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Insights | 05/12/2023

The renowned collection of 560 portraits of famous people become a book

A book about the Jovian portraits collection of the Uffizi

Four years of research to bring to light all the secrets of more than 560 portraits of illustrious women and men of history as well as legendary characters hanging on the walls of the three corridors on the second floor of the Uffizi. The outcome has been "La collezione Gioviana degli Uffizi" (Volume I Essays 158 pp.; Volume II Catalogue 628 pp., Giunti Publisher), a huge scientific essay edited by Maria Matilde Simari and Alberica Barbolani da Montauto, with photographs by Antonio Quattrone, which recounts and fully documents the renowned series of paintings for the first time.

The historic collection of faces of illustrious men and women is named after its owner, the scholar, physician and bishop from Como Paolo Giovio (1483-1552), who started his collection in Florence, combining portraits from life with ones drawn from ancient evidences (coins, sculptures, paintings, medals, etc.). Today, only a few dozens out of the approximately four hundred works of the original collection remain, preserved in Como or elsewhere in the world. The Florentine series, on the other hand, stemmed from the will of Grand Duke Cosimo I, who knew and befriended Giovio, and wanted to have a similar collection. The making of the copies was entrusted to Cristofano dell'Altissimo, who took ten years to carry them out.

That early 16th-century nucleus was then enriched with portraits by other painters throughout the following centuries. The fame of the Jovian Collection spread throughout Europe and inspired imitations and reproductions even in print. The portraits have all the same sizes, and the portrayed people are grouped by role: popes, sultans, emperors, soldiers, men of letters, scientists, aristocrats, saints, artists. Among them are Romulus (recently rediscovered in the Pitti Palace's deposits), Tamerlane, Saladin, Suleiman, Attila, Emperor Charles V, Dante, Petrarch, Suleiman, Catherine de' Medici, Vittoria Colonna, Elizabeth I of England and the Ukrainian princess Roxelana.

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