Florence is a true open-air museum! But if there’s one single place where this definition come true, this is the Loggia dei Lanzi, also called Loggia dell’Orcagna or Loggia della Signoria.
It is a unique example of open gallery containing sculptures of ancient art and Renaissance. It consists of large round arches that anticipate the Renaissance style. This probably inspired Filippo Brunelleschi for the construction of what is considered the first fully Renaissance Florentine building, the Hospital of the Innocents, located in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. On the façade there are four panels with allegorical figures of the cardinal virtues, by Agnolo Gaddi.
The name Loggia della Signoria derives from its position on one side of Piazza della Signoria, next to the Uffizi Gallery. This name was used since the mid-sixteenth century, when the site was used by the Grand Duke Cosimo I to host Lanzichenecchi. The name Loggia dell’Orcagna is basically due to an incorrect attribution of the project.
The Loggia dei Lanzi was built between 1376 and 1382 by Benci di Cione and Simone di Francesco Talenti, according to a project of Jacopo Sione, to house the assemblies of the people and hold public ceremonies of the Florentine Republic.
From the sixteenth century, with the creation of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Loggia became an expression of the power of the Medici family and was used to accommodate some sculptural masterpieces, becoming one of the first outdoor exhibition areas around the world.
The sculptures were not positioned according to aesthetic criteria, but to affirm and represent specific political meanings. After the construction of the Uffizi Gallery, Buontalenti created a roof garden above the arches of the Loggia which became a terrace from where the Medici could observe the ceremonies in the square.
Today, the Loggia dei Lanzi is one of the most spectacular terraces of Florence, connected to the Uffizi Museum. Inside, among the numerous sculptures, we can see:
- the magnificent statue of Benvenuto Cellini, Perseus, with the head of Medusa. It was commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici and was completed after nine years, showing the greek hero who holds a sword in his right hand. On the other side he keeps the decapitated head of the Medusa. The marble pedestal was richly decorated by Cellini and shows four statues depicting Jupiter, Mercury, Minerva, and Danae.
- The Rape of Sabine, by Giambologna, placed inside the Loggia dei Lanzi in 1583 by the will of Francesco I de’ Medici. For the first time in the european sculptures, more subject inside the same block of marble were depicted. Designed without a dominant point of view, it can be viewed from all sides.
- Hercules and the centaur Nessus, a less-known sculpture of Giambologna. It was built in 1599 but it was exposed for the first time only in the nineteenth century.
- Patroclus and Menelaus is a marble group that dates back to Roman times. It’s a copy of a Greek statue that was originally located in front of Ponte Vecchio.
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