An Outdoor Art Gallery in Florence

One of the things I love about Florence is that you don’t have to go to the galleries and museums to see fine art especially if you’re pressed for time or money. You can find art everywhere from architecture to decorations on the facades of buildings to the outdoor galleries. The best example of an outdoor art gallery we saw was at Piazza della Signoria.

Piazza della Signoria has always been a famous landmark of Florence – the centre of political life and the site of spectacles and public executions, but more on those a little later. The piazza is dominated by the impressive 14th century crenellated tower (see photo below) of Palazzo Vecchio.

Tower of Palazzo Vechio

If you stand facing the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia dei Lanzi is located to your right. It’s basically an open-air sculpture gallery of Renaissance art.  I have inserted some photos of some of the statues you will find under its canopy.

Melenaus supporting the body of Patroclus

Behind the statue of Melenaus are two of the Sabine women; there are a total of six statues that line the back wall.

Benvenuto Cellini's bronze statue of Perseus With the Head of Medusa

The bronze statue above of Cellini’s Perseus is one of highlights of this piazza. Notice the detail in the sculpture including the well proportioned body of the subdued Perseus and the decapitated head of Medusa complete with blood gushing from the neck. Gruesome and captivating at the same time!

The Rape of Polyxena, by Pio Fedi (1865)

Rape of the Sabine Women by Jean de Boulogne (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The statue of Michelangelo’s David located outside Palazzo Vecchio is a copy of the original which is located in the Accademia Gallery. To give you a sense of scale, David stands 17 feet tall. Michelangelo created this masterpiece between 1501 and 1504. “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. The eyes of David, with a warning glare, were turned towards Rome.” (Wikipedia) On a side note, when we were at Piazzale Michelangelo, where a bronze copy of David stands in the middle of the square, as we walked by the statue, the lady walking ahead of us exclaimed to her husband that “it [David] is an odd piece of art”. I was saddened that she didn’t understand the significance of David. Even if I offered an explanation, I wasn’t sure if she really cared, so I didn’t bother.

Here’s a link for you which has a great 360 view of Piazza della Signoria.

Copy of Michelangelo's statue David

The plaque below was one I sought out. Call me curious but I couldn’t help myself. I’ve always found the figure of Girolamo Savonarola intriguing. He cuts a powerful figure in Renaissance history. Savonarola was a Dominican Friar. His apocalyptic lectures captured the citizens of Florence. He also preached against what he saw as decadence, corruption and immorality culminating in the “Bonfire of the Vanities” in 1497 when his followers collected items perceived as immoral and frivolous which included, paintings, books, musical instruments, etc. and burned them at Piazza della Signoria. Who knows how many priceless works of art were lost to Savonarola’s bonfire. But soon thereafter, the Pope excommunicated him and the citizens of Florence rose against him. Savonarola was tortured, hanged and then burned at the stake on May 23, 1498; the same spot where he held his Bonfire of the Vanities.  The spot is now marked with the plaque shown below.

Girolamo Savonarola (courtesy of Wikipedia)

File:Savonarola 1498.jpg

"Hanging and burning of Girolamo Savonarola in Piazza della Signoria in Florence in 1498. Anonymous painting from 1498, in the Museo di San Marco, Florence." (courtesy of Wikipedia)

So that was a little heavy wasn’t it? Here’s some more beautiful works of art for your viewing pleasure.

Neptune (image courtesy of JT)

Bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo I by Giambologna (1594)

Speaking of great art… the street to the right of Palazzo Vecchio (if you’re looking at it from the Piazza della Signoria) leads to the Piazzale degli Uffizi which is a long narrow courtyard. At one end is the Arno River and the other end leads you to Piazza della Signoria. This is the courtyard where the Uffizi Gallery is located, the home of the best collection of Renaissance art – Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Giotto, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, among others. We were so close  yet still so far… Wish we could have gone inside but there was a strike when we were there and the museums were closed. Definitely a good reason to go back, no?

Uffizi Gallery

Donatello, one of the many sculptures of artists outside the Uffizi Gallery.


About May Dayao

Carpe diem!
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16 Responses to An Outdoor Art Gallery in Florence

  1. mac says:

    Wow, great photos – thanks for sharing!!

  2. Katharine says:

    Florence is an art museum itseif!
    I was quite surprised to see those art sculptures just hanging around town on the streets! well, not to mention all those beautiful fountains!

  3. This is very helpful, as I am desperately hoping to visit Florence one day – now I know where to go, so thanks! Also, that bit about Savonarola and his bonfire is fascinating. It’s a good job the pope eventually stepped in otherwise how many more beautiful pieces of Renaissance artwork would have been lost!

    • I’ve written 3 other posts on Florence you might want to check out to help you prepare for your trip ( Make it happen because it’s so worth it. The one landmark I haven’t written about is Santa Croce, make sure not to miss it. The Renaissance was a fascinating time in history. Many artists came under Savonarola’s spell, including Michelangelo. At the end of the day, it was all about struggle for power between Rome and Savonarola. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. andy1076 says:

    Wow incredible photos!! 🙂

  5. ivanterzic says:

    Wow! Your posts are Awesome and the shots are amazing! Thanks for follow my blog by the way 😀 High5

  6. Pingback: The Unique Piazza del Campo of Siena | travellingflip

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