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.
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.
Behind the statue of Melenaus are two of the Sabine women; there are a total of six statues that line the back wall.
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 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.
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.
So that was a little heavy wasn’t it? Here’s some more beautiful works of art for your viewing pleasure.
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?