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Giambologna Julius Caesar TOMASSO BROTHERS FINE ART

Giambologna Julius Caesar TOMASSO BROTHERS FINE ART

Giambologna Julius Caesar



Giambologna’s Julius Caesar and his Patron, the ‘Magnifico’ Bernardo Vecchietti


TOMASSO BROTHERS FINE ART Bardon Hall, Weetwood Lane, Leeds, ls16 8hj, UK tel. + 44 (0) 113 275 5545

Text by Dr Charles Avery Edited by Elliot Davies Photography by Doug Currie Design by Laura Parker Produced by Paul Holberton publishing 89 Borough High Street London se1 1nl isbn 978 1 911300 25 0 www.tomassobrot h ers.co.uk in fo@tomassobrot h ers.co.uk

© 2017 Tomasso Brothers Fine Art

In memory of Dr Elisabeth Dhanens (1915–2014), author of Jean Boulogne: Giovanni Bologna Fiammingo (Brussels, 1956), the first modern book on Giambologna; inspector of art patrimony with the Provincial Government of East Flanders from 1952 to 1976, and an honorary member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and Arts

giambologna (1529–1608)

Julius Caesar, c. 1551 Limewood, with walnut socle 46 cm (181/8 in.) high 51.5 cm (201/4 in.) high overall (including socle) signed (on underside) I.CAE.A.I./D.B.VECCHIETTI./I.BOLOGNA.B.IN.G.A.S./MDLI provenance Senator Bernardo Vecchietti (1514–1590), Villa Il Riposo, near Florence, c. 1551 By descent, Vecchietti family, until 1759 Private collection, Paris, before 1959 Private collection, Portugal, until 1974 William and Gabriella Robertson, Los Angeles, until 1992 Private collection, Germany, until 2016 exhibited C. Avery and A. Radcliffe, Giambologna, Sculptor to the Medici, exh. cat., Arts Council of Great Britain, Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 1978, no. 221; lent to the Victoria and Albert Museum

the present signed and dedicated statuette is the earliest recorded work by Giambologna (1529–1608) and is the only surviving sculpture that he carved in wood. The figure depicts the Roman general and politician Julius Caesar, nude and standing in a classical pose, but it is modelled using fine, typically northern European woodcarving techniques. This unique and extraordinarily important work therefore represents a wonderful marriage of two major artistic traditions, by one of Europe’s greatest sculptors. The present work emerged shortly before the ground-breaking exhibition on Giambologna held in Edinburgh, London and Vienna in 1978. Upon its discovery, the owners made the statuette available for investigation by international experts and it was fully catalogued as a work by Giambologna. Since then, more details regarding the date, dedication and its recipient – Bernardo Vecchietti – have come to light through the investigations of  various senior scholars (now, alas, deceased) and the present author.


fig. 1 Anonymous Giambologna in his Studio, 1570 Oil on panel, 89 × 66 cm National Gallery of Scotland

Giambologna’s career Giovanni Bologna (or Giambologna) is the Italianized form of the sculptor’s real name, Jean Boulogne (fig. 1). Born in Douai in French Flanders in 1529, he trained under a major sculptor, Jacques Dubroeucq (1500/10–1584), who began carving a rood-loft for the abbey church of Sainte Waudru (Waltrudis) in Mons in about 1544. Giambologna thus mastered the techniques of modelling and carving, and learned the Italianate, classicizing style which Dubroeucq had evolved after a visit to Rome (see Robert Didier, with preface by C. Avery, Jacques Dubroeucq [1500/1510 – 1584], Mons, 2000). Giambologna journeyed to Rome himself around 1550 and made models of Graeco-Roman and Renaissance sculpture. He was deeply impressed by the technical and anatomical virtuosity of Hellenistic sculpture, with its ambitious groups of figures in action. We are told that Giambologna also met the elderly Michelangelo, who criticized a model he was shown for having too high a finish, before the basic pose had been properly established. This lesson was never forgotten: Giambologna became an assiduous maker of sketch-models in wax or clay and many have survived. On his journey homewards, Giambologna visited Florence, to study the sculpture of the early Renaissance and of Michelangelo. A rich financier, jewelexpert and patron of the arts, by the name of Bernardo Vecchietti (1514–1590), had perhaps already offered him accommodation and financial support and soon


fig. 2 Giambologna Samson slaying a Philistine, 1560–62 Marble, 209.9 cm high Victoria and Albert Museum, London


introduced him to Francesco de’ Medici (later Grand Duke). This encouraged the artist to settle in Florence and by 1561 he was being paid a monthly salary by the twenty-year-old Prince Francesco de’ Medici (1541–1587), who was his junior by a dozen years. Over the next 50 years Giambologna went on to produce ephemeral sculpture for public spectacles, bronzes and marbles for public or private display, and small bronze statuettes – a medium he revived – destined for collectors all over Europe. Giambologna made his name with a full-size model of Neptune for a competition against the best Florentine sculptors, Bandinelli, Cellini and Ammanati, to determine who should carve the monumental centrepiece for a fountain in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence (1560). While he was not destined to win this commission, the success of his entry encouraged Francesco de’ Medici to employ him to carve the first of a great series of groups in marble, Samson slaying a Philistine (c. 1560–62), now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (fig. 2). Its subject and treatment deliberately recalled an unfinished project of Michelangelo’s from the 1520s. Immediately afterwards Giambologna was invited to Bologna to produce in bronze the sculptural components of a Fountain of Neptune for the city centre (1563–67), probably on the strength of his model for the earlier Florentine project. Returning to Florence in 1565, he produced a composition called Florence triumphant over Pisa, as a pair to Michelangelo’s Victory, which – after its author’s death – had just been given to the Medici. A decade later, Giambologna’s last statement in this series was The Rape of a Sabine (1579–83; C. Avery in S. Bracci and Lia Brunori [eds.], Il modello del ratto delle Sabine del Giambologna, Florence, 2016, pp. 10–33). The most famous of his bronze statues, after the Neptune in Bologna, are an early Bacchus and the Mercury in the Bargello, as well as the equestrian monument to Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici (1587–95). Giambologna also established himself as a master of the small bronze statuette early in his career, with the Mercury sent to Vienna (1565) and the Apollo for the Studiolo in the Palazzo Vecchio (1573–75). Numerous other compositions were reproduced in silver and in bronze for the Medici and then marketed to clients all over Europe. His last great marble carving, Hercules and the Centaur (1594–99), forms a prelude to the Baroque style that was to be pioneered by Gianlorenzo Bernini in Rome within a decade of Giambologna’s death.



Giambologna’s statuette of Julius Caesar The study of the naked human body, believed to have been created by God in his own image, was the mainspring of Renaissance art (C. Avery, ‘Dio come uomo e l’uomo come Dio: L’ideale del nudo nella scultura’, in G. Fossi [ed.], Il Nudo: Eros, Natura, Artificio, Florence, 1999, pp. 170–87). As a result of the revival of interest in classical learning, men’s eyes had been re-opened to the beauty of the ideal nude figures created in ancient Greece and Rome (previously despised and rejected as being pagan), and artists found new inspiration in the often battered fragments that had survived from Antiquity. This was particularly true in the case of sculptors, whose preliminary attempts at modelling such figures out of clay (or wax) was analogous with God’s original act of creating Adam out of a handful of dust, as recorded in the Book of Genesis. Michelangelo expressed this noble and inspiring thought, linked with NeoPlatonic theory, in a sonnet of 1550 dedicated to Vittoria Colonna: When godlike art has, with superior thought, the limbs and motions in idea conceived, a simple form in humble clay achieved is the first offering into being brought: Then stroke on stroke from out the living rock its promised work the practised chisel brings, and into life a form so graceful springs, that none can fear for it Time’s rudest shock .... (‘Da che concetto ha l’arte intera e diva’, MS. variant ‘Se ben concetto’, translated by Symonds, London 1878, p. 64) It is therefore characteristic that a young sculptor who had ended his apprenticeship in the Renaissance would aim to re-create an ideal, classical figure to demonstrate his prowess. That Giambologna should have chosen a heroic nude figure of the most celebrated of ancient Romans comes as no surprise. Wood was a material with which he was familiar from his training in northern Europe (and from his journey southward in 1549/50), but one which a young Italian would not usually have employed for a presentation model. In the generation after Michelangelo, who had used wood sparingly and only in his youth, terracotta was de rigueur for models, as a preliminary to casting in bronze or carving in marble. No other carvings in wood by Giambologna exist and perhaps he chose limewood for its ease of carving, and the elasticity and tensile strength which the grain of the wood gave to the ankles and extended arms; these would have been so weak in a modelling material such as wax or clay that a wire armature would have been required inside. He had possibly not learned this ‘Italian’ technique by 1551, though he was to use it regularly later on (see C. Avery, Giambologna: The Complete Sculpture, Oxford 1987, Chapter 6). 

fig. 3 Attributed to Giambologna Male nude, 1550s Black wax, 30.5 cm high Private collection, USA (formerly collection of Sir Benjamin West, P.R.A.)


The pose of the figure is a more relaxed version of the true contrapposto, beloved of the High Renaissance. Instead of the opposite knee and shoulder being advanced, both the left arm and bent leg of the Julius Caesar are in front of the body, while his straight, weight-bearing, right leg and lowered arm are slightly withdrawn. A strikingly similar pose is encountered in a fragmentary black wax model, 30.5 cm high (fig. 3), which was first documented in the early nineteentth century in the collection of the President of the Royal Academy, Sir Benjamin West, who owned several such pieces, and it used to be regarded as by Michelangelo. This wax certainly originates from Italy around the middle of the sixteenth century, but its attenuated proportions suggest a follower of the Mannerist generation, and, especially since the rediscovery and authentication of the lime-wood statuette of Caesar, it is a promising candidate for Giambologna’s authorship. The model could represent the next stage of the young sculptor’s education in technique – the use of a wire armature, stuck into a block of wood for support, as a linear basis for building up a figure in three dimensions from pellets of wax. In the Vecchietti inventory of 1759, among other models in terracotta and some plaster casts, there are several made in black wax (which is unusual, for later in the sculptor’s career nearly all of his models are in red-coloured wax): “A model in black wax representing a woman” and “Four models, likewise in black wax, representing different poses (attitudini), with their little bases”. Perhaps, therefore, these were all early efforts. No other significant figurative works by Giambologna survive from the early 1550s, though he is recorded in May 1556 as having given to Paolo Giordano Orsini, Duke of Bracciano (son-in-law of Cosimo I), three busts, alas of unspecified subjects, which indicates that he was by then an artist of good standing (M. Brunner, ‘Die Kunstförderung der Orsini di Bracciano in Rom und Latium, 1550–1650’, in D. Büchel and V. Reinhardt [eds.], Die Kreise der Nepoten, Bern etc., 2001, p. 180). Giambologna may well have been employed by Fra Guglielmo della Porta in restoring and copying Graeco-Roman sculpture for the Farnese and other grand patrons, for this was a normal activity for young sculptors of the period, as part of their ‘hands-on’ training. The next sculpture to survive marks Giambologna’s début in Florence, around 1558–60, and it is his first major masterpiece – the bronze statue of Bacchus, with his left arm raised to pour wine from a drinking vessel, six feet, ten inches (2.08 metres) high, that he made for one Lattanzio Cortese of San Gimignano, who had become a citizen of Florence in 1555 (fig. 4). It is a variation on a theme of Jacopo Sansovino’s, his marble Bacchus from the heyday of the High Renaissance. A clay model of Neptune, built round a wire armature on a block of wood, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, generally (though not universally) accepted as by Giambologna, used to be thought of as a sketch for the sculptor’s


fig. 4 Giambologna Bacchus, c. 1562 Bronze, 228 cm high Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence fig. 5 Giambologna Neptune, 1563 Clay model, 48 cm high Victoria and Albert Museum, London


full-size, i.e. colossal, model for the statue that was to crown a fountain in the Piazza della Signoria (fig. 5). However, its radically projecting arm would not have fitted into the block of marble that was a given factor. Therefore, it may rather be a study for the crowning figure of the fountain in Bologna, with which the sculptor became involved in 1563. There are close similarities in its pose and in the treatment of male anatomy with those of the Caesar, and this helps to corroborate the status of both items. Besides the Bacchus, there are few other nude male figures in Giambologna’s œuvre which simply stand on their own, without external support. He had begun a series of rapidly evolving compositions, where the men tend to stride vigorously forward (Mars, before 1587) or even pretend to fly (Mercury, 1562). Their open poses with centrifugal limbs, characteristic of masculine vigour and endeavour, exploited the tensile, metallic strength of bronze, a material in which Giambologna was a master. It is interesting to note, however, that when, much later in his career, he was commissioned to produce portrait statues of some of his patrons, the Medici Grand Dukes, notably a posthumous one of Cosimo I, formerly in Berlin, but lost in the war (see Avery 1987, cat. 204), he reverted to a stance which is almost a mirror image of that of his youthful Julius Caesar. If the connection was remarked by his patrons – and the sculptor may well even have drawn attention to it! – it would have been flattering for the Grand Dukes. In conformity with earlier portrait statues of the sixteenth century, Cosimo was not shown heroically nude, but was realistically clad in contemporary armour and a military cloak.




fig. 6 Workshop of Giambologna The Vecchietti arms Museo di San Marco, Florence fig. 7 Villa Il Riposo, frontispiece by G. Rossi to an 18th-century edition of R. Borghini, Del Riposo di Raffaello Borghini (1584)

Bernardo Vecchietti (1514–1590) and the statuette The Florentine aristocrat to whom Giambologna gratefully dedicated his fine, early statuette of Caesar was a financier, jewel expert and patron of the arts. Evidently a lively, imaginative, likeable and creative personality, Bernardo Vecchietti made himself a key figure in the art world of Cosimo, Francesco and later Ferdinando de’ Medici. He was particularly involved in assessing and purchasing gems and jewellery on their account, especially in Venice, as well as fixing massive loans from the Fugger bank in Augsburg for them to finance their wars, which enabled Bernardo to make a fortune during the course of his career. A sculpted model of the Vecchietti arms, attributed to Giambologna’s workshop, is in the Museo di San Marco, Florence (fig. 6). Vecchietti’s main claim to fame is his villa suburbana outside Florence, called ‘Il Riposo’ (the resting place; inscribed along its cornice were the words BEL CONVIENE IL RIPOSO A VECCHI STANCHI, meaning ‘Rest suits tired old men well’ – a play on his surname). Frescoed portraits below depict a gathering of elegantly clad, but white-bearded geriatrics, probably representing not Bernardo, but his ancestors. Bernardo's father had purchased and reconstructed the villa between the 1550s and 1590s and it was immortalized in a book of the same name published by a friend of his, Raffaello Borghini, in 1584 (fig. 7). This book took the time-honoured classical (and Renaissance) form of an imaginary viva voce discussion (in this case about the state of the arts) between several real contemporaries, including the author, Vecchietti himself and the humanist Baccio Valori, as well as a gentleman-sculptor and minor follower of Giambologna’s, Ridolfo Sirigatti.


Interestingly for us, it also included not only art theory, but also its practice – even down to sculptural technique, conveyed in fascinating and graphic detail by Sirigatti, evidently on the basis of what he had learned from his master – as well as a number of biographies, including Giambologna’s (Avery 1987, Appendix II, pp. 250–51). Last but not least, the book gives a vivid account of the interior of the villa in its heyday and of Vecchietti’s remarkable private collection. The villa survives to this day, but has been stripped of its contents long since, as well as changing hands. Originally it contained, among some notable paintings and drawings by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Benvenuto Cellini (who was a close friend), probably the most extensive collection of early models in various materials made by Bernardo’s protégé, Giambologna, from his earliest days. Long before Borghini’s book, Vasari had noted in the brief biography that he accorded Giambologna in the second edition of his Lives, published in 1568, that Vecchietti owned “bellissimi modelli di cose diverse” (beautiful models of various subjects). Presumably these included the Julius Caesar, which had already been given in 1551, and so would have held pride of place. Maybe it even stood majestically on top of one of the sideboards with shelves that housed the various models. In order to ensure the stability of the figure, as well as to show it off to best advantage, Bernardo may have commissioned the shaped base with its dedicatory inscription (illustrated opposite). The chamfered corners in front indicate the diagonal views which in contemporary theory (for example, Benedetto Varchi’s Inchiesta of 1546), were held to be of only slightly less importance than the four cardinal points of view. Together they made up the total of eight aspects which a statue should present to a connoisseur. Cellini noted with approval that the Grand Duke Cosimo stopped at eight such points when walking round and inspecting his model for Neptune in 1560. Indeed, if looked at in this way, the statuette of Julius Caesar provides eight very satisfying views.




Recent history of discovery and recognition The statuette, unique in the oeuvre of Giambologna in being carved out of wood, came to light just before the exhibition in Edinburgh, London and Vienna of 1978 and was lent by its former owner to encourage study by international specialists (William J. and Gabriella Kay Robertson of Los Angeles: Mrs. Robertson was the daughter of the eminent art dealer Adolph Loewi of Venice and, later, Los Angeles, who in turn was a grandson of Lehmann Bernheimer). It was first published in the English version of the catalogue by Avery and Radcliffe, and in the German one by Dr Manfred Leithe-Jasper, all of whom were immediately convinced of the authenticity of the figure and of the abbreviated inscription under the wooden socle. The late Professors Ulrich Middeldorf and Herbert Keutner of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence also believed in the piece. In 1985 Michael Bury, in a study on the patronage of Bernardo Vecchietti, implicitly accepted the authenticity and original ownership of the statuette, which has since been endorsed by Krahn and Zikos.

Classical sources and the date and place of carving Professor Keutner discussed the statuette in a colloquium held in Edinburgh University at the opening of the exhibition in 1978, accepting its authenticity and early date. He suggested a possible prototype in the Roman statues in the courtyard of Palazzo Mattei in Rome (fig. 8). He argued quite convincingly that the nude anatomy was derived from Giambologna’s study of an ancient Roman marble torso which was discovered at about the time of his arrival in Rome in 1550, and was restored as a statue of Julius Caesar by the addition of arms, legs and head. Though his paper was never published, in the German edition of the exhibition catalogue he confirmed his belief in the statuette as a very early, rather academic, exercise from the sculptor’s student years in Rome, 1552–57, relating it to anatomical and écorché figures. If the ‘Julius Caesar’ statue was indeed Giambologna’s prototype, then his graceful statuette must have been carved immediately after he had reached Rome in 1550, a jubilee year of the Roman Church. It was then presented in the very next year to his new-found patron and sponsor, the Medicean agent Vecchietti, in gratitude presumably for the initial support and encouragement which he had promised to the young sculptor once his studies in Rome were finished. The inscription on the base serves to document his early acquaintance with Vecchietti and also defines the statuette as the sculptor’s earliest known work.


fig. 8 Julius Caesar Roman, 2nd century ad, with mid-16th century restorations of all extremities Marble Palazzo Mattei, Rome


The statuette and base were clearly carved separately, and the joint between the two is not as neatly made as if they had been conceived together. The inference may be drawn that the figure antedates the base, which was made to mount it securely when it ultimately became a presentation piece. The choice of wood for such a statuette is most unusual in Italy, however, and the use of limewood even suggests the influence of South German or Alpine sculpture, for oak was the normal material in Giambologna’s native Flanders. One wonders whether the piece might even have been carved on the young sculptor’s journey southwards through Germany and over the Alps, as a demonstration piece, in the material preferred in those areas. This hypothesis opens the question of a Graeco-Roman source for the very sophisticated composition, which Giambologna could have seen before he even reached Italy. A possible candidate might be the life-size bronze Youth now in the Antikensammlung of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, which had been discovered near Magdalensberg shortly before the relevant moment (fig. 9). This was a find that caused a sensation and was widely copied. The figure has as much – and possibly even more – to recommend it as a prototype as the marble statue in Palazzo Mattei. The déhanchement of the hips and the position of the lower legs are extremely close, while the position of the Youth’s left and Caesar’s right arm are virtually in mirror image – a device common in the Renaissance for making variations on an ancient theme. Giambologna was last documented in Mons in August 1549, working with his master Jacques Dubroeucq on temporary decorations for the joyeuse entrée into Mons of the Emperor Charles V with his son Philip (later II). So if the statuette of Caesar does antedate the sculptor’s arrival in Italy, it was carved on his way through Germany, and must date from winter 1549–50. The alternative hypothesis for its place of origin thus hardly affects the dating, as compared with that implied by Keutner’s suggested prototype in Palazzo Mattei in Rome.

fig. 9 Youth from Magdalensberg Roman copy of Greek original Bronze Antikensammlungen, Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna


fig. 10 Willem van Haecht The Art Gallery of Cornelius van der Geest, 1628 (detail of connoisseurs with bronze statuettes after Giambologna) Oil on panel, 104 × 139 cm Rubenshuis, Antwerp

‘Il Magnifico’ Bernardo Vecchietti and his collection of Giambologna’s bronzes and sketch-models By 1584 Senator Vecchietti had gathered in his country seat ‘Il Riposo’ a veritable treasury of small sculpture, with a distinct emphasis on contemporary sculptors’ models (C. Avery, ‘Bernardo Vecchietti and the wax models of Giambologna’, in La ceroplastica nella scienza e nell’arte, Atti, 1977, pp. 461–75; F. Carrara, ‘Il magnifico Bernardo Vecchietti, cortigiano e committente in un inedito epistolario privato’, in B. Paolozzi Strozzi and D. Zikos, Giambologna, gli dei, gli eroi, exh. cat., Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, 2006, pp. 302–14; C. Avery, ‘Bernardo Vecchietti – der erste Auftraggeber von Giambologna’, Dresdner Kunstblätter, vol. 1, 2007, pp. 16–25). Borghini lists by Giambologna “many figures in wax, clay and bronze in different poses representing various people, such as prisoners, ladies, gods, rivers and famous men”. Further on, he singles out a writing cabinet (scrittoio): “Most wonderful to behold is a writing cabinet with five separate shelves where there are statuettes of marble, bronze, clay and wax, logically arranged”. Finally, Borghini mentions in a humbler suite of three workshops downstairs one that was “completely surrounded with models by Giambologna, statues by other masters, as well as paintings and drawings”. The general appearance would have been less smart than, but not unlike, Willem van Haecht’s famous painting of The Art Gallery of Cornelius van der Geest (fig. 10), where, among a plethora of paintings, various well-known bronze statuettes by Giambologna are shown being admired by connoisseurs.



fig. 11 Giambologna Model for Hercules and the Hydra, c. 1579 Wax, 37 cm high Palazzo della Signoria, Florence (Loeser bequest, formerly Bernardo Vecchietti)


It is to Bernardo that we owe the survival of such a high proportion of Giambologna’s sketch-models. In an inventory of 1609 drawn up by his penniless and evidently philistine heirs these fragile works – to Bernardo and to us wonderful – were dismissed in its last line as “diverse anticagliaccie e altre cose esistenti in uno scrittoio” (various rubbishy old things and other items kept in a writing cabinet)! However, as mentioned above, Bernardo, perhaps foreseeing the lack of interest of any of his heirs, had wisely entailed its contents with an affidavit (fide commisso) against its dispersal. This held for a century and a half, until they were finally inventoried and sold off. In addition to the statuette of Julius Caesar, several of the models by Giambologna which Vecchietti once owned have survived, for instance a model for the original silver (or derivative bronze) statuette of Hercules and the Hydra that has – happily – remained in Florence (fig. 11). After the Vecchietti, it first came into the hands of the Guadagni family until 1847, and then into those of a distinguished American dealer-collector Charles Loeser, who bequeathed it to the City of Florence in 1926, where it remains, in the Palazzo Vecchio (see Paolozzi Strozzi and Zikos 2006, pp. 184–85, no. 14, entry by Serena Pini; and, various authors, ‘La cera del Giambologna raffigurante Ercole e l’Idra. Considerazioni preliminari al restauro’, ibid., pp. 364–66). There is good reason to believe that the majority of those models which survive in England came from the collection at Il Riposo, for they were purchased around 1770 from the impoverished Vecchietti descendants by a distinguished collector, William Lock of Norbury Park (figs. 12 & 13) and – after his death – dispersed in a sale held by James Christie on 16 April 1785. Among the buyers at this signal event were the Neoclassical sculptor Nollekens (fig. 14), who particularly prized a terracotta plaque of Venus and a Dolphin (fig. 15), and the miniaturist Cosway, while several models were subsequently owned by successive Presidents of the Royal Academy, Sir Benjamin West and Sir Thomas Lawrence. A few still remain in private hands, but most have been reunited over the years since 1850 in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which now has the most varied and extensive holding of these rarities, which can tell us much about the sculptor’s imaginative and creative techniques. The latest acquisition dates to the twenty-first century, when the museum managed to acquire from the heirs of the late Sir Brinsley Ford (fig. 16) an item that had been acquired by his ancestor Richard Ford in 1830 from the sale of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s effects: this was a model for a statue of Grand Duke Ferdinando I in Arezzo that was actually carved by Giambologna’s associate, Pietro Francavilla, around 1592–94 (fig. 17; see J. Pope-Hennessy, ‘Giovanni Bologna and

fig. 12 After Richard Wilson William Lock Sr. (1732–1810), aged seventeen, 1749, frontispiece to Duchess of Sermoneta, The Locks of Norbury, London, 1940

fig. 13 Norbury Park, Surrey (begun c. 1775), late 18th- or early 19thcentury engraving

fig. 14 After Mary Moser, R.A. Joseph Nollekens modelling a Faun, frontispiece to J.T. Smith, Nollekens and his Times (London, 1829), ed. William Whitten, London, 1920, vol. I fig. 15 Giambologna Venus and a Dolphin Terracotta Heirs of Sir Brinsley Ford, London


fig. 16 Sir Brinsley Ford, contemplating his wax model of Venus by Giambologna, c. 1985, formerly in the collection of Sir Brinsley Ford, London Photo: David Finn, New York fig. 17 Giambologna Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici, c. 1587 (detail) Wax, 18.5 cm high Victoria and Albert Museum, London, A.3-2002

the Marble Statues of the Grand-Duke Ferdinando I’, The Burlington Magazine, cxii, pp. 304–07; C. Avery, ‘The Ford Giambolognas’, in Nicholas Penny (ed.), The Walpole Society, LX, Ford I, 1998, p. 74). Now, as a result of diligent archival research, a much more specific and detailed inventory (1759) of Vecchietti’s fine collection in Villa Il Riposo has come to light (Francesca Carrara, ‘Il magnifico Bernardo Vecchietti, cortigiano e committenete in un inedito epsitolario privato’, in B. Paolozzi Strozzi and D. Zikos [eds.], Giambologna, gli dei, gli eroi, exh. cat., Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, 2006, pp. 302–14 (especially ‘Inventario’, pp. 311–14). This, it emerges, had been kept intact in legally sealed rooms for nearly two centuries after its formation, though in an abandoned and inevitably deteriorating state. The inventory provides a few further clues as to what Bernardo owned, without specifying the authorship of any item of sculpture, save for a couple of “della Robbias”. However, as a former Deputy Keeper of Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, my attention was riveted by two cognate entries giving a few identifying features: “Un modello di una Statua a giacere, di Terra Cotta rappresentante una Femmina che scrive” (A model of a recumbent statue in terracotta depicting a woman writing). This accurately describes a finished terracotta model in the Victoria and Albert Museum that I had firmly attributed to Giambologna in my book of 1987 on circumstantial, stylistic and qualitative grounds (fig. 18; A.110–1937: see Avery 1987/1993, pp. 274–75, cat. 178; J. Pope-Hennessy and R.W. Lightbown, Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1964, pp. 477–78, no. 502, as “after Giambologna”). Nothing is known of its history before being given to the Museum in 1937 by a Mr Harold Bompas, but the Englishness of its provenance is significant. A few lines above, among some bronzes (though not actually described as such), is an entry on a closely related object: “A recumbent statue with a book, inkpot and pen in its hand, depicting a goddess, about half a braccio [i.e. c. 29 cm] long” (“Una Statua a diacere con Libro, Calamaio, e penna in mano, rappresentante una


fig. 18 Giambologna Geometry and Astrology Terracotta Victoria and Albert Museum, London, A.110-1937 fig. 19 By or after Giambologna Geometry and Astrology Bronze The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, 54.214


fig. 20 Willem van den Broeck (called Paludanus) Geometry and Astrology (two views), dated 1569 Alabaster, 8.5 cm high Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 4430 fig. 21 Max Liebermann Wilhelm von Bode (d. 1929), frontispiece to Wilhelm von Bode, Fünfzig Jahre Museumsarbeit, Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1922


Dea, ed è di lunghezza un mezzo braccio incirca”). This corresponds neatly with a bronze statuette of the same subject of which a couple of casts are known (fig. 19; see E. van Binnebeke, Beeldhouwkunst 1500–1800 in de collectie van het Museum Boymans-van Beuningen. Bronssculptuur – Bronze sculpture, Rotterdam, 1994, pp. 82–83, no. 18; C. Avery and A. Radcliffe [eds.], Giambologna Sculptor to the Medici, exh. cat., Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1978, nos. 27–28.) Interestingly, Wilhelm von Bode, Director General of the Berlin Museums and founder of the modern study of bronze statuettes (fig. 21), after cataloguing an example of the statuette in 1897 as “near Michelangelo”, refined this generic opinion fifteen years later into an ascription to Giambologna, writing in his seminal anthology of 1912, Italian Bronze Statuettes of the Renaissance, “… attractive and of great vitality is the recumbent female figure – the ‘Allegory of History’ – evidently an original”. The surfaces of the known casts are fairly approximate and ‘sculptural’, rather than being highly refined and ‘goldsmith-like’: hence the women look more relaxed and natural – an effect that Giambologna personally preferred. It looks as though Bernardo Vecchietti owned two examples of the same attractive composition by his talented protégé. It is only by occasional ‘leads’ such as this that the attributions of the plethora of anonymous items associated with Giambologna purely on stylistic grounds can be verified. The identification of the items in the inventory with the surviving examples – at least the terracotta – is beyond reasonable doubt, which helps to corroborate his personal authorship. The model was probably made in connection with a lost life-size marble statue of Geometry and Astrology (for such is the title inscribed on an alabaster reduction of it in Vienna [fig. 20]). The marble may be identical with a statue that was delivered to Jacopo di Alamanno Salviati (from Giambologna’s room in the rear courtyard of the Palazzo della Signoria) just before a payment of 29 October 1576 (D. Zikos, ‘Giambologna’s land, house and workshops in Florence’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorisches Institutes in Florenz, xlvi, 2002 [2004], p. 357). A few years later, in a letter to the Duke of Urbino of 27 October 1581, Simone Fortuna described what

fig. 22 Giambologna Nessus and Deianira, before 1587 (detail of the base with Giambologna’s initials, *I*B*) Bronze, 42.2 cm high Staatliche Museen, Dresden, H2 3/95

may have been the same figure as “three braccia [174 cm] long”, the adjective – if correctly applied – suggesting that it was recumbent, rather than upright. It cost the large sum of 300 scudi (Avery 1987, p. 107). Illustrated for the first time in the same article of 2006 is a copy from a private collection of a portrait of Bernardo Vecchietti painted by Santi di Tito. Sporting a ‘handlebar moustache’ and senatorial robes (a rank to which he was elevated in 1578), the patron’s particular penchant for Giambologna is proudly indicated by the inclusion in the background of a bronze statuette of a horse that is unmistakably in his style. It is recorded that the sculptor presented such a statuette to his generous patron while “still living in his house”, i.e. about 1563. This makes the model much earlier than has traditionally been supposed, owing to its similarity with the horse of Cosimo’s monument, which was being executed then (c. 1583). The date and circumstances, however, coincide perfectly with a reference to a model of a horse in black wax, over one metre high, of which the young sculptor was inordinately proud and on which he dwelt at some length in a letter of 15 January 1563 that was addressed to his and Vecchietti’s mutual patron, the crown prince Francesco de’ Medici. No official reaction is recorded, but it would be perfectly in character if the ambitious sculptor had proceeded without more ado to have it cast in bronze, albeit on a reduced scale. The inevitably high cost – perhaps met by his open-handed patron – would serve to explain the sculptor’s ‘gift’. The image of the horse accords perfectly with Giambologna’s usual type, though it has a hogged (rather than a loose, curly) mane, which shows that – quite early on – the sculptor also contemplated introducing into his own depictions of the noble steed this classicizing detail (found on surviving Graeco-Roman bronze horse-heads that were known in Florence in his day, one of which seems to have been re-mounted by him or his follower Tacca). Furthermore the oval base fitted closely round the two hooves with which it stands on the ground is also characteristic of the sculptor’s statuettes of quadrupeds (Lion, Bull, and the group in Dresden depicting Nessus and Deianira initialled *I*B* [fig. 22]). Just such a horse is to be seen in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (fig. 23; Avery and Radcliffe 1978, no. 154; Avery 1987, p. 268, cat. 134). This statuette – unique in the present state of knowledge – is of superlative quality, such as a gift from a grateful sculptor to a beloved and indulgent patron would imply. Its


fig. 23 Giambologna Walking Horse Bronze The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Ogden Mills, 1924, 24.212.23


provenance is English, for it was exhibited by a certain “C. Bowyer” at the National Exhibition of Works of Art held at Leeds in 1868. It may well therefore be identical with such a statuette that is recorded as having been owned a century earlier by William Lock of Norbury Park: “The said gentleman also possesses a bronze horse made and finished by the same artist [Giambologna] for the said Vecchietti, which is as perfect and diligent a work of its kind as one could possibly wish for” (Ignazio Hugford [?], notes to an edition of Vasari’s Lives by Stecchi and Pagani, Florence 1772, VII, p. 271.). Indeed, in Lock’s sale of 1785, under the heading ‘Bronzes’, lot 34 was described as “A horse by Giov. Di Bologne” (bought by Neave for £3.5.0). Giambologna does not seem to have replicated this exact model, perhaps out of loyalty to Vecchietti, but added a saddle-cloth to it when providing similar horses to other patrons, for example to Francesco I for the Casino di San Marco, or to the Vinta family, where the cloth bears their coat-of-arms (Paolozzi Strozzi and Zikos 2006, no. 60, and p. 92, fig. 5). Thus Vecchietti’s possession may be the superb masterpiece now in New York.

The most prestigious souvenir of the lifelong bond between our two heroes is to be found in ‘Heaven’ (fig. 24): for another protégé of Bernardo’s, the painter Federigo Zuccaro (1540/42–1609), included them, at either edge of a group-portrait of the contemporary Florentine art-world, in his frescoes round the interior of the dome of Florence Cathedral (alas, too far above eye-level to be easily visible, except from the balcony round the crossing and – of course – to the all-seeing eye of God). Silhouetted against the internal ‘sky-line’ are, at the left, the illustrious patron, wearing a fashionable black beret at a jaunty angle, along the edge of which – as though on an ostrich feather plume – is printed his name (fig. 25); to the left of the central caesura, the man in working costume and holding a trowel and basket is Bernardo di Mona Mattea, an important master-mason, who worked not only for the Medici, but also for Vecchietti on his town-palace (and who owned some of Giambologna’s models). At the apex of the right-hand triangle of figures in a foppish gold hat and tunic, around the collar of which are embroidered his name and the date 1576, is the painter Zuccaro himself, looking confidently straight at us, while further to the right from him is Giambologna, without a hat, and clutching the tools of his trade. Perhaps the preliminary drawing for Zuccaro’s depiction of Giambologna is his chalk drawing of the master holding a statuette of Samson (fig. 26).

fig. 24 Federigo Zuccaro The Last Judgment, 1576 Fresco round the interior of the dome of Florence Cathedral (detail of group portrait of the ‘great and the good’ in the contemporary Florentine art world, with Vecchietti in a black beret [with his name label above] at left, and Giambologna, with his humble mallet [for Sculpture] and set-square [for Architecture], at far right) fig. 25 Detail of fig. 24 showing portrait of Bernardo Vecchietti in a black beret


fig. 26 Federigo Zuccaro Portrait of Giambologna with a model for Samson Black and red chalk on paper, 26.10 × 18.80 cm National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, D1851


It is pleasing – as a result of these recent archival discoveries and the publication in 2006 of a portrait of the patron – to be able to identify the Geometry and Astrology, both in terracotta and in bronze, as well as the bronze Horse with a hogged mane, as having been directly associated with Bernardo Vecchietti and with his protégé Giambologna. When these are added to the bronze Crucifix (fig. 27) now in Douai, the wax group of Hercules and the Hydra still in Florence and the fully signed statuette in wood of Julius Caesar, one can begin to appreciate not only the range and depth of the patron’s taste, from Christianity to Antiquity, and from idealized human figures to magnificent thoroughbred beasts, but also the prolific imagination and sureness of touch of the sculptor. dr charles avery Girton, Cambridge, 2017

fig. 27 Giambologna / Susini Crucifix Musée de la Chartreuse, Douai (probably from the collection of Bernardo Vecchietti; later owned by the Marchesi Bartolomei in 1877, and then Monsieur Foucques de Vagnonville)


related literature On Elisabeth Dhanens’s remarkable contribution to Giambologna studies C. Avery, ‘Ein halbes Jahrhundert Giambolognaforschung’, in W. Seipel and C. Kryza Gersch (eds.), Giambologna: Triumph des Körpers, exh. cat., Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 2006, p. 21 On the statuette C. Avery and A. Radcliffe, Giambologna, Sculptor to the Medici, exh. cat., Arts Council of Great Britain, Edinburgh and London, p. 216, no. 221; German edn, Giambologna: ein Wendepunkt der Europäischen Plastik, Vienna, 1978, p. 290, no. 221 M. Bury, ‘Bernardo Vecchietti, patron of Giambologna’, I Tatti Studies, Essays in the Renaissance, vol. 1, 1985, p. 53, note 62 C. Avery, ‘Giambologna’s Julius Caesar, the Rediscovery of a Masterpiece”, in Art & Tradition, Bernheimer Fine Arts Ltd, London, 1989, pp. 47–65, 108; reprinted in C. Avery, Studies in Italian Sculpture, London, 2001, pp. 277–97 C. Avery, Giambologna: The Complete Sculpture, Oxford 1987, pp. 46, 272–73, no. 163, pl. 322 D. Zikos, ‘Le belle forme della Maniera: La prassi e l’ideale nella scultura di Giambologna’, and V. Krahn, ‘I bozzetti del Giambologna’, in B. Paolozzi Strozzi and D. Zikos, Giambologna, gli dei, gli eroi, exh. cat., Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, 2006, pp. 21–43, esp. p. 23, and pp. 40–41, fig. 2 D. Zikos, ‘Die edlen Formen der Maniera: Praxis und Ideal im bildhauerischen Schaffen Giambolognas’; and V. Krahn, ‘Die Entwurfsmodelle Giambolognas’, in W. Seipel and C. Kryza Gersch (eds.), Giambologna: Triumph des Körpers, exh. cat., Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 2006, pp. 39, 73, fig. 3 On Bernardo Vecchietti C. Avery, ‘Bernardo Vecchietti and the wax models of Giambologna’, in La ceroplastica nella scienza e nell’arte, Atti, 1977, pp. 461–75 M. Bury, ‘Bernardo Vecchietti, patron of Giambologna’, I Tatti Studies, Essays in the Renaissance, vol. 1, 1985, pp. 13–56, esp. pp. 23–30 F. Carrara, ‘Il magnifico Bernardo Vecchietti, cortigiano e committente in un inedito epistolario privato’, in B. Paolozzi Strozzi and D. Zikos, Giambologna, gli dei, gli eroi, exh. cat., Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, 2006, pp. 302–14 C. Avery, ‘Bernardo Vecchietti – der erste Auftraggeber von Giambologna’, Dresdner Kunstblätter, vol. 1, 2007, pp. 16–25


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Tomasso Brothers: Giambologna  

Tomasso Brothers: Giambologna