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Jun 7, 2012


Architect: Benci di Cione and Simone Talenti

In Piazza della Signoria you can visit also an open-air sculpture gallery of antique and Renaissance art. It’s on your right looking at the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio. The name Loggia dei Lanzi (lodge of Lanzi) comes from Lanzichenecchi, mercenary soldiers that used that place during the reign of Grand Duke Cosimo I (16th century). It was built by Benci di Cione together with Simone Talenti, between 1376 and 1382, as a place where popular assemblies and the official ceremonies were to be held. The building, with its late-Gothic forms, testifies to the taste for the classical, but already announces the Renaissance. On the façade of the Loggia, below the parapet, are trefoils with allegorical figures of the four cardinal virtues (Fortitude, Temperance, Justice and Prudence) by Agnolo Gaddi. 

Two marble lions guard the entrance, the Marzoccos, heraldic symbols of Florence. The one on the right is from Roman times and that on the left was sculpted in 1598. 

Remarkable statues are: 

1. Perseus (under the first arch, left of the lodge, 1545-54) by Benvenuto Cellini. He was an Italian goldsmith, sculptor, painter, soldier and musician, who also wrote a famous autobiography. Besides his works in gold and silver, Cellini executed sculptures of grander scale. His masterpiece is the bronze group of Perseus with the Head of Medusa through which he tried to surpass Michelangelo's David and Donatello's Judith and Holofernes. As told in the autobiography of the artist, the creation of Perseo was quite an epic experience: a fever (maybe caused by smelter fumes of metals) brought Cellini to the brink of death, the focus of furnace was turned down because of a storm, then the failure of the pond which was remedied by throwing his household furniture (pewter dishes and plates, pots and pans) in the furnace, then a fire in the workshop. But the Perseo was hailed as a masterpiece as soon as it was completed. The bronze group shows the mythical Greek hero holding up triumphantly the Medusa's decapitated head as a symbol of the victory by Granduca Cosimo I against the republican government. On the neck of the statue there is a sorrowful portrait of Cellini. 

Rape of the Sabine Women

2. Rape of the Sabine Women (under the third arch, right of the lodge, 1579-83) by Giambologna (nickname of the Flemish artist Jean de Boulogne). This sculpture is considered Giambologna's masterpiece and the entire group was carved from a single block of marble. Making a composition in a snakelike spiral style, with three figures Giambologna created the first group representing more than a single figure in European sculptural history to be conceived without a dominant viewpoint. In fact, you can turn around the statue and admire it from different point of view. The Rape of the Sabine Women is an episode in the legendary history of Rome. The meaning of the word rape is not the modern sexual violation but something like kidnapping. After the founding of Rome, Romulus sought wives in order to found families but the Sabines refused to allow their women to marry the Romans. Consequently, the Romans planned to abduct Sabine women. Romulus devised a festival of Neptune Equester and proclaimed the festival among Rome's neighbors. At the festival Romulus gave a signal, at which the Romans grabbed the Sabine women and fought off the Sabine men. The indignant abductees were soon implored by Romulus to accept Roman husbands.


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