There are few monuments with a longer and broader history than Palazzo Pitti. For almost four hundred years, it was home to the reigning sovereigns of Tuscany: from Medici and Lorraine grand dukes to the kings of Italy, with even a Bonaparte thrown in for good measure. From about 1540 until the end of the Italian monarchy at the end of World War II, Palazzo Pitti has been the center of the political and cultural world in Tuscany.
But it is more than just a royal residence. The building itself is the brilliant product of successive architects, beginning with Filippo Brunelleschi if Vasari is to be believed. What began as the relatively modest home of a Florentine banker in the middle of the fifteenth century became what we see today: a grand palace that has served as an important example for such buildings across the face of Europe.
But it is more than just an important building. Within its walls, successive generations of grand dukes commissioned the most important artists and artisans of their day to decorate the palace with the finest frescoes, paintings, stuccoes, and furnishings. Today, Palazzo Pitti stands as a virtual encyclopedia of the decorative arts in Italy from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century.
And finally, Palazzo Pitti has also been home to many of the most important and sophisticated collectors of fine art anywhere to be found. Today, the collections contain many of the finest examples of the work of the world’s best artists, from Raphael to Titian, to Rubens, and on and on.
A WORD ABOUT THE WEBSITE ITSELF
Telling a story of such richness and sweep from so many varying points of view is not a simple thing, but that is what I hope to do with this website. The tabs across the top of each page indicate different points of entry into the story. The tab THE STORY takes you to a set of eighteen chapters that recount the history of the palace from its earliest days to modern times. The tab THE PALACE leads to fifteen different sets of plans that show the development of the palace since its creation. The tab THE FAMILIES takes you to biographies of all the grand dukes and their spouses, along with family trees for each of them. The tab COLLECTIONS contains tabs for each of the ten museums that exist in the palace today. It includes as well a group of essays on various grand dukes and other major collectors. The tab INDICES contains two lists. One is a list of the artists and architects who have contributed to the palace over the years. The other is an alphabetical listing of all the rooms in the palace that are discussed on this site. The final tab is the BIBLIOGRAPHY for the project. Like the overall project itself, it remains, as it always will, very much a work in progress. Finally, you should note that clicking on any of the blue highlights in the text will take you to additional information.
In this effort I have depended in large part on the work of a number of illustrious scholars. I am especially indebted to Marco Chiarini, Laura Baldini Giusti, and Serena Padovani who produced much of the scholarship upon which this project depends. Much of their writing has been in Italian, of course, and I have endeavored to translate it into English. I am also especially indebted to Gabriel Cardona, whose mastery of website design and technique made the project possible, as well as to Sally Kennedy, whose tireless work in proofreading and criticism has helped to minimize what would otherwise have been a forest of errors. What errors remain are all mine and are no reflection on the brilliant work of those upon whom I have depended. Many other scholars whose work has been important are listed in the text and in the Bibliography.