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Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini


One of the most famous statues in piazza della Signoria in Florence

Perseus with the Head of Medusa is the famous statue by Benvenuto Cellini, found in Florence in piazza della Signoria, under the Loggia dei Lanzi, and one of the most important examples of Italian Mannerist sculpture.  

Cellini, one of the greatest goldsmiths of the Renaissance, was commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici to sculpt this work in 1545.

The subject is Perseus, standing over the body of Medusa and holding the recently decapitated head of the monster in one hand and his sword in the other. The bronze sculpture is full of details which make it unique: according to mythology, the hero has winged sandals for speed, the magic bag to store the head and the helmet of invisibility.

Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini
Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini

The statue had a political meaning and represented the power of the Duke who had “cut off the head” of the Republic. Medusa symbolises the Republican experiment and the snakes coming out of her body are the discords that have always affected democracy.

The fame of the statue in art history also is also owed to the extraordinary melting feat that Cellini achieved. The work was very complex as he had to create a flame at a temperature adapted to both the insufficiency of the basin and for a fire in his workshop. Once cooled, melted in one single casting, a long polishing process which started in 1549 was needed, this was finished in 1554 when the statue was presented in the square.

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