giovedì 5 gennaio 2012


Walking in Piazza Signoria, the outstanding sculpture of Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini fascinates me always as the first time. It proudly dominates the left side of the Loggia dei Lanzi, a space first created to host public ceremonies of the government, then transformed by Cosimo I dei Medici into an outdoor museum of ancient sculptures, paert of the Medici collection.

This is the only sculpture expressly conceived for that position by Cosimo I in 1554 with a precise and clear  political meaning: the symbol of the "cut" with the republic and the beginning of his rulership. And a cut is what we have in front of us...precisely the cut of the head of the Medusa defeated by the mythological hero.
The statue of Perseus under  the loggia dei Lanzi
Piazza Signoria
Benvenuto Cellini tells us about the extraordinary casting of this bronze statue in his biography, decribing it as an epic enterprise. This was created by a unique bronze casting differently from the previous bronze sculptures of this dimension which were usually created by assembling different pieces.

Mr. Cellini left us his signature on the shoulder belt of the hero and as if it were not enough, using the hair of Perseus as beard he also left his self portrait on the back of the helmet.

Besides the story of its casting, what fascinates me of this scultpure is the mythological history of Perseus. His mother Danae was stucked in a room underground by her father Acrisio because he did not want her to make children. A prophecy said that the birth of Danae's son would have caused the death of his father or grandfather.

Nevertheless Zeus managed to possess Danae by transforming himself into a golden rain. From the union of them Perseus was born. Danae's father got very angry and sent his daughter and the baby Perseus on a boat away from the island. They approached the the island of Serifo, which was ruled by Polidette, a tyran who wanted to possess Danae. But Perseus was now a young and strong boy who protected his mother. So Polidette invented a trick to send Perseus away, by inviting him to lunch and asking a present. Perseus offered to bring as a present the head of Medusa, one of the gorgons, a terrible monster with snakes instead of hair who had the power tonturn into stone those who watched her in the eyes.
Medusa just after the cut of the head
in a painting by Caravaggio
He left Serifo with a sword given to him by Ermes, winged sandals received by the nymphs, a magic helmet (Ade helmet) which made him invisible and finallya shild given by Athena. Thanks to these magic trick ans most of all thanks to the shield where Medusa reflexed herself, Perseus  beheaded Medusa and from her neck came out Pegaso, the winged horse (born by the union of Medusa with Poseidon).

So many events behind a hero, so many things to tell in front of this amazing sculpture.

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