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May 23, 2012


This is Piazza della Signoria (the Signoria was the government of medieval and renaissance Florence), a square where you can still feel the presence of great men like Michelangelo, Leonardo, Galileo Galilei, and everywhere you can see the sign of their passage.

It's an L-shaped square close to the Arno river and right from medieval times has always been the civic center of Florentine life.

The crenellated fortress-palace that overlooks the square is named Palazzo Vecchio (old palace). Out side the palace, from the left to the right you can admire:

1. The Fountain of Neptune (1575) by Bartolomeo Ammannati and some assistants, such as Giambologna. The statue celebrates the Medici's maritime ambitions and is ironically called "Biancone" (the white giant) because of the remarkable difference between the ugly and heavy central statue of Neptune and the slender figures of the satyrs and nymphs leaning on the waved border of the fountain made by Giambologna in his elegant and gentle style.

2. A copy of the Marzocco, a lion with the Florentine lily (the original, made by Donatello in 1418-20, is preserved in the Bargello Museum). The Marzocco was such a powerful symbol of the Florentine Republic. The meaning of his name is obscure, it could derive from Marte (Mars), whose Roman statue, noted by Dante and carried away by a flood of the Arno in 1333, had previously been Florence’s emblem.

3. A copy of the group of Judith and Holofernes (the original, sculpted by Donatello in 1453-57 at the end of his career, is in the Piazza della Signoria Museum). Judith, considered the symbol of liberty, virtue and victory of the weak over the strong in a just cause, is killing the Assyrian general Holofernes. The statue is remarkable for being one of the first Renaissance sculptures to be conceived in the round, with its four distinct faces.

Copy of Michelangelo's David

4. A copy of the famous David (the original, created by Michelangelo in 1501-04, is in the Academy Gallery). Originally sculpted for the roofline of the east end of Florence Cathedral, the statue was instead placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo Vecchio. Because of the nature of the hero that it represented, it soon came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici family.

5. The marble group of Hercules and Cacus (1536) by Baccio Bandinelli. Originally commissioned to Michelangelo as a pendant to David by the republican counsel of Florence to commemorate the victory over the Medici, the statue was later appropriated by the Medici family as a symbol of their renewed power and commissioned to Bandinelli. Giorgio Vasari (painter and writer of the biographies of Italian artists) and Benvenuto Cellini (sculptor) severely criticized the work of Bandinelli. Vasari lamented the change of design which was completely different from the Michelangelo project. Cellini referred to the emphatic musculature as "a sack full of melons".

Piazza della Signoria part 2 click here


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