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The origin of the Uffizi Gallery, one of the largest museums in the world, dates back to 1560, when Cosimo I de' Medici commissioned Giorgio Vasari to build a large building with two wings, "beyond the river and almost in the air", to house the administrative and judicial offices (Uffizi) of the Florentine State. Vasari was also responsible for the construction, five years later, of an elevated gallery that, crossing the Ponte Vecchio and the church of Santa Felicità, joins the Uffizi with the new Medici residence in Palazzo Pitti and ends in the Boboli Gardens. The original nucleus of the Gallery was created by Francesco I, Cosimo's son, who, after transforming the top floor of the Uffizi into a place to walk around, with paintings, statues and other precious things, entrusted Buontalenti with the creation of a "tribune" in which decorations and works of art were collected. The same architect was responsible for the construction of the Medici theatre, built in 1586 on the current first and second floors of the east wing of the museum. Fernando I, Francesco's brother, transformed the terrace near the tribune into an enclosed space in 1589, which became the Loggia delle Carte Geografiche. At the end of the other wing of the Gallery, a roof garden was created on the loggia by Andrea Orcagna. The Uffizi currently houses an immense artistic heritage consisting of thousands of paintings from the medieval to the modern period, a large number of ancient sculptures, miniatures and tapestries. The collection of self-portraits, which is steadily increasing with the passage of time, is famous, also for acquisitions and donations by contemporary artists, and to which is added another important collection, that of the Gabinetto dei Disegni e Stampe. The Uffizi collections have a history that spans more than four centuries and intersects with that of all Florentine culture. The first Medici collections form the core of the Gallery, but the dedication to patronage characterised the rulers of Florence and in particular the Medici over the centuries. As early as the 14th century, forms of patronage occurred because of the growing importance of commercial enterprises: the Arte del Cambio (a guild of bankers) commissioned Orcagna to complete the triptych of St. Matthew for Orsanmichele, the Arte delle Mercanzia (of Florentine merchants) asked Piero Pollaiolo and Botticelli later for a series of Virtues for the hall of one of their buildings. At the beginning of the 15th century, the wealthy and cultured banker Palla Strozzi commissioned Gentile da Fabriano to restore the Adoration of the Magi. Cosimo I also became the protector of artists such as Fra Filippo Lippi and was commissioned works of considerable moral and political significance such as Paolo Uccello's Battle of San Romano.
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