Which are the most famous statues in Italy, and the most famous Italian sculptures? From south to north we selected the most famous, most beautiful, and most popular Italian statues you should know about! We’ll be focusing on Italian Renaissance sculptures mostly since this was the most shining period in the history of Italian arts. You’ll find not only famous artworks by famous artists, but you’ll also find some works that are about famous artists. And we’ve got one black sheep on the list too! Well, actually it’s a golden one, which became really popular among tourists, also for the belief behind it.
15 Most Famous Italian statues
You’ll notice in our list of famous statues in Italy, that many works are from the same artist. It’s no doubt that this artist was the master of Italian renaissance sculptures, and he’s one of the biggest names in the world of Italian artwork. Who is this person, do you know? He made one of the most famous statues in Florence Italy, as well as many incredible pieces of art that you can find in Rome.
He would be Michelangelo Buonarotti. Of course, it’s not only him and his work on this list, so let’s get into it! Also, if you want to see more artworks from Italy, make sure you check our list of the most famous fountains in Rome and the facts about the Trevi Fountain! Oh, and of course let’s not forget the best museums in Italy!
1. Michelangelo’s David
The most famous of all Italian statues today is definitely the David statue by Michelangelo! When it comes to Italy artwork and Italian sculptures, I’m sure in one way or another you already heard/seen this David statue. It’s exhibited in Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. This is also one of the most important museums in Florence you should visit!
David was made of white Carrara marble by Michelangelo between 1501 and 1504. This is a really imposing work, having 5 meters in height, and it weighs 5 tons! Once the statue was exposed in the most important square of Florence, Piazza della Signoria. It was standing right at the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, which was the government building of Florence.
Until the 16th century, it was the residence of the Dukes of Florence, closing with the Medici family who moved to the Pitti Palace. The David statue was symbolising the Republican power, but later it was replaced with a copy that you can see today in the Piazza della Signoria. To protect the statue, they moved it to the Accademia Gallery.
2. Michelangelo’s Pieta
Right after one of the most famous statues in Florence Italy, we should take our attention to the Vatican City, and Michelangelo’s other perfect work, the Pieta. If you’re visiting Rome, the Vatican is always one of the must-see things, especially when it comes to Italian art, not only spirituality and religion. The Pieta is exhibited in the marvelous St Peter Basilica, on the right side right after you enter.
Pieta is one of the most famous Italian sculptures, and it’s one of the most important pieces of artwork in the Renaissance. As mentioned, the Pieta was made by Michelangelo between 1497 and 1499, while he was still really young (about 24 years old) and this is also the only work he has ever signed. Pieta represents the Virgin Mary holding the body of the dead Christ.
3. Apollo and Daphne
Apollo and Daphne is probably one of my favorites of all the famous statues in Italy. This is one of the most beautiful Italian renaissance sculptures exhibited in the beautiful Galleria Borghese in Rome. In Galleria Borghese, there are plenty of pieces of unique artwork from Italy exhibited, and many of Michelangelo’s works are also there.
Apollo and Daphne were made by my second favorite Italian artist, Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1622. You can find many of Berninis’ works around Rome too, especially fountains. Apollo and Daphne is representing a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphosis.
Apollo was in love with Daphne, a nymph, but it was also a one-sided love. Daphne wanted to escape this unwanted love. She then asked her father to turn her into a laurel tree. The scene you see on this artwork is when Daphne’s fingers and hair started already to turn into leaves. An incredible piece!
4. Rape of Proserpina
Rape of Proserpina is definitely one of the most beautiful artwork from Italy you should see! This stunning piece is also exhibited in the Galleria Borghese in Rome! So if you visit the Gallery, you’ll find more pieces of Italian art from our list. Rape of Proserpina was made by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. He made it when he was 23 years old in 1621.
The sculpture also represents a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, when god Pluto is kidnapping Proserpina. This work is one of the most realistic, most detailed of Bernini’s works. You can see the tear on Proserpina’s cheek and Pluto’s fingers leaving signs on her skin. It’s an incredibly beautiful work commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese.
Another of the most famous Italian statues you must see, and one of the most beautiful Italian sculptures is Moses. When it comes to famous Italy artwork, it’s no surprise that our 5th piece was also made by Michelangelo. The sculpture can be found in the Basilica of S. Pietro in Vincoli in Rome. A piece you shouldn’t miss!
Michelangelo created this work between 1513 and 1515 and it’s considered one of the most important masterpieces in Renaissance artwork. Moses was commissioned as an ornament for the tomb of Pope Giulio II. The piece represents Moses sitting and holding the Tablets of the Law. Legend said that Michelangelo loved this work so much that he threw his hammer at it asking Moses why isn’t he speaking? It looked so perfectly real.
6. Laocoön and His Sons
Laocoön and His Sons is another beautiful artwork you should see! In one of the most important museums for Italian art, you can find this masterpiece in the Vatican Museum in Rome. This piece of art is one of the most important artworks from ancient times. Laocoön and His Sons seem like it was commissioned somewhere between 27 BC and 68 AD, but larger dates were suggested earlier, ranging from about 200 BC to the 70s AD.
Artists are believed to be Agesander of Rhodes, Polydoros, Athanadoros, Athenodoros of Rhodes, Polydorus of Rhodes. Laocoön and His Sons were excavated and placed in the Vatican in 1506. The sculpture represents a scene from Aeneid: the priest and his sons are taken by a giant sea snake after they told the Trojans to not let the wooden horse in the city. It was found around the remains of the villa of Emperor Titus so they believe it belonged to him.
7. Perseus with the head of Medusa
Perseus with the head of Medusa is one of the most famous statues in Italy and one of the highlights of statues in Florence Italy. You can find this masterpiece of famous Italian sculptures in the heart of Florence, on Piazza della Signoria in the sculpture gallery that’s right near the Palazzo Vecchio. Perseus with the head of Medusa is one of the most outstanding pieces there too!
Perseus with the head of Medusa was made by Benvenuto Cellini i the 15th century. A bronze statue that now is in the Loggia dei Lanzi, where all the public ceremonies and events took place under the rule of the Medici Family. The artwork represents Perseus standing on the corpse of Medusa and holding her head. This represented the power of the Medici family in the republic.
8. Veiled Christ
Veiled Christ is one of the most important Italian sculpture and artwork from Italy when it comes to Christianity. The amazing work was made by Giuseppe Sanmartino in 1753. Giuseppe was a young local artist who was commissioned to reproduce the dead body of Christ which would be covered by a shroud.
When I said local, I meant Naples. You can find the Veiled Christ in Sansevero Chapel is Naples. Giuseppe was really talented in sculping and we can state that out just by looking at this detail in the photo. This is only a piece of the whole body. Now as you can see, the details are made so perfect that the shroud actually looks like a light veil, while it’s made of marble!
9. La Madonnina
La Madonnina stands for one of the most famous Italian statues, but it’s also hard to see its details. An Italian artwork on top of the spires of a cathedral. La Madonnina was made by Giuseppe Perego in 1775, and it has been the symbol of Milan ever since. Yes, this statue is in Milan, on the spire of the Duomo di Milano.
La Madonnina is representing the Virgin Mary who has always been protecting the city from the spire of the cathedral. No building, skyscraper, or anything in Milan can be higher than La Madonnina. This means the maximum height of a building in Milan can be 108 meters. There’s an interesting way out though if there are copies placed of La Madonnina on top of the skyscrapers.
10. Hercules and Cacus
Another of famous statues in Italy is Hercules and Cacus. This is another highlight of Italian Renaissance sculptures to find in Florence. Hercules and Cacus is also located on Piazza della Signoria The sculpture was created by Baccio Badinelli in 1533. The statue is standing right at the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio, so you can find it easily.
Hercules and Cacus represent the victory of the strength and intelligence of Hercules of Cacus’ weakness. The work is reproducing a scene from the mythic saga of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Now, Baccio Bandinelli was envious of Michelangelo and he tried so hard to surpass him, but his work wasn’t ever considered on the same level as Michelangelo.
11. Juliet’s Statue in Verona
The statue of Juliet is today one of the most famous Italian sculptures. It’s not because it was made by one of the biggest artists in Italy artwork history. It’s mostly thanks to tourism promotion and movies like Letters to Juliet, on side of the course of the fact that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet made Verona really famous for visitors.
The Juliet statue is placed in the courtyard of Juliet’s House in Verona. This house is on a small street right off Piazza delle Erbe, and there’s a sign saying Casa di Giulietta so you can’t miss it. Juliet’s statue was made in 1969 by Nereo Costantini. Since the belief of touching Juliet’s breast will bring you love is really known, the original statue had to be replaced with a copy to protect it. The original statue is exhibited in Giulietta’s house museum so when you visit the courtyard, you might as well see the original piece too.
12. Vittorio Emmanuele II
When you’re looking for imposing Italian statues, you should pay attention to the Vittorio Emmanuele II statue in Milan. This Italian artwork stands on Piazza del Duomo in Milan, facing the most important cathedral of Milan, which is also the 2nd biggest church in Italy. Now, the Vittorio Emmanuele II was created in 1896 in honor of the late Italian king.
The work was done by Ercole Rosa and the Barzaghi brothers. Vittorio Emmanuele II is sitting on his horse, holding it back actually to turn back and encourage his army during the battle of S. Martin. This was the decisive battle of the war of independence in Italy. When it comes to the size of the artwork, including its base, it reaches almost 18 meters.
13. Dante Alighieri
There are many Dante Alighieri statues in Italy. Besides the one I’ll present today, one of my favorite Dante statues is actually up north in Trento. It’s standing on the square just near the train station, and it’s just stunning. On this list, however, I decided to pick this Dante Alighieri statue which is in Florence, right outside of the Santa Croce basilica. This is an artwork Italy has about Dante that I believe deserves more attention.
When it comes to famous statues in Italy, we simply can not miss the father of Italian literature. So when it comes to Italian art and Dante, if you’re in Florence, make sure to visit Piazza Santa Croce. This Dante Alighieri sculpture was made by Enrico Pazzi, an artist from Ravenna in 1865. The beautiful work was first placed in the center of the piazza, but after a flood in the 60s’, they decided to give it a new place that also stands higher.
14. Leonardo da Vinci
The Leonardo da Vinci statue is located in the heart of Milan. An Italian sculpture of one of the biggest Italian names of the Renaissance, father of the most famous artwork Italy has, like the Last Supper which is also in Milan. The Leonardo da Vinci statue is on Piazza della Scala, a few minutes away from the Duomo di Milano, and across the street from the famous opera house, Teatro alla Scala.
This work was created by Pietro Magno in 1872 on the occasion of the Second National Exhibition. The statue reveals Leonardo looking down with his arms crossed like he would be thinking. Leonardo da Vinci has a long history with the city of Milan, therefore it’s expected for his imposing statue to be right in the heart of the city. You can’t miss it!
15. Venus Victrix
We are taking back our list of famous statues in Italy once again to Galleria Borghese in Rome, the home of much Italian artwork. The last on our list of artwork from Italy, specifical sculptures is the incredible Venus Victrix by Antonio Canova. The sculpture was made between 1805-1808 in white marble. Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix is a semi-nude life-size neoclassical portrait sculpture.
Canova revived the ancient Roman artistic traditions and the beautiful female form to create this piece. The sculpture was commissioned by Pauline Bonaparte’s husband, Camillo Borghese. The detailed art, even on this picture above makes it seem that the pillows and mattress are actually real ones. Before arriving at Galleria Borghese in 1838, it was moved around Turin and Genoa in Camillo’s houses.
Wrapping up the 15 most famous Italian statues
Now that we’ve gone through some of the most famous statues in Florence Italy, and the overall most famous Ital sculptures and artwork Italy has as the legacy of the past, make sure you check other topics too in our magazine! If you’d like to learn more about Italian art, you should definitely check our articles for the most famous artworks of Michelangelo and Bernini.
We also cover beyond famous Italian sculptures and Italian renaissance sculptures some travel topics too. If you want to know what are the best things to do in Florence, or the best things to do in Rome beyond sculptures, make sure you check out our articles for those too! We also cover some facts about the Italian flag and a list of the regions of Italy.