On 25 May 1540, on the feast of Pentecost, Duke Cosimo I accompanied by his family and by his retinue, left the old Palazzo Medici in Via Larga and established himself in Palazzo della Signoria. To defend the Duke and his palazzo, a garrison of Landsknechts kept watch in the ancient Loggia dei Priori, which since then has been called the Loggia dei Lanzi. The three hundred Landsknechts summoned to Florence by the Duke to act as his personal guard were accommodated in the houses close to the loggia.
Benvenuto Cellini’s 1545 bronze sculpture of Perseus with the head of Medusa
Cosimo I de’ Medici, commissioned the work with specific political connections to the other sculptural works in the piazza. When the piece was revealed to the public on 27 April 1554, Michaelangelo’s David, Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus, and Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes were already erected in the piazza. The subject matter of the work is the mythological story of Perseus beheading Medusa. Medusa was an ugly-faced woman whose hair was turned to snakes and anyone that looked at her was turned to stone. Perseus stands naked except for a sash and winged sandals, triumphant on top of the body of Medusa with her snakey head in his raised hand. The body of Medusa spews blood from her severed neck. The bronze sculpture and Medusa’s head turns men to stone.
David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created between 1501 and 1504, by the Italian artist Michelangelo. It is a 5.17-metre (17.0 ft) marble statue of a standing male nude. The statue represents the Biblical hero David, a favoured subject in the art of Florence. Originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roofline of the east end of Florence Cathedral, the statue was instead placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence, where it was unveiled on 8 September 1504. Because of the nature of the hero that it represented, it soon came to symbolize the defence of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici family. The eyes of David, with a warning glare, were turned towards Rome. The statue was moved to the Accademia Gallery in Florence in 1873, and later replaced at the original location by a replica.
Fountain of Neptune
The Neptune figure, whose face resembles that of Cosimo I de' Medici, was meant to be an allusion to the dominion of the Florentines over the sea. The figure stands on a high pedestal in the middle of an octagonal fountain. The pedestal in the middle is decorated with the mythical chained figures of Scylla and Charybdis. The statue of Neptune is a copy made in the nineteenth century, while the original is in the National Museum.