Where can you admire the most famous statues in Florence? Here you’ll find the top 8 statues and sculptures that every art lover look out for during a trip to Florence!
There’s the iconic statue of David, that made Michelangelo immortal. Donatello’s David that changed the course of art history. Splendid masterpieces by Cellini and Giambologna. And some quintessential Florentine sculptures that are all very much part of Florence’s history!
If you love art and sculptures, then Florence is definitely the destination for you. As the cradle of the Renaissance, it was here that a real revolution in art history happened during the 1400’s. Artists were re-discovering techniques used by the ancients, and learning how to infuse their statues with realism and expressivity, to go beyond the static stylisation that was typical of the previous Gothic style.
Famous sculptures in Florence you must see
1. The Statue of David by Michelangelo. The king of them all.
Michelangelo’s David is one of the most celebrated statues of all times. When Michelangelo was commissioned to create a sculpture for the buttresses of Florence’s cathedral in 1501, nobody could have foreseen the result. A marble giant that took four days and forty men to be transported to Piazza Signoria. Because of its size, it was in fact impossible to lift it into place on the Cathedral. The Florentine Republic decided to place the grand David outside Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of the government.
Where is the original Statue of David today? You find it in the Accademia Gallery. A copy still stands outside the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio, and another one is at Piazzale Michelangelo.
His manly beauty and strength are immediately striking. David is caught in the instant before the killing, muscles tense, eyes fixed on the enemy. Through his work Michelangelo was following the lessons of the ancients, who used the ideal beauty of the naked body to represent power and high virtues.
David was a popular subject for Florentine art, a symbol of victory of the virtuous over brutal enemies. Like young David who defeated Goliath the giant with his sling, using his faith and courage against the brutal violence of his opponent, Florence was a small Republic fighting for its freedom against great powers.
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it“Michelangelo
2. New Sacristy, San Lorenzo Church – Marble metaphors for the passing of time, by Michelangelo
Another unmissable stop to admire Michelangelo’s famous sculptures in Florence is the New Sacristy, a magnificent room which is part of the Medici Chapel. This chapel was created to accomodate the tombs of the all-powerful Medici family.
The four figures reclining on the funerary monuments bring pathos and movement to the otherwise geometrical space. The statues are allegories of Time, and with their pensive and severe looks, are reminders of how brief our life on earth is. Dawn and Dusk guard the tomb of Lorenzo de’ Medici Duke of Urbino. On the opposite side is the tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici Duke of Nemours, decorated with the sculptures of Night and a severe looking Day.
3. Famous statues in Florence – David by Donatello | Bargello Museum
Michelangelo wasn’t the first one to carve a statue of David. Another famous David, the first free standing (and naked!) statue since antiquity, was done by Donatello. The Florentine sculptor who among other artists, like Brunelleschi or Masaccio, helped kick off the Renaissance. Donatello studied classic statues in Rome and experimented with forms and techniques, giving life to sculptures that had a new expressivity and realism.
More famous statues at the Bargello => In the stunning Donatello Hall you can also admire Verrocchio’s David, and the Statue of Saint George by Donatello.
=> Discover the Top 10 Unmissable Museums in Florence for art lovers.
4. Mercury by Giambologna | Bargello
Another highlight of the Bargello is the bronze statue of Mercury, by Giambologna. The Flemish artist was very active in Florence in the 16th century, and become one of the leading artists, working steadily for the Medici.
His style and creativity were much lauded, and Mercury is considered one of his best works. Here the Roman god is shown as if in flight, blown along by a cherub. It’s a great example of Mannerist style, that was noted for the exaggerated poses and depiction of human movement.
5. Abduction of a Sabine Woman (“Ratto delle Sabine”) by Giambologna | Piazza Signoria
Abduction of a Sabine Woman is one of the most renowned works of sixteenth-century Italian art. You can admire it under the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza Signoria. Giambologna, who was already famous in Florence, wanted to prove himself with a complex and dramatic multi-figure group. When it was unveiled, Florentines admired the sculptor’s skills and originality of his monumental work.
The three figures – the woman being abducted, the man struggling to protect her and the aggressor – give a sense of struggle and fearful movement, as they move upward in a snake-like pattern known as figura serpentinata (‘serpe‘ means snake in Italian), that was popular with Mannerist artists.
=> If you walk around Piazza Signoria, you can also see the Equestrian Statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici by Giambologna.
6. Perseus with the head of Medusa by Cellini | Piazza Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is the perfect place to admire some more famous sculptures in Florence. And this might be the most impressive of all. If the amazing details that show the exceptional skills of Cellini won’t impress you, the goriness of the subject will.
The handsome hero Perseus looks proud as he holds high the severed head of the Medusa. Blood is gushing from the head and the still warm body on which he stands. Macabre, horrifying, and beautiful.
=> If you want to know what Cellini looked like, head to the Ponte Vecchio. There’s a bronze bust that commemorates the master, who was also a skilled goldsmith.
7. The Marzocco – Lion symbol of Florence by Donatello | Bargello
As you walk around Florence, you’ll spot more than a few lions (made of stone, of course!). But the most famous of all sits inside the Bargello Museum. It’s the Marzocco – lion symbol of the Republic of Florence – sculpted by Donatello in 1420 in local grey stone pietra serena. This is a special animal, as you can see from the fact that it’s resting its paw on the city’s coat of arm: the Florentine iris (giglio di Firenze).
You can see a copy today in Piazza Signoria, where it was originally destined. It has wise eyes and a lush mane, realistic and almost human in his expression.
=> Check out 20 Ways to Experience the real Florence
8. Statue of Dante Alighieri | Santa Croce Square
Dante Alighieri, the author of the Divine Comedy and father of the Italian language, was born in Florence. And the city, despite the controversial relationship with this famous son – who was exiled and never allowed to go back – dedicated a statue to him in 1865. Right outside the Church of Santa Croce – burial place of the greats – you find this impressive monumental sculpture of Dante holding his masterpiece. Sculpted in white marble, he looks grand, but his eyes seem severe. Maybe he’s still upset he wasn’t buried in his city.
The fountain of the Porcellino => we cannot leave out the popular Porcellino fountain, the bronze statue that serves as a fountain. You find it in Piazza Mercato Nuovo, near Piazza della Repubblica.