In the first niche of the Loggiato degli Uffizi stands a statue of the painter, sculptor and architect, Andrea Orcagna, who gazes up thoughtfully at the Loggia dei Lanzi (also known as the Loggia della Signoria).
When Niccolo Bazzanti (1802-69) carved the statue it was thought (mistakenly, as it later turned out) that Orcagna (1308-68), whose real name was Andrea di Cione di Arcangelo, had designed the medieval loggia, which stands on the south side of the Piazza della Signoria.
The statue of Orcagna (local slang for archangel) is one of twenty-eight sculptures, which decorate the loggiato. The idea of placing statues in the niches came from Cosimo I de' Medici (b.1519/r.1537-74), who had commissioned the building of the Palazzo degli Uffizi (1560-80). He had envisaged effigies of "fiorentini che fussero stati chiari e illustri nelle armi, nelle lettere e nei governi civili" (Florentines who had excelled in war, the arts and politics).
However, Cosimo I died in 1574, before the Palazzo degli Uffizi had been completed, and his idea was not taken up by any of his successors. So the niches remained empty for almost three hundred years until the project was revived in the 1830s, not by a grandee of the city, but by a humble local printer, Vincenzo Battelli.
The statues (all now badly begrimed and in desperate need of cleaning) were mostly created between 1842 and 1856, and depict a range of illustrious figures (all male) from Tuscany, as a whole, rather than just the city of Florence. We see the usual suspects: Dante, Petrarch, Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli, Galileo.
However, there is one glaring omission, that of the great architect of the Renaissance, Filippo Brunelleschi. A fellow practitioner, Leon Battista Alberti (who was not even born in Tuscany, let alone Florence), is there, but the creator of the iconic dome of the city’s cathedral is absent!
East loggia - 1: Orcagna. 2: Nicola Pisano. 3: Giotto. 4: Donatello. 5: Leon Battista Alberti. 6: Leonardo da Vinci. 7: Michelangelo. 8: Dante. 9: Francesco Petrarch. 10: Giovanni Boccaccio. 11: Niccolo Machiavelli. 12: Francesco Guicciardini. 13: Amerigo Vespucci.
South loggia - 14: Farinata degli Uberti. 15: Pier Capponi. 16: Giovanni delle Bande Nere. 17: Francesco Ferrucci.
West loggia - 18: Galileo Galilei. 19: Pier Antonio Micheli. 20: Francesco Redi. 21: Paolo Mascagni. 22: Andrea Cesalpino. 23: Sant’ Antonino. 24: Francesco Accursio. 25: Guido Aretino. 26: Benvenuto Cellini.
On either side of the old entrance to the Galleria degli Uffizi stand statues of Cosimo ‘il Vecchio’ and his grandson, Lorenzo ‘il Magnifico’.