It shouldn’t be a shock that Florence is the home of some pretty incredible artwork. UNESCO claims that 60% of the world’s most important art is located in Italy, and about half of this percentage finds a home in Florence.
Some of the world’s most talented sculptors and painters hailed from Italy; many of their pieces can be found in Florence’s numerous museums, galleries and public squares. The roster of MVPs include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and all the rest of the Ninja Turtles (just kidding).
So, what is there to see?…
Michelangelo’s David is the Full Package
Sculpted somewhere between 1501 and 1504, Michelangelo’s David statue is the full package (pun intended). Standing at 17 feet tall and weighing over six tons, this masterpiece was carved out of a hunking piece of discarded stone that had been quarried for 40 years. David took up residence outside of the Palazzo Vecchio in 1504, but was later moved to the Accademia Gallery to protect it from the elements in 1873, and remains there today. You can see the real deal in the Accademia Gallery, or rather than wait in line, you can take a selfie with a full-sized replica outside of the Palazzo Vecchio.
The Original Underdog: When David Bumped off Goliath
The inspiration for David dates back to biblical times when David, a young Israeli boy, slew the giant, Goliath, with his slingshot. Upon triumph, David took Goliath’s sword and chopped off the giant’s head—the ultimate diss. This underdog story was admired by many artists at the time, so it’s common to see other works of art featuring the hero David. You go, David.
The Queen Blushed at David’s Stone Work
Fun fact: A replica of the statue was given to Queen Victoria in 1857, but she requested one small adjustment to be made. Shocked by David’s nudity, she required a plaster fig leaf to be made to cover David. Grow up, Queen Victoria.
Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus
OFF WITH HER HEAD! We aren’t talking about Alice in Wonderland, but rather Cellini’s Perseus sculpture. The statue depicts triumphant Perseus holding the severed head of Medusa in his hand, standing on her slain body. Cute, right?
Perseus is one of the first large-scale bronze sculptures to be created in one piece. This may seem like no big deal, but imagine pouring a life-sized human’s worth of molten metal into a cast in the year 1545. It’s pretty impressive.
Evil King Overplays His Hand and a Snake-Haired Monster Lady Paid the Price.
The story of Perseus is an example of the classic “king wants to get with the hero’s mom, so he sends said hero into impending peril in hopes of getting him out of the picture”. Perseus was sent to kill the gorgon, snake-haired monster lady, Medusa, and was required to bring the king her head. Perseus proved all the haters wrong by successfully defeating Medusa, resulting in glory, fame and becoming the pinnacle of many artworks throughout history.
Fun Fact: You’re so vain, Cellini. On the back of Perseus’ head, you can see the carved face of a bearded man. Many believe this is a self-portrait of Cellini.
The best part about this work of art? You can see it fo’ free, 24/7 in the Piazza della Signoria in the Loggia dei Lanzi.
Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus
The Birth of Venus, painted on canvas in the year 1486, is the first large (6 feet x 9 feet) painting to be created in this medium. Canvas was once seen as lower quality to wood, which was commonly used by painters at the time, but was selected by Botticelli to resist warping due to the humidity.
This painting was once seen as risque due to Venus’ nudity and the whole “birth from the seashell” thing, but opinions changed shortly after the interest in Roman myths and humanism came en vogue trumping the old-school, Christian artwork from the Middle Ages.
You can see it for yourself in the Uffizi Gallery.
A New Take on the Age-Old Question: “Where do Babies Come From?”
The story of the Birth of Venus stems from Roman mythology. The story goes that the god, Saturn, cut off the genitals (ouch!) of the sky god and his own father, Caelus, and threw them into the sea. The mixture of body parts and sea water melded together to birth Venus, Roman goddess of love.
Wal-Mart Does Venus
Want a replica of the Birth of Venus for your house? You can buy one at Walmart.com. Don’t believe us? See for yourself here.
There you have it, three of Florence’s great works of art. It just goes to show that in the entertainment industry, even dating back to Roman mythology, a little sex and violence sells. Check out Florence for yourself on these (and more) EFCB trips: Ultimate Europe, Europe From Amsterdam to Athens & Grand Tour of Italy