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, the Piazza della Signoria sculptures, around the entrance of the Uffizi courtyard, will give you something to view while you await entry. Better yet, viewing them is free!
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The Piazza della Signoria was used as a central square as far back as Roman times. It is surrounded by the Palazzo Vecchio (town hall), Uffizi Gallery, Tribunale della Mercanzia (now the Bureau of Agriculture), as well as several palaces and commercial buildings.
Fountain of Neptune
Let’s start our tour of the Piazza della Signoria with the beautiful Fountain of Neptune. It 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.
Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I de Medici
There is also the Equestrian Monument 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:
Statue of David
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 della Signoria instead.
Hercules and Cacus
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.
Menelaus Supporting the Body of Patroclus
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.
Hercules and Nessus
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
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.
Sabine with the portrait of Matidia
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
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.
Perseus With the Head of Medusa
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 anyone who looked at her turned into stone. Cellini added a self portrait of himself on the back of Perseus’ helmet:
The Medici Lions
And then, of course there are the Medici lions, a pair of marble sculptures. They once flanked the grand garden staircase at the Medici villa. Flamino Vacca carved one of the lions in the 16th Century, to make a match to the original, ancient lion carved in the 2nd Century. The lions have been in this location since 1789:
There are numerous other Piazza della Signoria sculptures to view beyond these, but it would take much too long to go through all of them. You’ll just have to visit and see them for yourself!
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