Fancelli's ancient lion
Vacca's lion

The Medici lions are a pair of marble sculptures of lions: one of which is Roman, dating to the 2nd century AD, and the other a 16th-century pendant. Both were by 1598[1] placed at the Villa Medici, Rome. Since 1789 they have been displayed at the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. The sculptures depict standing male lions with a sphere or ball under one paw, looking to the side.

Copies of the Medici lions have been made and publicly installed in over 30 other locations, and smaller versions made in a variety of media; Medici lion has become the term for the type.

The Albani lion, a similar ancient sculpture, now at the Louvre

A similar Roman lion sculpture, of the 1st century AD, is known as the Albani lion, and is now in the Louvre. Here, the stone used for the ball is different from the basalt body. Both may derive from a Hellenistic original.[2]


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[3] marble that was first mentioned in 1594, by the sculptor Flaminio Vacca,[4] by which time it was already in the collection of Ferdinando;[5] 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.[6]

The second was made and signed[7] by Vacca, also in marble, as a pendant to the ancient sculpture at a date variously reported as between 1594 and 1598[3] or between 1570 and 1590.[8][9] 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.[9]

The Villa Medici was inherited by the house of Lorraine in 1737, and in 1787[3][10][11] the lions were moved to Florence, and since 1789[10] 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.[12] These copies were made by the French sculptor Augustin Pajou.[11]


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

The original Medici lions (1598) have since 1789 stood in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Piazza della Signoria, Florence. There is a smaller bronze left-looking sculpture attributed to Italian sculptor Pietro da Barga[13] and the same period.[8] Later copies or replicas include (ordered by first year):


Staffordshire figure of a Medici lion, enamels on Lead-glazed earthenware, circa 1820.



Russia and Ukraine

Versions in Saint Petersburg, Russia include:

Versions in southern Russia and later Ukraine include:

Vytautas the Great War Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania




United States

The newly re-installed lions at the western end of the Bridge of Lions, in St. Augustine, Florida. Donated by Andrew Anderson





Close imitations

Slottslejonen at the Royal Palace, Stockholm

In popular culture

Downsized copies of the Medici lions are on display in the garden of the Corleone family estate in The Godfather (1972).

See also


  1. ^ a b Haskell and Penny 1981:246.
  2. ^ (in French)
  3. ^ a b c "Lions of Firenze". Clever Magazine.
  4. ^ Vacca 1790
  5. ^ Haskell and Penny 1981:247–50.
  6. ^ "FANCELLI, Giovanni, detto Nanni di Stocco in "Dizionario Biografico"".
  7. ^ Haskell and Penny 1981:247.
  8. ^ a b "The Medici Lion".
  9. ^ a b Giovanna Giusti Galardi: The Statues of the Loggia Della Signoria in Florence: Masterpieces Restored, Florence 2002. ISBN 8809026209
  10. ^ a b Archived 23 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b Draper, James David; Pajou, Augustin; Scherf, Guilhem; Louvre, Musée du; N.Y.), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York (16 March 1998). Augustin Pajou: royal sculptor, 1730-1809. Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 9780810965188 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ a b "Rome Off The Beaten Path Tips by von.otter".
  13. ^ "Answers - The Most Trusted Place for Answering Life's Questions".
  14. ^ a b "León | Patrimonio Nacional". Archived from the original on 17 November 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  15. ^ "León - Colección - Museo Nacional del Prado".
  17. ^ TURESPAÑA (23 April 2007). "Monforte Gardens in Valencia, Spain: Historic gardens in Valencia, Spain - in english".
  18. ^ "Lejonet & Svinet". Archived from the original on 24 November 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  19. ^ "Konstverk i Nacka Strand". Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  20. ^ "Mueller". Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  21. ^ "Stowe House, Buckinghamshire | Projects | WMF Britain". Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  22. ^ "Medici Lions return to Stowe :: Historic Houses Association". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  23. ^ "Geograph:: Medicean Lion Statue (C) Trevor Rickard".
  24. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1109087)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  25. ^ Mawrey, Gillian; Groves, Linden (24 August 2010). The Gardens of English Heritage. Frances Lincoln. p. 102. ISBN 9780711227712 – via Internet Archive.
  26. ^ "The Stowe Lions". World Monuments Fund – Britain. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  27. ^ "Saint Petersburg encyclopaedia". Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  28. ^ "Шествие львов". Archived from the original on 16 February 2010. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  29. ^ "Ошибка на странице".
  30. ^ "Category:West Spit of Yelagin Island (Pier with lions) - Wikimedia Commons".
  31. ^ Zharikov, N. L. (1983–1986). "Vorontsovsky dvorets, 1830–1846". Monuments of urban development and architecture in the UkSSR (in Russian). Vol. 1–4. Kyiv: Budivel'nyk. p. 301. LCCN 84179019.
  32. ^ Commons:File:Starosinnyi Garden.JPG
  33. ^ "Category:Medici lion at the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine Botanical Garden - Wikimedia Commons".
  34. ^ File:Schloss Monrepos Detail3.jpg
  35. ^ "Florentine Lions - Philadelphia, PA - Lion Statues on".
  36. ^ "Medici Lion, 3D Model". 30 November 2021.
  37. ^ "About the Bowdoin College Museum of Art". 30 November 2021.
  38. ^ "History of McMicken College, University of Cincinnati". 17 July 2013. Archived from the original on 17 July 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  39. ^ "Lions Restored To St. Augustine Bridge - Jacksonville News Story - WJXT Jacksonville". 14 July 2011. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  40. ^ "Lion's Den Museum of Outdoors Arts". 26 September 2008. Archived from the original on 26 September 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  41. ^ "Vytauto Didžiojo karo muziejaus sargai sugrįžo". Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  42. ^ At least three visible in File:Parc Saint-Cloud2.jpg.
  43. ^ commons:Category:Medici lions at the Château de Saint-Cloud, Archived 5 September 2012 at
  44. ^ commons:Category:Statues of lions in Pétervására
  45. ^ Renovated in 2007 to include the ball under the paw. Produced around 1818, they were commissioned by Charles Geary Esq, for inclusion in the new Masonic Hall in York Street, Bath, which was opened on 23 September 1819 with great ceremony, by the Grand Master of England, HEH the Duke of Sussex, attended by 800 to 1000 Freemasons in full regalia. 'The Historic Guide to Bath 1864' records the event and details "the master's chair stood on a throne of black and white marble, supported by lions, their feet resting on balls." The elaborate building immediately ran into financial trouble and soon closed. In 1842, Geary, having secured the debts and in order to pay them off, sold the hall to the Society of Friends, in whose care it remains, and the elaborate contents (known as 'The Bath Furniture') to Loyal Lodge No 251, Barnstable, Devon, where they also remain to this day. The lions, however, did not make the trip, legend suggesting there was no cart available to transport them. They were, therefore, presented to the city and the same 'The Historic Guide to Bath 1864' later records "At the side entrances, over the Queen's Gate, leading to the Royal Avenue are Bronzed Lions, presented by Mr. Geary." They were restored in 2007.[citation needed]
  46. ^ "Patrimonio Históríco-Artístico. Documental y Bibliográfico".
  47. ^ STT. "Parolan leijona trimmataan kuntoon". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  48. ^ Lynda Lewis & Jim Webster (26 December 2021). "The Man Who Carved a Lion. The story of Henry John Wilkinson 1829 – 1911". BajanThings. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  49. ^ Dr. Edward Cecil Harris, MBE, PHD, FSA, Director Emeritus, National Museum of Bermuda (September 2017). The Sphinx of Inverurie (PDF). National Museum of Bermuda Press. pp. 19–21. ISBN 978-0-947481-03-2. Retrieved 28 December 2021.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)


43°46′9.13″N 11°15′20.37″E / 43.7692028°N 11.2556583°E / 43.7692028; 11.2556583