Yesterday, Francesco Vezzoli’s La Pietà was unveiled as part of the permanent art collection at the Palazzo Vecchio.
Installed in the city hall’s third courtyard, the striking sculpture features a 20th-century rampant lion on an old plinth intent on crushing a second-century BCE Roman head between its jaws. It’s not the first time that the artwork has been seen in Florence. A medley of different artistic eras, the sculpture was presented during the 2022 Francesco Vezzoli in Florence show in piazza della Signoria and the Studiolo di Francesco I in the Palazzo Vecchio.
“We are delighted that the lion is back and has found a new protective home after last year’s show,” remarked Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella. “We’re proud of this new season that takes the challenge of exchange and, sometimes, conflict, between the Renaissance and the contemporary with artists like Fabre, Koons, Penone and now Francesco Vezzoli. “I’d like to thank Francesco for this gift, which will remain with us forever to adorn this courtyard.”
In Florence, the lion has always been exemplified by the Marzocco, which has stood strong since the times of the Florentine Republic, founded in 1115 as an emblem of the defence of civic freedom. Donatello carved the original Marzocco, now housed in the Bargello, whereas a copy dominates the front steps of the Palazzo Vecchio. Two more lions, one ancient and the other more modern, guard the entrance to the Loggia dei Lanzi. Other lion figures adorn the entryway into the Michelozzo Courtyard at city hall, a golden lion tops the weather vane on the Arnolfo Tower, and decorative lions make their presence felt in the Dogana courtyard and in the Sala dei Gigli. While the Marzocco traditionally protects the symbol of Florence, the giglio, in its claws, Vezzoli’s contemporary sculpture is intent on crushing a Roman head between its jaws, and in so doing proudly destroying a fragment of a lost civilization.