The Medici lions are a pair of marble sculptures of lions, one of which is of ancient origin, the other a 16th-century pendant; both were by 1598 placed at the Villa Medici, Rome, and since 1789 have been displayed at the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence. The sculptures depict standing male lions with a sphere or ball under one paw, looking to the side. The Medici lions have been copied, directly or with variations, in many other locations.
A pair of lions were required by Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who had acquired the Villa Medici in 1576, to serve as majestic ornaments for the villa's garden staircase, the Loggia dei leoni. The first lion originates from a 2nd-century marble that was first mentioned in 1594, by the sculptor Flaminio Vacca, by which time it was already in the collection of Ferdinando; Vacca reported that it had been found in the via Prenestina, outside Porta San Lorenzo. According to Vacca, the lion had been a relief, which was carved free of its background and reworked by "Giovanni Sciarano" or Giovanni di Scherano Fancelli, of whom little is now known.
The second was made and signed by Vacca, also in marble, as a pendant to the ancient sculpture at a date variously reported as between 1594 and 1598 or between 1570 and 1590. The pair were in place at the Loggia dei Leoni in 1598 The pendant was made from a capital that had come from the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus.
The Villa Medici was inherited by the house of Lorraine in 1737, and in 1787 the lions were moved to Florence, and since 1789 they flank the steps to the Loggia dei Lanzi at the Piazza della Signoria.
The sculptures were replaced by copies at the Villa Medici when Napoleon relocated the French Academy in Rome to the villa in 1803. These copies were made by the French sculptor Augustin Pajou.
The original Medici lions at the Villa Medici (Giovanni Francesco Venturini 1691)
Medici Lion by Augustin Pajou at the Villa Medici
The original Medici lions (1598) are since 1789 standing at the Loggia dei Lanzi, Piazza della Signoria, Florence. There is smaller bronze left-looking sculpture attributed to Italian sculptor Pietro da Barga and the same period. Later copies or replicas include (ordered by first year):
- Sculpture in bronze in the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts building, Stockholm (before 1735?).
- Sculpture in bronze at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm (1995).
- Sculpture in bronze in Nacka, Stockholm (1996).
- Sculptures in lead at Stowe House attributed to John Cheere (around 1755-1779). Formerly placed at Stanley Park, Blackpool (1927-2013).
- Sculpture in the park of Kedleston Hall, carved by Joseph Wilton (around 1760-1770).
- Two artificial stone versions are found in the garden of the Osborne House (1845–1851), Isle of Wight.
- Sculptures at the Stanley Park, Blackpool (2013). Previously the Stowe House lions were placed here (1927-2013).
- The Lion Cascade in bronze at Peterhof Palace (1799–1801).
- Sculptures in marble at the Lobanov-Rostovsky Residence (constructed 1817-1820).
- Sculptures in bronze at the staircase of the old Mikhailovsky Palace (constructed 1819-1825).
- Sculptures at the entrance of Yelagin Palace (completed 1822).
- The Lions at the Dvortsovaya pier in bronze at the Admiralty embankment (1832).
- Six pairs of marble lion sculptures at the Voronstov Palace (installed in 1848).
- Four miniature versions surrounding the Akademie- or Löwenbrunnen in the palace garden (1807–1811), Stuttgart.
- Two gilded versions as part of the Lion Fountain in front of Glienicke Palace (1824–1826), Berlin.
- Statues at the entrance of Schloss Monrepos, Ludwigsburg (of unknown origin).
- The Florentine Lions in bronze in the Fairmount Park, Philadelphia (cast in 1849, installed 1887).
- The pair of lions on the western end of the eponymous Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, Florida (constructed 1925-1927, rebuilt 2011-2012).
- Sculpture in limestone at the Museum of Outdoor Arts, Colorado (founded 1981).
- The Swedish lion in bronze in Narva, Estonia. A version of one of the Slottslejonen was first erected in 1936 but destroyed 1944 during the German occupation. A sized-down copy of the Medici Lion in the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts was re-erected in 2000.
- Several sculptures at the Terrasse des Orangers in Parc de Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine, Paris (of unknown origin).
- Parolan Leijona (Finnish for The Lion of Parola) on a four meter high pedestal in Hattula. Erected in 1868 to commemorate the 1863 visit by Alexander II of Russia.
- Slottslejonen (Swedish for The Palace Lions) in bronze, by Bernard Foucquet at the Royal Palace, Stockholm (1700–1704).
- Haskell and Penny 1981:246.
- Vacca 1790
- Haskell and Penny 1981:247-50.
- Haskell and Penny 1981:247.
- Giovanna Giusti Galardi: The Statues of the Loggia Della Signoria in Florence: Masterpieces Restored, Florence 2002. ISBN 8809026209
- Augustin Pajou: royal sculptor, 1730-1809
- answers.com on Pietro da Barga
- http://www.jarlaberg.se/konst_NackaStrand.php, http://infobank.nacka.se/ext/kultur/nackas_historia/nacka_genom_tiderna/Konst/mueller.html
- http://www.wmf.org.uk/projects/view/stowe/the_stowe_lions, http://www.hha.org.uk/DB/news/medici-lions-return-to-stowe.html
- http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2695548, http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1109087
- The Gardens of English Heritage, by Linden Groves, Gillian Mawrey, page 102
- ru:Львы Дворцовой пристани
- Documented on this image at Wikimedia Commons.
- waymarking.com; si.edu
- Translated from Swedish Wikipedia.
- At least three visible in File:Parc Saint-Cloud2.jpg.
- commons:Category:Medici lions at the Château de Saint-Cloud, larva-e.de
- commons:Category:Statues of lions in Pétervására
- File:Bund garden bridge-1.jpg
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- Flaminio Vacca, di varie antichità trovate in diversi luoghi della città di Roma, not published until 1790 (noted by Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique: the lure of classical sculpture, 1500-1900 1981).
- Michel Hochmann: Villa Medici, il sogno di un Cardinale – Collezioni e artisti di Ferdinando de’ Medici, De Luca, 1999, p. 208–11, nos. 37–40, illus. pp. 209–11
- Roberto Manescalchi Il Marzocco / The lion of Florence. In collaborazione con Maria Carchio, Alessandro del Meglio, English summary by Gianna Crescioli. Grafica European Center of Fine Arts e Assessorato allo sport e tempo libero, Valorizzazioni tradizioni fiorentine, Toponomastica, Relazioni internazionale e gemellaggi del comune di Firenze, novembre, 2005.