinerary. From 1973 to 2016, some of them had been installed in the Vasari Corridor, where, however, they were only visible within the restricted and occasional visits allowed by the space, which, moreover, lacked air conditioning and adequate lighting.
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. 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.
Many works have undergone conservation works and can now be admired at their best (among others, the splendid self-portrait by Rubens, just restored by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, and that of Rembrandt, restored thanks to the American donor Diana Bell). Many works were not in the Vasari Corridor but were taken from the museum’s storerooms. In order to emphasize the many faces of this immense collection, the Uffizi will observe the principle of exhibition rotation, particularly with regard to living artists. A similar approach – but in this case also linked to essential conservation requirements – will apply to all graphic works, which are displayed in two separate rooms.