Medici lions

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This article is about the sculptures of lions with spheres. For the heraldic symbol of Florence, see Marzocco.
Fancelli's ancient lion
Vacca's lion

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[1] 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[2] marble that was first mentioned in 1594, by the sculptor Flaminio Vacca,[3] by which time it was already in the collection of Ferdinando;[4] 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.[5]

The second was made and signed[6] by Vacca, also in marble, as a pendant to the ancient sculpture at a date variously reported as between 1594 and 1598[2] or between 1570 and 1590.[7][8] The pair were in place at the Loggia dei Leoni in 1598[1] The pendant was made from a capital that had come from the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus.[8]

The Villa Medici was inherited by the house of Lorraine in 1737, and in 1787[2][9][10] the lions were moved to Florence, and since 1789[9] 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.[11] These copies were made by the French sculptor Augustin Pajou.[10]


Study of one of the Medici Lions by Giuseppe Bernardino Bison (1762–1844)

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[12] and the same period.[7] Later copies or replicas include (ordered by first year):




Russia and Ukraine[edit]

Versions in Saint Petersburg, Russia include:[23]

Versions in southern Russia and later Ukraine include:




  • Two versions outside the Cathedral de la Purisma Concepción in Cienfuegos (built 1833–69), Cuba.

United States[edit]



  • Sculptures of lions are in bronze at the staircase of the Vytautas the Great War Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania. They were donated by Lithuanian count Jonas Julius Tiškevičius (1917–1987) in 1938 from his Astravas Manor in Biržai suburb (decorative sculptures of lions that stood at the entrance to the manor were replaced with copies). Sculptures was made in Saint Petersburg's factory commissioned by Lithuanian count Jonas Tiškevčius in the middle of the 19th century.[33]



Close imitations[edit]

Slottslejonen at the Royal Palace, Stockholm

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Haskell and Penny 1981:246.
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ Vacca 1790
  4. ^ Haskell and Penny 1981:247–50.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Haskell and Penny 1981:247.
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ a b Giovanna Giusti Galardi: The Statues of the Loggia Della Signoria in Florence: Masterpieces Restored, Florence 2002. ISBN 8809026209
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ a b Augustin Pajou: royal sculptor, 1730-1809
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ on Pietro da Barga
  13. ^ a b [1]
  14. ^ [2]
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^,
  19. ^,
  20. ^,
  21. ^ The Gardens of English Heritage, by Linden Groves, Gillian Mawrey, page 102
  22. ^ "The Stowe Lions". World Monuments Fund - Britain. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  23. ^ ru:Львы Дворцовой пристани
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ Commons:File:Starosinnyi Garden.JPG
  27. ^ Documented on this image at Wikimedia Commons.
  28. ^;
  29. ^ The pair of lions originally belonged to Jacob Hoffner, a wealthy Cincinnati landowner who bequeathed them to the University upon his death in 1891. They were transported to their current location in 1904. [3]
  30. ^ [4]
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b Translated from Swedish Wikipedia.
  33. ^ Vytauto Didžiojo karo muziejaus sargai sugrįžo
  34. ^ At least three visible in File:Parc Saint-Cloud2.jpg.
  35. ^ commons:Category:Medici lions at the Château de Saint-Cloud,
  36. ^ commons:Category:Statues of lions in Pétervására
  37. ^ File:Bund garden bridge-1.jpg
  38. ^ [5]
  39. ^


  • 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.

Coordinates: 59°56′23″N 30°18′32″E / 59.93972°N 30.30889°E / 59.93972; 30.30889