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Giambologna (1529–1608) was the last significant Italian Renaissance sculptor, with a large workshop producing large and small works in bronze and marble in a late Mannerist style.
Giambologna’s Neptune, atop the Fountain of Neptune, Bologna (c. 1567)
Giambologna was born in Douai, Flanders (then and now in France), in 1529. After youthful studies in Antwerp with the architect-sculptor Jacques du Broeucq, he moved to Italy in 1550 and studied in Rome, making a detailed study of the sculpture of classical antiquity. He was also much influenced by Michelangelo, but developed his own Mannerist style, with perhaps less emphasis on emotion and more emphasis on refined surfaces, cool elegance, and beauty. Pope Pius IV gave Giambologna his first major commission, the colossal bronze Neptune and subsidiary figures for the Fountain of Neptune (the base designed by Tommaso Laureti, 1566) in Bologna.
Giambologna spent his most productive years in Florence, where he had settled in 1553. In 1563 he was named a member (Accademico) of the prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, just founded by the Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, on 13 January 1563, under the influence of the painter-architect Giorgio Vasari, becoming also one of the Medicis’ most important court sculptors. He died in Florence at the age of 79; the Medici had never allowed him to leave Florence, as they rightly feared that either the Austrian or Spanish Habsburgs would entice him into permanent employment. He was interred in a chapel he designed himself in the Santissima Annunziata.