By Ioannis Tzortzakakis

Sculptor Giovanni da Bologna (or Giambologna), who was born in Douai, Flanders, as Jean Boulogne, died on this day, 13 August 1608 in Florence. Having studied under Jacques Du Broeucq, he travelled to Rome to study Greco-Roman and Renaissance sculpture, where he stayed for two years. During his departure, he visited Florence, in 1552, where he stayed for the rest of his life. There, he first met his patron Bernardo Vecchietti. Vecchietti introduced the young artist to the family of Medici and soon he became a courtier sculptor, offering his services primarily to the Duke of Tuscany Francesco I (Francesco De’ Medici, son of Cosimo di Giovanni delle Bande Nere de’ Medici).

As Simone Fortuna wrote to the Duke of Urbino in 1581: “He is the best sort of man one could ever want to meet, not greedy at all, as one can tell from his being so poor: all that he wants is glory and his greatest ambition is to rival Michelangelo.”

Until his death, the reputation of Giambologna had been spread throughout Europe and was maintained mainly through small figurines (small-scale bronzes) which were studied by other sculptors and painters, as part of their training, and at times were given as diplomatic gifts. His works remained popular, and several of his monuments were considered major attractions of Florence, but his fame faded in the early 19th century, under the influence of neoclassicism.

Further reading: Mary Weitzel Gibbons (1995) Giambologna: Narrator of the Catholic Reformation, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Giambologna (Giovanni da Bologna or Jean de Boulogne) (Flemish, 1529 – 1608), Getty Museum.

Hendrick Goltzius, Portrait of Giovanni Bologna, collection Teylers Museum

Fountain of Neptune (1563-66), Bologna

The Rape of the Sabine Women (1574–82), Florence

Samson Slaying a Philistine, about 1562

Saint Lucas, Church of Orsanmichele

Cosimo I de’ Medici, Florence, Piazza della Signoria

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