Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Loggia dei Lanzi and Subjugation

Several years ago, I sat in the Loggia dei Lanzi (Florence) and sketched some details of the statues found there. If I had thought hard about it, I might have noticed that several of the sculptures there share an interesting commonality. See if you can find the common theme:

Giambologna, Rape of a Sabine, 1581-83

Cellini, Perseus, 1545-54
(I recently wrote a post about Perseus here.)

Pio Fedi, Rape of Polyxana, 1866

Do you notice anything? All of these sculptures have subject matter which emphasizes the subjugation of women or "man's longed-for control over woman."1 I've been reading an article this week by feminist Yael Even who reveals this common theme in the loggia space. It's quite fascinating. The most interesting thing to me, though, is that another sculpture used to be located here. Donatello's Judith and Holofernes (1456-57, shown right) was the first sculpture placed in the Piazza della Signoria (where the Loggia dei Lanzi is located). However, over time, Donatello's sculpture was shuffled around different sections of the loggia and elsewhere. In 1980, the sculpture was eventually moved (concealed?) to the inside of the Palazzo Vecchio. Yael Even points out that the difficulty with placing this sculpture has to do with the subject matter - instead of emphasizing the subjugation of women, Donatello's sculpture depicts a woman killing a man.1

When looking at all the depictions of female subjugation in the loggia, it's no wonder that this sculpture sat uneasily (literally!) with the Florentines. After all, wouldn't it make a (male) viewer uncomfortable to know that women can retaliate?

I really recommend that you read Even's article.

1 Yael Even, "The Loggia dei Lanzi: A Showcase of Female Subjugation," in Woman's Art Journal 12, no. 1 (1991): 10.

2 Ibid.