Sculptures from the Boboli Gardens

The Dwarf Morgante Riding a Tortoise

One of the best known sculptures in the Boboli Gardens is that of the dwarf Morgante riding a tortoise. According to the theoretician of art and author of Lives of the Artists Giorgio Vasari, Cosimo I de’ Medici commissioned the work between 1561 and 1564 from the Settignano-born sculptor Valerio Cioli (1529/30-1599), a pupil of Niccolò Tribolo. Ciolo’s figure of the naked, obese and ageing Morgante was modelled on the real-life dwarf of the same name at the court of the Grand Duke Cosimo I. We find in it reminiscences of ancient representations of the wine god Bacchus. But Cioli’s representation of the dwarf, with his right hand stretched forward in a gesture of peace and amity, is also indebted to the ancient equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which he could have studied in detail during his stay in Rome in 1548/49. Cioli’s response to the illustrious prototype, however, is parodic: the dwarf’s ride on the tortoise is given a farcical dimension not only by the grotesque figure of the rider, but also by the legendary slowness and inertia of the animal. In this sense, the statue reflects the interest of the contemporary public in satirical representations. The sculpture was originally installed under a pergola on the garden façade of the Palazzo Pitti, but was converted into a fountain figure in 1579 and moved to the north-eastern entrance to the Boboli Gardens. There it was replaced by a copy in 1986, while the original, after thorough restoration, was rehoused in the Stanzonaccio.

Frontal view

Oblique view from the right

Side view from the left

Rear view

Rear view from the right

Side view from the right

Oblique view from the left

Detail: head of Morgante

Detail: head of Morgante in three-quarter profile

© KHI in Florence | 24.09.2020 23:04:25