The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

Sixteenth-Century European Art and Architecture

Who was Giambologna?

Giambologna (1529–1608) was an extremely successful, late Mannerist sculptor who was known by many names, including Jean de Boulogne and Giovanni da Bologna. Though he was born in Flanders in Northern Europe, he worked in Florence, where he received support from the Medici family and other Flemish patrons living in the Italian city. Much of his work was done in marble and bronze; his work often features energetic figures engaged in dramatic physical activity, as well as graceful, elongated female figures. He was a master at creating complex poses with multiple figures, including the Rape of the Sabine and the Fountain of Neptune. His most famous sculpture is probably Mercury (c. 1565), which represents the Roman messenger god (Hermes, in Greek) balancing delicately on a small puff of wind, blown by the god, Zephyr. Winged Mercury reaches one hand to the sky with a long finger pointing vertically, with one leg bent back, almost like a dancer. The sculpture was a gift from Cosimo de’Medici to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II.


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