Among the statues present today in the Loggia della Signoria or dei Lanzi, the bronze statue of Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini is probably the most important statue and an extraordinary work from the artistic and technical point of view, considered a masterpiece of the Italian manieristic sculpture and one of the statues more famous of Piazza della Signoria in Florence.
The bronze statue is under the left arch of the Loggia della Signoria.
Benvenuto Cellini, florentine artist, began to work to the Perseus in August 1545 and its realization will hold him occupied for approximately nine years, the statue was commissioned to him from Cosimo I, after his appointment as Duke of the city.
The job began with the preparation of two models, unique pieces also these, in wax and bronze today conserved in the national Museum of Bargello in Florence. In that age the great sculptures always came fused to pieces and then assembled, Cellini wanted instead to complete what nobody other had tried: the sculpture, made exception for some details (the sword, the wings of the boot and the helmet, the streams of blood that exit from the behaed neck of the Medusa) was fused in a single jet with approximately 18 quintals of bronze and the fusion, apart a detail of the right ankle, succeeded perfectly.
The extraordinary history of the fusion of the statue is described from the same Benvenuto Cellini in his autobiography “the Life”, in a splendid page of the Italian literature. On 27 April 1554 the statue was inaugurated, between the astonishment of the Florentines, and put in Piazza della Signoria, under the Loggia, close to the statue of “Giuditta” of Donatello and little far away from the “David” of Michelangelo who, in those years, were all in Piazza della Signoria (now they are respectively in Palazzo Vecchio and in the Gallery of the Academy (Galleria dell’Accademia)).
The mythological figure of Perseus comes from Greek mythology, Perseus borned from the union of Danae with Giove, the boy later on was collected with his mother in a basket adrift from the king Polidette, which, wishing to marry Danae, sent Perseus cunningly to fight Medusa, hoping in the dead of the boy.
These instead not only gained and beheaded Medusa, but in the return travel he freed also Andromeda from a horrible monster and returned to house murdered king Polidette. The statue of Perseus that holding the head of Medusa, monster with snakes in the place of hair, must serve as warning to the enemies of Cosimo I, it represents in fact the affirmation of the Duke that “cut” the republican experiences, represented from Medusa.
The statue is 5,19 m. (comprised the base) tall, the base is of marble, and is supplied of niches in which Cellini has placed the bronze statues of Mercury, Minerve, Jupiter and Danae (the bronze statues are copies, the origianals are today conserved in the Museum of Bargello). Cellini, reproduced in the posterior side of the helmet of Perseus his bearded self-portrait and on the Perseo’s shoulder-belt, he signed the work with his name.