Pitti Palace is the result of no less than three centuries of transformations and expansions, brought together to form the spectacularly stunning facade that welcomes visitors, making them feel as though they were at the centre of an enormous theatrical scene as soon as they enter the square from the side streets or alleys called “sdruccioli” in front of it. But how was Pitti Palace at the start? We can find out by looking at this view by Giusto Utens, painted in the late 16th century and one of a series of 17 canvases that recorded, like a map, the magnificence of the grand duchy’s estates. In this painting, we can see a view of the old 15th-century palace that belonged to the rich Florentine banker, Luca Pitti, its first owner. Wishing to have a new building that would stand out within the Florence’s urban setting, he ordered the building of a monumental facade in rustic ashlar stone, set out on three perfectly equal floors: the bottom floor had three large doors - two of which would then be closed and reduced to the windows we see today- and there were perfectly symmetrical first and second floors, each with seven large windows. The style of Luca Pitti’s palace was thus not unlike those of the typical Florentine models of the 15th century, such as the Medici, Strozzi or Rucellai Palaces.
Luca Pitti’s brief fortune also led to the suspension of building works, although only the facade and some rooms were left to complete. It was not until 1549, when Eleanor of Toledo, wife of Grand Duke Cosimo I, bought the palace to build a noble residence, surrounding by greenery, and larger and more light and airy than the residence of Palazzo Vecchio, which was now too small to meet the needs of the court.
The renovations were carried out between 1551 and 1559 by Giorgio Vasari and Bernardo Buontalenti; however, the most consistent transformation of the palace was the work of Bartolomeo Ammannati, and was begun in 1561. This architect and sculptor extended the old 15th-century palace towards the Boboli Hill, adding two large wings at the back to create a building in the shape of a horseshoe and then realizing a monumental courtyard on three levels with open loggias on the central side. This is the image handed down from the lunette by Utens.