The environment, consisting of three vestibules, was created at the end of the eighteenth century with the completion of the monumental staircase, the new access to the Gallery, by the will of the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo. In the first vestibule there are the marble and porphyry busts of the Medici, from Francesco I to Gian Gastone; communicating with this is the rectangular vestibule, decorated in the vault by Giovanni da San Giovanni with mythological capricci, set up with macaws, ancient and modern busts; In the elliptical vestibule there are Roman statues, sarcophagi and ancient reliefs. The door that leads into the Gallery, with two cousins on the sides, Roman copies of the first century AD, is surmounted by the bust of Leopold.
The three corridors that correspond to the three bodies of the palace run along the entire interior side and on them the rooms open. They are decorated in frescoed ceilings and the large windows reveal their primitive aspect of open covered loggia.
Today the corridors house the collection of ancient statuary, begun by Lorenzo the Magnificent, who kept the works in the Garden of San Marco near the Palazzo Medici. The collection was extended by Cosimo I after his first trip to Rome in 1560 when he chose to dedicate the statues to embellish Palazzo Pitti and the portraits and busts for Palazzo Vecchio. Finally it was further increased at the time of Peter Leopold of Lorraine, when the works of Villa Medici were brought to Florence, gathered in large part by the future Grand Duke Ferdinando I, who was then cardinal. It is interesting to note that these works, nowadays often absent-mindedly diverted from visitors, up until the early nineteenth century were a major reason for visiting the gallery. According to some sources, it was an essay by John Ruskin to revive the interest in Renaissance painting of the museum, until then mistreated.
The sculptures are of great value and date back mainly to the Roman era, with numerous copies of Greek originals. Sometimes incomplete or broken statues were restored and integrated by the great Renaissance sculptors. Today the layout of the sculptures is as close as possible to that of the end of the eighteenth century, when they allowed the comparison between ancient and modern masters, a very dear theme, and therefore the function of the statues is still essential and strongly characterizing the origin and the historical function. of the gallery.
The first, long corridor is the east one, richly decorated in the ceiling by grotesques dating back to 1581, while a series of portraits runs along the ceiling, the Jovian series, interspersed with larger paintings of the main exponents of the Medici family, the Aulica series started by Francesco I de ‘Medici, with portraits from Giovanni di Bicci to Gian Gastone. The paintings of the Gioviana series and the Aulica series, which also continue in the corridor on the Arno and in the west one of the Gallery, constitute one of the largest and most complete collection of portraits in the world.
The series of Roman busts contrasts with the pictorial portraits, chronologically ordered at the end of the eighteenth century in order to cover all the imperial history.
Among the most important statuary works we can mention a Hercules and Centaurus, from an original late-Hellenistic version, integrated into the hero’s figure by Giovan Battista Caccini in 1589; a Barbarian king, composed in 1712 starting from the ancient bust only; Pan and Daphni, from an original by Eliodoro di Rodi from the beginning of the 1st century BC .; the Dancing Satyr or Bacchus Child, from a Hellenistic original, restored in the sixteenth century. Further on there is a statue of Proserpina, from a Greek original of the 4th century BC, the ancient copy of the Pothos of Skopas (4th century BC). At the sides of the entrance to the Tribuna are a Hercules, from an original by Lisippo, and a bust of Hadrian belonging to Lorenzo the Magnificent. In the last part of the corridor there are two Venuses, from originals of the IV century a.C. and a Hellenistic Apollo, which was at the entrance of Villa Medici, and invited, with the right arm of restoration, to enter the house, as if it were the realm of the god himself.
The Gallery entirely occupies the first and second floors of the large building constructed between 1560 and 1580 and designed by Giorgio Vasari. It is famous worldwide for its outstanding collections of ancient sculptures and paintings (from the Middle Ages to the Modern period). The collections of paintings from the 14th-century and Renaissance period include some absolute masterpieces: Giotto, Simone Martini, Piero della Francesca, Beato Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Mantegna, Correggio, Leonardo, Raffaello, Michelangelo and Caravaggio, in addition to many precious works by European painters (mainly German, Dutch and Flemish).
Moreover, the Gallery boasts an invaluable collection of ancient statues and busts from the Medici family, which adorns the corridors and consists of ancient Roman copies of lost Greek sculptures.