Florence, Italy was, for many centuries, the center for most of the world’s greatest sculptors and artists.
During the Italian Renaissance, many of the movement’s most notable sculptors were either from Florence, had studied there or lived in this historic city in order to sharpen their artistic skills among their most prominent colleagues.
Today, Florence is filled with an abundance of immaculate masterpieces that many consider to be among the world’s greatest sculptures.
In this article, we will examine 10 of the most famous statues in Florence and also consider the artists behind each work, as well as the purpose for each one.
Famous Statues in Florence
1. David – Michelangelo
There is no argument among the world’s leading sculpture critics and scholars that Michelangelo’s David is among the greatest statues in Florence, as well as the entire world.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, who is more commonly known as ‘Michelangelo,’ was a native of Florence as he was born in the city in 1475 during the early beginnings of the Italian Renaissance movement.
The statue of David has long been considered Michelangelo’s crowning achievement, as it stands at roughly 17 feet of flawless mastery.
Also Read: Famous Art in Florence
Michelangelo completed the statue of David very early in his career–before he was 30 years old–in 1504. The statue was originally commissioned by the local Catholic church to be one of a series of statues that would stand on the exterior of the Florence Cathedral.
However, once it was finished, anyone who viewed the work quickly agreed that such a masterpiece should not be subjected to the elements and was best kept indoors.
Today, the statue of David stands in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence and is the museum’s most popular attraction.
2. Penitent Magdalene – Donatello
Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi is another sculptor that many scholars and critics regard as the Italian Renaissance’s most important figures.
Known simply as Donatello, the artist was particularly known for producing works that were very lifelike and somewhat animated compared to the works of his colleagues.
One of Donatello’s most prominent works that’s known as Penitent Magdalene is another that is worthy of being mentioned as the most famous statues in Florence.
Also Read: Museums in Florence
Penitent Magdalene is one of the most unique sculptures anyone might expect to find on display in the city of Florence, or anywhere else that is well-known for having great artwork.
This statue was done by Donatello in 1455 and was one of the only surviving wood sculptures from the Italian Renaissance era. It is roughly 6 feet in height and depicts Mary, the mother of Jesus, with her hands clasped in front of her chest in a sign of penitence or prayer.
3. Perseus with the Head of Medusa – Benvenuto Cellini
During the height of the Italian Renaissance, Benvenuto Cellini was considered to be one of the most influential artists and sculptors in the country.
He produced a number of highly-detailed sculptures that often depicted Christian or mythological figures from Greek and Roman mythology. One of Cellini’s greatest masterpieces is a sculpture that is usually thought to be one of the greatest of any artist in the city of Florence.
Cellini’s work is known as Perseus with the Head of Medusa, and is often described as a captivating sculpture that perfectly depicts the story of how the Greek hero, Perseus, manages to kill the evil Medusa through an act of cunning bravery.
The statue is made of bronze and is believed to have been completed around 1554. The nude figure of Perseus is standing atop the crumpled body of Medusa, holding her head high in his left hand while he clutches his sword in his right.
Today, this sculpture is on display in Florence in the Piazza della Signoria, under the Loggia dei Lanzi.
4. St. George – Donatello
Another one of Donatello’s great masterpieces is worthy of being mentioned along with the best sculptures found in Florence.
This massive relief sculpture was one that Donatello completed fairly early on in his career with many historians putting the date of completion at 1417 A.D.
It was a sculpture that was commissioned by the famously wealthy guilds of Florence and was set to be one of 14 total sculptures that were to be done in the same style and manner.
The sculpture is known as St. George and depicts the famous Christian figure from the height of the Roman Empire who is known for his devotion to the faith.
According to history, St. George was known as a soldier in the Roman Empire’s Praetorian Guard under the leadership of Roman emperor Diocletian, who was sentenced to death for his refusal to recant his faith in Christ. Today, this sculpture is one display at the Bargello Museum in Florence.
5. Saint Peter – Brunelleschi
Another famous relief sculpture that can be seen in one of Florence’s most-visited museums is titled Saint Peter. This work was done by Filippo Brunelleschi, a prominent Italian sculptor who is usually regarded as one of the greatest early influential leaders of the Italian Renaissance movement.
Brunelleschi’s sculpture of the Apostle Peter is actually one of the series of 14 relief sculptures that includes Donatello’s St. George.
Also Read: Statues of Angels
This large relief sculpture stands at roughly 8 feet in height and features elaborate detail in the sculpture itself, as well as the background and framing.
Brunelleschi finished the work in 1412 A.D. and it has since remained one of the most notable depictions of Peter ever created in the sculpture medium.
Today, this masterpiece is displayed at the Museum of Orsanmichele in Florence.
6. St. Mark – Donatello
Many of Florence’s greatest sculptures depict Christian figures and Donatello’s St. Mark is usually one that critics and scholars regard as being a true masterpiece.
Donatello’s sculpture is yet another relief that was done as part of the famous 14 figures commissioned by the linen weavers’ guild of Florence.
This incredible sculpture features stunning detail in every possible aspect, according to scholars and critics who have studied or extensively viewed this relief work.
Most historians today will credit Donatello as having completed this sculpture entirely on his own in 1413, but some argue that the niche was done with the help of two of Florence’s most talented stone carvers at the time, Perfetto di Giovanni and Albizzo di Pietro.
7. Four Crowned Martyrs – Nanni di Banco
Creating a single sculpture is often a challenge for even the most gifted artists, but few were capable of producing a multi-figure sculpture in the same manner that Nanni di Banco managed to.
This great Florentine sculptor lived during the early years of the Renaissance and he was believed to have influenced such figures as Donatello and Michelangelo. This famous four-figure sculpture is known as Four Crowned Martyrs and is believed to have been completed in 1417.
This sculpture is yet another one of the 14 masterpieces commissioned by the guilds of Florence which were meant to adorn the outside of the Orsanmichele cathedral in the city.
This work was done in Apuan marble and each figure is created in what is considered to be a life-sized height and profile. Today, this great Renaissance sculpture can be viewed at the former cathedral which now serves as a museum for such masterful works.
8. Fountain of Neptune
Our list of the most famous statues in Florence would not be complete without mentioning the work known as the Fountain of Neptune.
This elaborate series of statues stands in the prominent Piazza della Signoria (Signoria square) in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
This work was initially commissioned by the famously wealthy Medici family to celebrate the marriage of Francesco de’ Medici I to Grand Duchess Joanna of Austria.
The work was commissioned and overseen by Cosimo I de’ Medici, the second Duke of Florence who was famous for his dedication to improving the artwork in and around the city. The fountain statues include various satyr figures around a standing Neptune, who is seen atop his chariot.
9. Equestrian statue of Ferdinando I – Giambologna
A popular landmark in the city of Florence is also regarded as one of the greatest pieces of artwork found in the city.
The Equestrian statue of Ferdinando I is a statue that was done by Giovanni da Bologna, who is often referred to as ‘Giambologna.’
The statue was a work that Giambologna worked on from 1602 to 1607 and it was finally erected in the Piazza of the Annunziata a year later in 1608.
10. St. John the Baptist – Ghiberti
Another one of the famous 14 relief statues that were intended to be featured along the exterior of the Orsanmichele in Florence is one that is also among the most-popular in the city.
This statue features the famous Christian figure St. John the Baptist and was done by Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1416.
The St. John the Baptist statue is a larger-than-life appearance of one of the Bible’s greatest characters and was the first bronze statue of its size to be cast in a single piece in Italy for hundreds of years.