When the rich Florentine merchant Luca Pitti died, the palace on the other side of the Arno was still unfinished. It was never proved that Brunelleschi was the author of this Palace. What is known for sure, though, is that the building was much smaller than the present one. At that time, Florence was governed by Pitti's implacable adversaries, the Medici, and destiny was to have it that the building end up in their hands when the rich wife of Cosimo 1 bought it with the park and square lying in front of it as the House's official home in 1550.
Palazzo Pitti, opening on to the Boboli gardens, was a more prestigious and appropriate alternative for the Medici than their residence in Palazzo Vecchio, still the symbol of Florence's Republican past. Cosimo and Eleonora decided to turn it into a princely palace and charged Bartolomeo Ammannati with completing and, above all, enlarging the building.
By doubling its internal volume depth and adding side wings, this bare 15th century building was transformed into the most monumental of the late Renaissance Florentine buildings. The Medici did not, in fact, move into it stably until many decades later and the Palace was used as a kind of representative hotel for ambassadors and kings besides being the place where they held the court's worldly events. Furthermore, to make the Palace easier to reach without having to mix with the crowds, Cosimo charged his architect and artistic consultant Giorgio Vasari with the building of a raised passageway connecting it to Palazzo Vecchio (the so-called Vasarian Corridor).
It only became the official Medici residence in 1589 with Ferdinando I and Cristina of Lorraine and over the centuries Pitti Palace housed another two dynasties: the Lorraine one and the Savoy one. Its growth and enlarging are due to the changed use for this building and represent the culture and taste of an ample period of time, from late Renaissance to our days. Its sumptuous decorations, extraordinary art collections continuously added to over the years, its art objects, fountains, rare plants in the Boboli Gardens have told the story of this spectacular building over the centuries.
A fundamental event in the palace history was the Leopold Hapsburg Lorraine decision to open the west wing, seat of the ancient Medici apartments, to the public where they organized the works of the different Medici collections (while the court carried on living in the east wing). The Palatine Gallery opened to the public in 1834. It is a curious fact that clothing propriety was a must if you wanted to enter the Gallery.
The Palatine Gallery, in its sumptuous furnishing environment, houses important Florentine and Venetian Renaissance paintings including the famous Madonna on the chair and The Veiled Lady by Raffaello, and several works by Tiziano. The 17th and 18th centuries are represented by some Caravaggio masterpieces and by one of the most important Italian foreign painting collections, including works by Rubens, Van Dyck and Murillo.
In 1919, when the Palace was still a Savoy Royal residence, in the rooms on the second floor they created the Modern Art gallery, as an ideal cultural continuation of past traditions. The Gallery hosts Italian art from the second half of the 19th century, mainly represented by Macchiaoli works, and from the start of the 20th century.