"And we can understand, almost touch what Giambologna has done for Florence and from Florence for Europe, for those dimensions that do not intimidate, in the forest of divinities (Venus and Mercury above all), heroes (Hercules above all, his labours and problems with centaur Nessus), Medici grand dukes, allegories, giants, animals…"
Goffredo Silvestri speaks about Jean De Boulogne
Of Flemish origin, he begins his artistic training with master sculptors from that environment, and then moved to Rome around 1550 to study antique works in private collections, as well as those of his contemporaries, especially Michelangelo, of whom he became a great admirer and, to a certain extent, emulator. Despite this, Giambologna is considered the most important mannerist sculptor in the Florentine context for the originality of his production. After his arrival in Florence in 1562, he was introduced to the Medici court of Francesco I de' Medici, receiving commissions for works that have today been lost.
The subsequent year he was called to Bologna to create the sculpture decor for a monumental fountain to be placed in Piazza Nettuno, designed within the urban renewal project championed by Pope Pius IV. The iconographic subject is of course the god Neptune, in bronze, depicted with his classical attribute of the trident and with one hand extended in the act of calming the waters.
During this period in Bologna, the Papal delegate Cesi entrusted him with the creation of a bronze statue depicting Mercury with his index finger extended towards the sky, symbol of the divine origin of knowledge, to be placed at the university building. The project was never finished, but a model of a flying Mercury can be found at Bologna's Museo Civico. He later created a series of bronze statues having the same subject. Once back in Florence, in 1567, he created a sculpture for the wedding between Francesco I and Joanna of Austria, the group depicting Florence Triumphant over Pisa, later renamed “Virtue Triumphant over Vice”. The small Venus for the fountain located at the centre of the Grotta del Buontalenti (1575) and the Apennine Colossus for the park of Villa Pratolino date back to those same years.
During this period, Giambologna acquired great fame, creating several bronze statues for the Florentine collectors of the time. For the Medici Studiolo he sculted a bronze figure of Apollo (1573-75), with his classical serpentine pose. Towards the end of the 1570s, he approached the sculpture of religious figures, creating the Altar of Freedom in the Church of San Martino in Lucca and six statues with the Virtues for the Grimaldi Chapel in the destroyed Church of San Francesco di Castelletto in Genoa. His greatest work in this field is the one for the Salviati Chapel in the Church of Saint Mark in Florence, in 1589. The same decor scheme was later used by Giambologna for is personal funerary chapel in the choir of the Santissima Annunziata church. Another sacred work is the statue of St. Luke, located in the “Arte dei Giudici e Notai” niche in the Church of Orsanmichele, finished in 1602.
Surely the work that conferred him eternal fame is the “Rape of the Sabine Women”, 1583, today kept under the Loggia della Signoria, together with his other marble work “Hercules Beating Centaur Nessus”, 1594-1600. For his marble works, he often used raw material extracted from the quarries in Pietrasanta: statuary marble. The last great pearl of his is the equestrian monument of Cosimo I, created between 1587 and 1599 and commissioned by Cosimo's son Ferdinando I, located in Piazza della Signoria.
The photographs published in the TimeLine were taken from the websites:
it.wikipedia.org, upload.wikimedia.org, museicivicifiorentini.comune.fi.it, www.arte.it, zest.today