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the loggia dei lanzi – on piazza della signoria – is a florentine landmark. i’m sure you’ll recognise it:

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the loggia ‘by night’

(ok, well it’s a little blurry.)

(but you see what i mean.)

 

now, hundreds of tourists stroll through the loggia, this open-air gallery which houses a handful of remarkable statues: perseus; rape of the sabine women; hercules beating the centaur nessus; menelaus supporting the body of patroclus; the rape of polyxena.

 

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rape of the sabine women

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hercules beating the centaur nessus

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the loggia’s pillars adorned with lions

but what lies beneath?

the loggia dei lanzi is, like so many florentine landmarks, another story about power and power struggles. in the 16th century, the medici family developed the loggia’s art collection as an artistic platform to showcase the power and prestige of this ruling family. however, it was not always located on piazza della signoria. it was only after the medici’s expulsion from the city that the collection was re-appropriated by the new government and moved right next to the palazzo vecchio. equally, over the years, just like the collection moved, the statues making up the collection came and went. a blog post is far too short to explain the stories behind each statue; but i believe it’s important to understand the collection’s absence of permanency, it’s susceptibility to time and political change.

but perhaps more than anything else, the loggia dei lanzi is about male power. indeed, if you look at the two main statues which dominate the piazza, they are: perseus killing medusa, and the rape of the sabine women. both statues embody the mystification and mythification of sexual violence which the authorities in power undoubtedly wished to showcase. A fascinating article touches on this patriarchal and violent display: yael even, ‘the loggia dei lanzi: a showcase of female subjugation’, women’s art journal, vol. 12, n°1 (spring-summer 1990), pp.10-14.

the 6 statues at the back of the loggia, all (or almost all) sabine women, surely fall into this gendered analysis of this very public, politicised and patriarchal space. but i will think about that another day.

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view from the loggia.

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a loggia lion

with bird and bird poop on his mane.

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