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

Equestrian Portrait of Cosimo I

Bronze, height 450 cm
Piazza della Signoria, Florence

Having achieved by the 1580s a complete mastery of the human form, Giambologna turned to the subject that had fascinated the ancient Greeks and Romans almost as much, the horse. He addressed the subject with a scientific approach and created his masterpiece in bronze, the equestrian statue of Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. It was an immediate success and was replicated on the much reduced scale of statuettes, with a variety of different riders. A full-size variant showing Ferdinando I de' Medici was commissioned shortly afterwards for Piazza Santissima Annunziata; others followed for the kings of France and Spain.

His chosen model of horse was compact and rotund, with a short body and well-rounded rump, its contours enlivened by the raised front hoof and wildly curling mane, as well as by the sinuous tail. The lively character and alertness of the beast are conveyed by its swollen veins, rolling eyes and pricked-up ears.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.