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Boulogne, Jean (Giambologna)



* 1529 in Douai (France), † August 13, 1608 in Florence (Italy)

The originally French artist Jean Boulogne, who is also called Giambologna or Giovanni da Bologna, was one of the best known artists and sculptors of the Italian Renaissance and Mannerism. In his sculptures, which were typical of these two artistic styles and mostly made of marble and bronze, Boulogne emphasized and stressed certain features of his objects while at the same time minimizing other details. Naturalistic ideals no longer played a role for Giambologna and other Mannerist artists such as Agnolo Bronzino or Tintoretto. They rather underlined the artificial, unnatural elements in their artwork and did not support naturalistic, harmonious elements as was being done in naturalism.

From a very early age on, Jean Boulogne studied sculpting and architecture under Jacques du Broeucq in Antwerp. He later moved to Rome, Italy, where he studied classical antiquity and its sculptures for many years. And, although he rejected some naturalistic ideas, Boulogne’s studies and work were influenced by Michelangelo. In his works, the artist put a lot more emphasis on the outer appearance of his work such as the surface of his sculptures and elegance and beauty. The message conveyed was more important than any portrayed emotion. By doing so, Boulogne developed a new type of Mannerism that soon found many adherents in Rome and all over Italy. His first major commission therefore came from Pope Pius IV: the famous Fountain of Neptune on Bologna’s Piazza Nettuno. Many other commissions as well as free works followed that have led to Jean Boulogne’s tremendous popularity all over Europe.

Some of Jean Boulogne’s works:

  • Samson Slaying a Philistine (1562)
  • Florence defeating Pisa (1562)
  • The Rape of the Sabine Woman (1574-1582)
  • Nessus and Deianira (1575-1580)
  • The Flagellation of Christ (1579)
  • River God (1580)
  • Hercules beating the Centaur Nessus (1599)


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