Jean Boulogne, better known as Giambologna was born in 1529 in Douai, Flanders and lived until his death on August 13th 1608 in Florence.  Giambologna was mainly a sculptor in marble and bronze statuary.  He was originally influenced in his time spent in Rome, where he moved to in 1550.  His main influence was Michaelangelo.  While he was there he was initially trained under Jacques Dubroeucq, a Flemish sculptor who worked with an Italian style. [1]. While he was in Rome he met Willelm Tedrode who was already an assistant to Cellini.  In 1552 Giambologna moved from Rome to Florence where he worked closely with Bernardo Vecchietti.  Through Bernardo Vecchietti he was introduced to the court of Duke Cosimo and his son Francesco de Medici [2]. By the middle of the 1560s he was firmly established as the court sculptor of the Medici family [3]. Initially he lost the competition to create the “Neptune” as the monumental centerpiece for a fountain in the Piazzi della Signoria in Florence. Because of this effort, he was commissioned to Bologna in order to produce a bronze sculpture of a Fountain of Neptune for the city centre, which occurred between 1563 and 1567.  Also to note, once he starting working under Medici he was never allowed to leave Florence, as they were afraid that The Austrians or Spanish would hire him permanently.

Samson Slaying a Philistine

Samson Slaying a Philistine

One of Giambologna’s earliest works was his marble sculpture of “Samson Slaying a Philistine”.  It was done in 1562 at the request of Francesco de Medici.  It was influenced by an abandoned commission of Michaelangelo in the 1520s to create a pair to his famous statue of David in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.  It was eventually moved to Spain as a diplomatic gift, and then presented to the Prince of Wales from King Philip IV and then was given to King Charles I in 1623, eventually moving to the Duke of Buckingham before eventually settling in the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1954 [3].

Another well known work of Giambologna was his depiction of “Florence Triumphant over Pisa”.  It was made around 1575, and it was made out of marble, similar to many of his other works.  It was made with assistance from Pietro Francavilla, who was Giambologna assistant and right hand man.  This work is in the style of Michaelangelo, showing how the winner dominated the loser [4].  It was requested by the Great Council Hall of the Palazzo Cecchio in preparation for the wedding of Francesco I and Joanna of Austria.  It is in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence.

Florence Triumphant Over Pisa.jpeg

Florence Triumphant Over Pisa.jpeg

One of Giambologna’s most famous works was his sculpture of “The Rape of the Sabine Women”.  In this context, rape did not mean its current meaning, instead it meant abduction.  It has been made clear that no sexual assault was done for this, and the women were even promised the civic and property rights.  The sculpture stands 4 meters 10 inches high, so quite large on this scale.  The sculpture was made of marble, and it shows a man lifting a woman in the air while another man crouches down.  According to Giambolgna this sculpture could be applied to the universal metaphor of love that conquers all, but still showing the fierce dimension of it with using a very vulgar means of expression.  It is meant to show the natural expression associated with this event, the charming women, and the devastated and beaten character of the old husband, as the woman is being taken away by the younger and better looking young lover. [5]. He expresses them as in they are rotating upwards and growing on the pedestal.  The Rape of the Sabine Women was depicted in many works of art throughout Italy, but Giambologna truly gave it a unique touch that made it seem much more natural. It was put onto display in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria in Florence.  It is currently on display at the Accademia Gallery in Florence. It is most often described in the Baroque style. It is regarded as his most famous piece of work.

The Rape of the Sabine Woman

The Rape of the Sabine Woman

References

  1. “Giambologna” Britannica Online

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/232910/Giambologna

  1. “Jean de Boulogne Biography” Il Giambologna a Firenze

http://giambologna.comune.fi.it/biografia.php?lang=eng

  1. “Samsin Slaying a Philistine by Giambologna” Victoria and Albert Museum

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/giambolognas-samson-and-a-philistine/

  1. “The Rape of the Sabine Women” Il Giambologna a Firenze

http://giambologna.comune.fi.it/scheda.php?Id=18&lang=eng

  1. “Rape of the Sabines” SPQR Fine Art

http://www.spqrfineart.com/chiurazzi/masterpieces/696_RAPE_OF_THE_SABINE_WOMEN.html