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Plaster cast - Marzocco lion

Marzocco lion

  • Object:

    Plaster cast

  • Place of origin:

    Florence (city) (original, sculpted)
    Florence (city) (cast)

  • Date:

    1418-1420 (sculpted)
    ca. 1895 (cast)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Donatello, born 1385 - died 1466 (sculptor)
    Lelli, Giuseppe (cast-maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plaster cast, painted plaster

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Cast Courts, Room 46b, The Weston Cast Court , case FS, shelf N

Both the lion itself and the lily on the shield are symbols of Florence. The origin of the term Marzocco is obscure, but it may derive from Mars (Marte), the pagan protector of Florence, or possibly from St Mark, whose symbol is a lion. This early work by Donatello was much admired both because of its inherent quality, and because it can be seen as a symbol of the Florentine renaissance.

Physical description

Plaster cast of Lion after original sandstone, the shield inlaid with coloured stones. This cast was taken from the original sandstone statue of a lion by Donatello housed in the Museo Nazionale (Bargello), Florence.

Place of Origin

Florence (city) (original, sculpted)
Florence (city) (cast)


1418-1420 (sculpted)
ca. 1895 (cast)


Donatello, born 1385 - died 1466 (sculptor)
Lelli, Giuseppe (cast-maker)

Materials and Techniques

Plaster cast, painted plaster

Object history note

Purchased from Giuseppe Lelli in 1896 for £14 10s 10d

Historical context note

Both the lion itself and the lily on the shield are symbols of Florence, the red lily on the white ground being the emblem of the Guelph party. The origin of the term "Marzocco" is obscure, but it has been suggested that it derives from Mars (Marte), the pagan protector of Florence. It is conjectured that when the statue of Mars was swept from the Ponte Vecchio in the flood of 1333, it was replaced by a lion called Martocus, or the little Mars. The Marzocco originally decorated the staircase in the apartments in S. Maria Novello which were built for the visit of Pope Martin V in 1419-20. The lion was removed from this position when the staircase was demolished, possibly as early as 1515. During the restoration of the Palazzo Vecchio in 1812, Donatello's Marzocco was used to replace another earlier image of the Marzocco outside the Palazzo Vecchio. In 1885, Donatello's lion was transferred to the Museo Nazionale, and replaced by a copy.

Descriptive line

Plaster cast, painted plaster, after the sandstone lion originally in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence and now in the Museo Nazionale (Bargello), Florence, by Donatello, Florence, 1418-20. Cast by Giuseppe Lelli, in Florence, around 1895.

Labels and date

The Marzocco is a heraldic lion that is a symbol of Florence. The name may derive from Mars, the protector of the city, or possibly from St Mark, whose symbol is a lion. Donatello's sculpture of the lion was an early work, which came to symbolise the Renaissance in Florence. It was much admired in the late 19th century, when the cast was made. [2014]





Subjects depicted

Lion (animal); Shields (armor)


Ph_survey; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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