Reference Entry


in Benezit Dictionary of Artists

ISBN: 9780199773787
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199899913 | DOI:

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  • Sculpture and Carving
  • 17th-Century Art
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)


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Flemish School, 16th century, male.

Active in Italy.

Born c. 1529, in Douai; died 1608, in Florence.

Sculptor. Figures. Groups.

Florentine School.

The real name of this sculptor, born in Douai, seems to have been Jean Boulongne. A confusion arose, however, between his patronymic and the name of the town in Italy, Bologna, where he created one of his first masterpieces. This was the Neptune fountain (1563–1567), a commission he received from Pope Pius IV while working in Florence. Giambologna worked first in the studio of Jacques Du Broeucq in Mons, and then went to study in Italy, where he spent two years in Rome, probably under the direction of Michelangelo. On his way home to Flanders, he stopped in Florence around 1556. Here he made the acquaintance of Bernardo Vecchietti, who became his patron. Vecchietti introduced him to Cosimo and Francesco de’ Medici, who delayed his departure with further commissions. In 1560, he proposed plans for a fountain of Neptune, to be erected in Piazza della Signoria in Florence. This project, although laying the foundation of his reputation, was ultimately not realised, being considered too expensive. The fountain that was eventually erected – and that still stands there today – is the work of Ammanati. Although sometimes attributed to Michelangelo, the figure of Neptune himself is probably also by Ammanati. The naiads in the basin of the fountain were still being attributed to Giambologna as late as 1950, even in Florence. Little is known about his earlier works. In 1558, he was commissioned to carve the ducal arms in the Great Council Chamber. This he did with such skill that the dukes took him on as sculptor to the court, where his reputation almost eclipsed those of Ammanati and Benvenuto Cellini. At the period when he was making the fountain of Neptune in Piazza Nettuno, Bologna, he made several statuettes of Mercury, culminating in the one sent in 1564 to the Emperor Maximilian II and the ‘Medici Mercury’ (now in Florence, in the Bargello), two pieces that display a remarkable lightness and sense of movement. In fact, a concern for an increasingly accurate conveyance of movement pervades all of Giambologna’s work. This can first be seen in his groups representing ...

Reference Entry.  1831 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sculpture and Carving ; 17th-Century Art ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)

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