the story of a great sculptor, the story of an entrepreneur.
What Giambologna reached at the end of his carrier in Florence, was the true “status symbol” as we would call it nowadays. The ownership of a house with adjacent workshop; of a personal artistic foundry, and lastly of a private chapel in the Santissima Annunziata Church in Florence where he would have rested his mortal remains in eternity. All of this Giambologna achieved in affirming himself as the greatest European mannerist sculptor.
Jean de Boulogne was born in the Flanders, in Douai in 1527. He had done his apprentice in a little workshop and his first work was on one of the many wood choirs for the church of the town of Mons in Belgium. But his ambition was stronger and unsatisfied with his provincial education, so he decided to travel to Italy, more precisely to Rome. Some biographers support the theory that the permanence in Rome was to him more significant, but he was in reality very much criticized by Michelangelo, whom he blamed being too careful to the finishing parts before even being capable to firstly scabble a block of marble. If classical art had striked him when arriving in Rome, most of the masters he chose for himself, were though Florentines: first of all Michelangelo, but also many other contemporary artists with whom he had the honour of confronting himself like Ammannati, Bandinelli, and Cellini. When he arrived into Florence, welcomed as a Florentine, he found hospitality in the dear friend Bernardo Vecchietti, a cultured and refined man who introduced him to the Medici court. So was born a genius who learnt to sculpt gods and heros. For almost half a century, from 1561 to 1608, he was the most representative sculptor of the city, overburden with commission from the Grandukes of Tuscany.
Giambologna initially lived in Via dello Studio in Florence and then moved to Borgo San Jacopo in a typical medieval construction, a tower house. But only when he reached Borgo Pinti, he entirely demonstrated the success achieved. This was the quarter where the Renaissance artists would live, and where Cellini had had his workshop and home. The property was made of a house where he would live and receive the prestigious clients. Next to it the workshop with an enormous environment for the bigger statues to be produced and displayed, rooms for drawing sketches and developing little models, and another big room where the furnace was for the lost wax casting of the bronzes. On the main entrance door stood a marble bust of Granduke Ferdinando I Medici. During the whole of his carrier, for Giambologna became extremely important to mold the wax and model the clay, initially only to exercise himself in various preliminary studies, while later on it became a precise and definite step of his creative process. Those little models had a primary role in the development of bigger sculptures, but led also a key role in the production of little statuettes whose distribution in Europe incredibly contibuted to Giambologna' fame. His patrons had early understood that those bronzes where the perfect diplomat gift, to be reproduced fastly and frequently. The Granduke Cosimo the first and his son Francesco gifted the emperor Maximilian II with three little bronzes, initiating a tradition, that of the replication in scale of famous and appreciated little statues.
Most of these wax models were usually destroyed during the casting with the lost wax method, whereas others were conserved in the workshop. After Giambologna's death, these models acquired value and were inherited by his pupil and famous sculptor Pietro Tacca. The technique of the lost wax allows for the reproducibility of infinite models. And thanks to this, Giambologna was capable of developing and spreading his art and artistic language, reaching international fame in the whole of Europe.