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GIAMBOLOGNA: GODS AND HEROES.
FLORENCE, 20 April 2006— Almost thirty years after the memorable exhibition held in Vienna, London and Edinburgh in 1978, Italy finally dedicates its first major monographic exhibition to Giambologna (Douai, c. 1529 – Florence, 1608), the greatest European sculptor of the second half of the sixteenth century.
The city hosting the event is Florence where the artist spent almost all of his long industrious life as court sculptor to the Medici, in particular Grand Duke Francesco I. The exhibition is on view until 15 June 2006 at the Museo Nazionale del Bargello which houses many of the artist’s most famous works: precious bronze statuettes from the grand ducal collections and large-scale sculptures from Medici villas and gardens, such as the celebrated Mercury, formerly on the fountain of Villa Medici in Rome and the colossal marble Oceanus, once in the Boboli Gardens.
Some one hundred works, either signed or documented, from public and private collections the world over, have been assembled for the show.
Though of Flemish origin (his real name was Jean de Boulogne), Giambologna received his artistic training in Italy where he arrived very young, choosing Michelangelo as his ideal teacher and Florence as his spiritual home. From the time he reached the city in 1556, not yet thirty years old, he was never to leave it again except for brief intervals, remaining in the service of the Medici court for almost fifty years, and rejecting the generous offers of most of the sovereigns and princes of Europe who vied for his works.
Giambologna’s workshop / house on the Borgo Pinti, where his extraordinary inventions were translated into bronze, silver and marble, both small and large, soon became a destination for every prince, artist or cultivated traveller visiting the city. Despite his large staff, Giambologna’s industrious workshop could not satisfy the countless demands it received. Here his closest disciples – Pietro Francavilla, Antonio Susini, Pietro Tacca – worked alongside young sculptors from every country, especially Flanders, who disseminated his fascinating compositions throughout the courts of Europe, the master remaining all the while unrivalled.
His most famous compositions were those which exalted the perfect and harmonious forms of Olympic divinities, nude bodies skilfully disposed or intertwined in plastic poses like images of grace or strength, majesty or seduction, of which the exhibition offers unforgettable examples: the Bathing Venuses of fountains, the Villa di Castello Venus along with the so-called Cesarini Venus (an extraordinary loan granted, for the first time, by the American Embassy in Rome), the small, very precious Venuses from the Imperial Cabinet in Vienna or the Kunstkammer in Dresden which the Medici presented to the powerful rulers north of the Alps.
These are today on show at the Bargello along with other famous bronzes by Giambologna (such as the Flying Mercury, Mars, Hercules represented in all of his "Labours", the Rape of Deianira and the Rape of the Sabines, a small-scale version of his perhaps most famous monumental group) in their best versions.
A section of the exhibition is dedicated to the works commissioned from Giambologna by prince Francesco (later Grand Duke Francesco I), often in monumental scale, presented in the form of the very rare models in terracotta from the Bargello, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the British Museum which show the artist’s immediacy and vitality in the first stages of creation. Then comes Giambologna the sculptor of large heroic equestrian monuments to the Grand Dukes Cosimo I and Ferdinando I. Erected in Florence, in the illustrious Renaissance tradition of Donatello and Verrocchio, they were destined, by the diffusion of small-scale bronze equestrian statuettes, to serve as models for the monarchs of all Europe.
Finally, the Loggia del Bargello is dedicated to Giambologna as an "inventor" of gardens – not mere purveyor of garden sculpture: with extraordinary inventions of fountains populated by bronze birds and putti fishing, or inhabited by bizarre dragons like the one that swims on the surface of the water of a fountain basin mounted by Morgante, the Medici court jester.
GIAMBOLOGNA: GODS AND HEROES.
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