GIAMBOLOGNA

(Giovanni Bologna or Jean Boulogne) (1529-1608)
Giambologna was born in Flanders and apprenticed there to the sculptor Jacques Du Broeucq. As his Italianized name indicates, he spent his career as a sculptor in Italy. As a young man, Giambologna took the almost obligatory artist's journey to Italy (1550-52), where he encountered not only Michelan­gelo's* work but also the master himself. Michelangelo apparently criticized the younger artist for doing a finished and polished sculpture without working out the poses of the figures first. Giambologna subsequently took up the practice of making multiple models, or bozzetti, for all of his works. Many of these models are still extant; they provide an insider's view of the evolution of Giambologna's formal progress.
In 1552 Giambologna stopped in Florence on his way home to Flanders. There he found favor with rich patrons of the arts who were well placed to introduce him to the ruling Medici family, for whom Giambologna was shortly to become official court sculptor. Though he lost the competition for the Neptune fountain in Florence in 1560 to Bartolomeo Ammanati, he went on to do nu­merous works in both bronze and marble for the Medici and Florence. Many of these works were inspired by Michelangelo, whose serpentine twists and dra­matic musculature were not merely copied but rather reinterpreted by Giambologna.
Bologna claimed Giambologna's attention in the mid-1560s when that city needed a Neptune fountain and remembered Giambologna's unsuccessful but critically acclaimed model for Florence a few years earlier. The famous statue of Mercury was also done for the first time in Bologna. In Giambologna's treat­ment of the messenger of the gods, Mercury is shown in action, delicately balanced on the ball of one foot and rather tenuously supported by a bronze breath of wind beneath that foot. The High Renaissance ideas of balance and stability have here been challenged.
Giambologna's best-known work today is Rape ofa Sabine, completed in 1582 and now in the Loggia dei Lanzi next to the Uffizi in Florence. The subject was more theoretical than narrative, having been originally conceived as two men of different ages and a young woman in a dramatic yet unified composition. Michelangelo's serpentine compositions are here accelerated and pave the way for Bernini's intensely dramatic compositions of the seventeenth century.
Though Giambologna's earlier work was mostly concerned with mythological or legendary subjects, the Counter-Reformation and its rules about art did have an effect upon the subject matter of his later work. After 1580 he did a number of religious narratives in bronze, including the Passion and the lives of the saints. He continued working for the Medici, providing equestrian statues of several of the grand dukes (that of Cosimo I* is in the Piazza della Signoria in the center of Florence), as well as equestrian statues of other European royalty, statuettes, and naturalistic bronze studies of animals. Though his prominent role was that of a sculptor, he also worked as an architect. He submitted a wooden model for the facade of Florence Cathedral and designed his own funeral chapel in SS. Annunziata, Florence.
Bibliography
Co. Avery, Giambologna: The Complete Sculpture, 1987.
Lynne E. Johnson

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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