(b. 1529, Douai, d. 1608, Firenze)


Giambologna (Giovanni da Bologna, Jean Boulogne), Flemish-born Italian sculptor. He was the greatest sculptor of the age of Mannerism and for about two centuries after his death his reputation was second only to that of Michelangelo.

In about 1550 he went to Italy to study and spent 2 years in Rome. On the way back he stopped in Florence and was based there for the rest of his life. The work that made his name, however, was for Bologna - the Fountain of Neptune (1563-66), with its impressive nude figure of Neptune which he had designed for a similar fountain in Florence (Ammanati defeated him in the competition). Even before working on the fountain in Bologna, however, Giambologna had begun in Florence the first of a series of celebrated marble groups that in their mastery of complex twisting poses mark one of the high-points of Mannerist art: Samson Slaying a Philistine (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, c. 1561-62); Florence Triumphant over Pisa (Bargello, Florence, completed 1575); The Rape of a Sabine (Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence. 1581-82); Hercules and the Centaur (Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence, 1594-1600). Giambologna worked extensively for the Medici and his monument to Duke Cosimo I (1587-95) was the first equestrian statue made in Florence and an immensely influential design, becoming the pattern for similar statues all over Europe (for example that of Charles I by Hubert Le Sueur at Charing Cross in London). Giambologna's similar statue to Henry IV of France, formerly on the Pont Neuf in Paris, has been destroyed.

It was for the Medici that he made his largest work — the colossal (about 10 m. high) figure of the mountain god Appennino (1577-81) in the gardens of the family's villa at Pratolino. Constructed of brick and stone, the god crouches above a pool and seems to have emerged from the earth, fusing brilliantly with the landscape. Giambologna was as happy working on a small scale as in a monumental vein.

His small bronze statuettes were enormously popular (they continued to be reproduced almost continuously until the 20th century) and being portable helped to give his style European currency. A series of bronze statues of Mercury culminated in the renowned “flying” Mercury (1580, Bargello, Florence), outstanding for the airy elegance of its pose: the nude figure stands poised on the toes of the left foot, with the right arm raised high in a pointing gesture. Many of his preliminary models also survive (uniquely for an Italian sculptor of his period), giving insight into his creative processes. The best collection is in the Victoria and Albert Museum.