Palazzo Pitti in Florence inaugurates the new year with the opening of four rooms that had never before been accessible to the public.
The large rooms, which contain 17th-century frescoes, overlook the courtyard on the ground floor of Palazzo Pitti; recently restored, these spaces are now part of the regular visit.
The rooms were repurposed to host 78 ancient icons from Russia that the Medici first and the Lorena after collected throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. They represent the oldest collection of its kind in the world outside of Russia itself.
The icons will be accompanied by descriptive captions in Italian, English and Cyrillic and have been placed in a way that does not interfere with the beautiful frescoes that adorn the walls and ceilings of the rooms.
In addition, the elegant Palatine Chapel, with its 19th-century frescoes by Luigi Ademollo, has been fully restored and provided with new evocative lighting; it is now open and regularly accessible.
The Russian icons were all painted between the late 16th and mid-18th centuries. The oldest among them belonged to the grand dukes of the Medici family and are mentioned as early as the mid-1700s in the inventories of the furnishings of Palazzo Pitti’s Chapel of the Relics. The largest group arrived in Florence during the reign of Francesco Stefano di Lorena (1737-1765).
The oldest examples in the collection, made between the 16th and 17th centuries, can be traced back to painters who worked for the Tsar's court in the Kremlin Armory Palace in Moscow, the main center of production for that type of works before the founding of the new capital, St. Petersburg.
Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Galleries, hinted at the possibility of opening to the public all of the frescoed rooms on the ground floor of Pitti Palace, describing them as “magnificent spaces, formerly inhabited by the grand dukes, unfortunately still used today largely as offices and service areas.” Referring to the collection of Russian icons, he said they differ from others because they are mostly small and medium-sized, intended for the private devotion of families and to be taken on trips.
For more information on opening times and rules on accessing the palace, visit https://www.uffizi.it/en/pitti-palace.