Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Giambologna is my new hero

I'm not going to be able to be as wordy as I hoped about this one, because I only just got back to the room and it's after 11pm. I had the most amazing dinner at my hostel - for 12 Euros, you get three courses plus fruit for dinner, all the wine you want, the excellent company of other young people (I was the eldest at my table by five years) and breakfast in the morning. I think I'll be taking advantage of this every night, because I had great fun!

Anyway, Giambologna. I already knew his name, because I've been aware of the Rape of the Sabine Women from seeing it in several art history classes, but I didn't realize until today at the Bargello Museum just how skilled he is. It really hit me when I was walking around his Florence Victorious Over Pisa - arranging figures in spiral torsion is his thing, and he does it amazingly well. I wasn't able to photograph it the way I would have liked (see my earlier post), but I was amazed that the sculpture remained perfectly resolved and interesting no matter what angle I viewed it from. You'll see a lot of sculptures that have a definitely frontal view that works well, and a definite back view (Hiram Powers' Greek Slave is a good example), or a few main views, or you'll notice that it only works frontally, but it falls apart from the side. This one worked no matter where I stood, and I am greatly impressed.

There were lots of other works in the Bargello by Giambologna as well, showcasing many of his other talents. I posted two of his owls earlier, but here I'll add his rooster - it's rare to see an a sculptor who excels at the representation of animals who is just as skilled at showing the human figure in such twisted forms - they're two very different talents. Look at those feathers, and that head, and all of that personality. That's something pretty special. There were also lots of tabletop-size bronzes in one of the rooms on the third floor, but sadly, I was unable to bring any of them to you guys.

What conversation about Giambologna could be complete without a discussion of the Rape of the Sabine Women? There's a full size plaster model of this statue in the Accademia (amazing that it survived), but the original lives in the covered outdoor sculpture court in the Piazza della Signoria, right next to the Palazzo Vecchio. I can't believe they're keeping this thing outside. I took many, many photographs of this work from different angles, and I could have selected any number of them. What keeps the viewer moving around this work is that it's impossible to see all three faces or all three complete bodies from any one angle, but also that the statue remains graceful and exciting no matter where you look at it.

Here's one more angle to show what I mean. I had to travel about 240 degrees from my original position to get this view of the statue, and yet I was still presented with something worthwhile. That takes skill, folks, and this is why Giambologna is my new sculptural hero, added to my list of awesome artists. I could go on and on, so if you're interested, you'll have to ask me sometime.

One note on a preservation/conservation issue: When I was looking at the model for the Rape of the Sabine Women in the Accademia the other day, while knowing what I do about marble and its tensile strength (or lack thereof), I was wondering how Giambologna had managed to create a sculpture out of marble with so many open spaces and so little support that has managed to survive for centuries outdoors. While sitting behind the sculpture today, I noticed that he didn't exactly. As you can see from this closeup of the Sabine's hand, the entire thing is held together at the rear by a series of metal cables bolted straight into the marble. So, sometimes masterpieces need a little bit of help - but that's the price for being completely daring in one's art!

That's all for tonight, folks - tomorrow I'm off to the Uffizi to see some of that painting stuff that everybody seems to be so excited about. :)


  1. You get me so excited about sculpture! When were the metal cables installed?

  2. I don't know! I just noticed them yesterday, so I'll have to do some research.

  3. I can't tell you how many times I loved up to this sculpture. It is by far, my favorite, ever. And yet, I'd never noticed the cables either. Huh.