Perseus by Cellini
Above all, it is Benvenuto Cellini’s masterpiece, Perseus, that is most noticeable under the refined arcade. Cellini, just returned from the French king’s court, obtained the commission directly from Cosimo I, who didn’t hesitate an instant to hire the most acclaimed artist of the moment.
The gigantic bronze statue, more than three meters high, shows Perseus balanced on one leg, offering the spectator the Medusa’s lopped-off head as a horrible trophy: the work gave a clear political message, a threat to all the enemies of the dynasty, announcing the end to the city’s republican aspirations. Cellini used all his talent as a goldsmith on the minute decorations of the helmet, the hilt of the sword, on Mercury’s wings on the hero’s ankles, and in the twisting snakes on Medusa’s hewn head.
When the statue appeared under the Loggia it provoked incredible enthusiasm among the Florentines, so much so that messages of praise, compliments, poetry and phrases of admiration were left at its feet for days. In his memoirs, Cellini tells of the epic casting of the Perseus, describing it as a furious battle against the flames, in a feverish and heroic atmosphere.