Bronze, gilt patina on an Egyptian Porphyry Base
Italy - Florence, 18th Century
After the model by Giambologna (b. 1529 – d. 1608)
H 28 x W 28 cm (11 x 11 in.)
This fine 18th century bronze statuette depicting a bull is based on an original by the great Florentine sculptor of Flemish origin, Giambologna (1529-1608). Giambologna based his bull on ancient Roman statues and other depictions of the sacrificial animal. Together with a series of other statues by the artist, it exemplifies the influence of the Antique on his oeuvre. Originally Giambologna seems to have invented the statue of The Bull to pair it with an earlier statue he had made of a Lion, itself based on Roman sculptures and images of lions. While Giambologna produced the wax master-model of the statue, it was his talented and renowned pupil Antonio Susini (1580-1624) who created the moulds necessary for casting an edition. Eventually two slightly different models of the Bull were made. The rarer type is heavier build, with a more pronounced dewlap and more extensive tufts of curls hanging down its forehead. This is the type that can be found in the Bargello in Florence. The second, much commoner type has a smoother neck and a slightly smaller head, which is held slightly more erect. It was successively cast by Antonio and Gianfrancesco Susini. ?Soon, this latter type is often found paired with the statue of a Horse, also by Giambologna. This pairing became far more popular and frequent than its original pairing with the Lion and seems to have become standard early on.
The statue of The Bronze Bull, almost immediately became very popular within the circles of the rich and influential Florentine families and even far beyond. It is documented that there was one statuette in the magnificent Villa La Magia in Quarrata, which was owned by Giambologna's most important patrons, the Medici. Their rivals, the influential Florentine-Roman banking family of the Salviati also owned a bronze bull 'by the hand of Susini'. Together with the statuette of the Horse it became one of the most beloved and most widely diffused models of Giambologna and Susini. For example, both were among a group of statuettes sent by the Medici to Henry, Prince of Wales, in 1612. The Horse and the Bull were also cast in Northern Europe where they were particularly favoured, especially in the Netherlands. Together they appear on a table in the foreground of Willem van Haecht's Interior of the Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest.
Giambologna was born as Jean de Boulogne in Douai, Flanders, in 1529. After a training as an apprentice to Jacques Dubroeucq, he travelled to Italy in 1550 to study the masterpieces of Classical and Renaissance sculpture. On his way home he visited Florence (c. 1552) and was persuaded to settle there under the patronage of the Medici Dukes. Eventually he became their court sculptor. He grafted an understanding of the formal aspect of Michelangelo's statuary onto a thorough reappraisal of Greco-Roman sculpture as it was being daily revealed in new excavations. Particularly influential were the ambitious representations of figures and groups in violent movement and the technical finesse of late Hellenistic work, most of which had not been available to earlier generations (e.g. Farnese Bull, excavated in 1546).
For over half a century Giambologna dominated Florentine sculpture, carving an ever more impressive series of statue groups in marble: Samson Slaying a Philistine (1560- 62), Florence Triumphant over Pisa, the Rape of a Sabine, Hercules Slaying a Centaur. In addition Giambologna produced several extraordinary bronze statues, Bacchus, Mercury, and Neptune, culminating in his equestrian monument to Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. The last was copied shortly afterwards for the kings of France and Spain. By c. 1570 Giambologna had become the most?influential sculptor in Europe. Apart from the fame that his?monumental statues in Florence inevitably brought, his style?was disseminated in the form of small bronze reproductions?of his masterworks, or statuettes, which he composed?independently as elegant ornaments for the interior. These?were used by the Medici as diplomatic gifts for friendly heads?of state and were also eagerly purchased by European collectors as examples of sophisticated Florentine design. They were especially favoured in Germany and the Low Countries and were prominently illustrated in paintings of fashionable gallery interiors there. Another way in which Giambologna's reputation and style spread was through the movement of his pupils and assistents. Many of them, like he himself, were of the Low Countries. Travelling to Italy they worked for a while in his studio in Florence (which became something of an international entrepôt) and then returned homewards, sometimes with a recommendation from him to a particular patron in the north of Europe. For compositional subtlety, sensuous tactile values and sheer technical virtuosity, Giambologna's work is virtually unequalled in any period or country.
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