The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy is one of the most famous and most visited museums in the world. You can easily wait several hours in line just to get in, especially during the high season. Luckily, in the Piazza del Signoria, leading to the entrance of the Uffizi courtyard, there are numerous sculptures awaiting your visit. Better yet, you don’t have to stand in line for hours, and viewing them is free! (Full admission to the Uffizi is currently 18.50 Euros, by the way).
Let’s start with the beautiful Fountain of Neptune, which was commissioned in 1565 and sculpted by Bartolomeo Ammannati. The fountain was to commemorate the wedding of Johanna of Austria to Francesco I de Medici. Ammannati, with a team of other sculptors, spent ten years creating the fountain. The Neptune statue in the center is now a copy, with the original being housed in the National Museum.
Unfortunately, over the years Mr. Neptune suffered a lot of damage, mostly from vandalism. In 2005 vandals climbed the statue, breaking off his right hand and his trident. You can see a better image of the damage here:
We visited in 2006, and the repairs to the damage hadn’t been done yet. The hand was restored a year later, in 2007.
There is also the Equestrian Statue of Cosimo I de Medici, created by Jean Boulogne (Giambologna) in the classical Roman style. It was erected in 1594, and the horse and rider may have been cast separately:
From here we stroll closer to the Uffizi Courtyard entrance and come to one of the most infamous sculptures in the world:
Well, hello David! *Rawwwwr*
David was, of course sculpted by Michelangelo between 1501-1504 and is a glorious 17 feet tall. He was designed to be one in a series of sculptures, but was instead placed in his current location in the piazza. In 1873, the original statue was moved to Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, and in 1910 this replica was placed in the piazza instead.
These charming fellows are Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus which was unveiled in 1534. While I personally like this sculpture, contemporaries of Bandinelli weren’t as impressed. The sculpture was originally commissioned to Michelangelo, when the Medici family appropriated the design to symbolize their renewed power. Sculptors Giorgio Vasari and Benvenuto Cellini, who were supporters of Michelangelo and rivals of Bandinelli, didn’t approve of the design change. Cellini even went so far as to refer to the sculpture’s depiction of musculature as a “sack full of melons.” Harsh. It is kinda….lumpy though.
Moving now to the Loggia dei Lanzi, this sculpture is Menelaus Supporting the Body of Patroclus, a moment captured from the Iliad. The original is either from 150-125 BC or 1st AD depending on the source. The statue was found in a Roman vineyard around 1570 and purchased by Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany before being restored in the current manner.
This is Hercules and Nessus, sculpted by Jean Boulogne (Giambologna) in 1599 and placed in the current location in 1841. It was carved from one singular piece of marble. Nessus was a centaur killed by Hercules, whose blood in turn killed Hercules himself.
The Sabine Woman, carved around the 2nd Century CE. Found in Rome, modern restorations were conducted. It was placed in the Loggia dei Lanza in 1789. Some references call this a Vestal Virgin statue, though the hair and clothing style don’t quite match.
This is another marble Sabine with the portrait of Matidia. Completed around the 2nd C. CE found in Rome. Modern restorations were added before it was placed here in 1789.
The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna (1579–1583). Again, carved from a single block of marble. It’s considered to be Giambologna’s masterpiece.
This is Perseus With the Head of Medusa (1545), a bronze sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini. Cosimo I commissioned the work, but it wasn’t revealed to the public until 1554. Medusa, of course was the Gorgon with snakes for hair and turned anyone who looked at her into stone. Cellini added a self portrait of himself on the back of Perseus’ helmet:
And then, of course there are the Medici lions, a pair of marble sculptures that were meant to flank the grand garden staircase at the Medici villa. One lion was carved in the 16th Century by Flamino Vacca, to make a pair to the original, ancient lion carved in the 2nd Century:
There are additional statues in the piazza as well, but it would take much too long to go through all of them. You’ll just have to visit and see them for yourself!