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Chapter 1—


Giambologna (1529–1608) has been considered the quintessential sculptor of the late maniera, his so-called art statuary exemplifying the refined taste of the Medici court from 1570 until his death.[1] Scholarly attention has focused on famous designs of his, such as the Rape of the Sabines (Fig. 1) and Mercury (Fig. 2), that circulated throughout Europe in small bronze replicas. The virtuosity and popularity of Giambologna's designs have fostered the assumption that he had little or no concern for subject matter. Giambologna's obvious involvement with sculptural technique and composition has led to assessments of his work like that of Charles Avery: "His lack of concern with specific subject matter or deep emotional expression . . . left him free to concentrate on the technical aspect, extending his virtuosity to the limits of the materials with which he worked."[2]

This limited view of Giambologna's oeuvre implies that the artist could not be deeply concerned simultaneously with subject matter and technique, that these two ingredients in a work of art are separate. Posterity has seized on an incident furthering this belief that was reported by Raffaello Borghini in Il riposo; it concerns the naming of the Rape of the Sabines .[3] The statue was apparently not executed on commission. According to Borghini, Giambologna was working on a large marble group of a man lifting a woman with an older man below to prove his mastery of complex compositions on a large scale. One day, not long before the statue was completed in January 1582, Borghini himself stopped by Giambologna's studio and, discovering that the work had no title, gave it its name.


Figure 1.
Giambologna, Rape of the Sabines,  1582. Marble, 410 cm. Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence.


Figure 2.
Giambologna, Mercury,  1580. Bronze, 170 cm. Museo Nazionale, Florence.

There is no doubt that the Sabine marble represented an extraordinary technical feat in which Giambologna solved, on a monumental scale, the difficult problem of relating three figures in the midst of violent activity. But even more significant, he created a statue that not only offers multiple viewing possibilities but requires that the spectator circle it to understand it fully. It is the paradigm of the figura serpentinata, a form that began with Leonardo, was explored by Michelangelo, and was brought to full realization by Giambologna.[4] This form, pointing to the changed relationship between viewers and work of art at the end of the sixteenth century, gave viewers a part to play in the "narrative" of a work of art; no art demanded their participation more insistently than sculpture. Multifaceted sculpture, a topic much discussed during


the sixteenth century, is related to the new connection between viewer and work of art. In the mid-sixteenth century the issue was a significant part of the paragone debate whether painting or sculpture was superior. Cellini, for example, in his response to Benedetto Varchi's Inchiesta of 1546 on the relative merits of painting versus sculpture, stated that a freestanding sculpture would ideally have no fewer than eight satisfactory views.[5] According to the proponents of sculpture, its capacity to present multiple views helped make it indisputably superior to painting. What may have started out as a theoretical debate had far-reaching and significant results by the end of the century. Giambologna, in works such as the Rape of the Sabines, not only took up again the challenge of the paragone controversy and ostensibly reestablished the supremacy of sculpture but, more important, created a new link between viewer and work of art.

Pope-Hennessy, recognizing the narrowness of the long-held opinion that Giambologna ignored subject matter, has countered it with specific reference to the Sabine marble:

The fact is not that the group has no subject, but that it represents the highest common factor in a number of alternative scenes. Its meaning was from the first self-evident; only its context was in doubt. Nowadays, in our modern art-historical writing, we use the terms "subject" and "programme" as though they were interchangeable, but we must distinguish between them here. Giovanni Bologna's was a reaction against the concept of programme, and the reason for it was that he took the concept of subject so seriously.[6]

A view like Avery's, unlike Pope-Hennessy's, ignores a considerable body of Giambologna's work—almost all of it, in fact, from the 1580s on. During the last thirty years of his life Giambologna revealed himself to be a gifted narrator, making a significant contribution to the narrative tradition, as is evident especially in his relief cycles for the Grimaldi Chapel, San Francesco di Castelletto, Genoa (begun 1579); the Salviati Chapel, San Marco, Florence (1579–89); and the Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I, Piazza Signoria, Florence (Fig. 3).

My purpose here is to revise our unjustifiably narrow view of Giambologna and to define his contribution to the pictorial narrative tradition by considering one of the three monuments just named, the Grimaldi Chapel, an underrated masterpiece.[7] Although this study embraces the entire Grimaldi Chapel, viewing it as a whole, the focus, as the subtitle


Figure 3.
Giambologna,  Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I , 1587–93. Bronze, 
c. 700 cm. Piazza Signoria, Florence.

of the book indicates, is its narrative relief cycle. Scholarly interest in narrative has burgeoned in recent decades. A number of art historians have appropriated the methods of literary studies, incorporating, for example, aspects of structuralism and semiotics into their work.[8] The end of the twentieth century has become a self-consciously methodological age as we try to discover new meanings and relationships in familiar visual material. Scholarship on narrative has moved from description, following the story line, to an analysis of narrative structure and its multivalent roles in its time and place. No canonical treatment of narrative form has emerged from narrative analysis, however, in either art-historical or literary studies. Nor have scholars agreed on definitions or


a fixed vocabulary applicable to the material. I have chosen to treat the Passion cycle in the Grimaldi Chapel as the product of a complex interaction and interweaving of historical forces involving the artist, the patron, the immediate religious setting, the larger religious context of the Catholic Reformation, and the social and political situation in Genoa during the last quarter of the sixteenth century. Given what I think is the complexity of the forces at work, I have thought it best to be eclectic in my analysis, following the example set by Giambologna himself in his approach to narrative.

After more than a century of domination by foreign powers, Genoa, the site of the Grimaldi Chapel, had by 1550 regained its international importance, this time as a commercial and banking center of the Spanish Hapsburgs. Andrea Doria had miraculously saved the city from the French and in 1528 restored the old nobility to power through the establishment of the Republic. Thenceforth the government was headed by a biennially elected doge, assisted by five censors, eight governors of the Senate, and eight procurators. In addition, there was a Major Council of four hundred nobles, from which was formed a Minor Council of one hundred. A further characteristic that distinguished Genoa from other Italian city-states was its system of alberghi, or "neighborhoods," each controlled by a noble family. All aspects of life (family, business, religion, culture, politics) were integrated into the alberghi; thus the public and the private were inseparably linked.

Undoubtedly, posterity's neglect of Giambologna's Grimaldi Chapel has resulted from its location in Genoa, out of the mainstream, and its destruction in the nineteenth century. The bronze sculpture for the chapel comprised six freestanding Virtues, a Passion cycle in relief, and six angels (Plates 2–12, Figs. 4–7), now preserved at the University of Genoa.[9] The Grimaldi Chapel was situated in San Francesco di Castelletto (Fig. 8), a typical Italian Gothic church of basilican plan with a nave and two side aisles, its facing of light and dark marble stripes characteristic of that period in Italy (Figs. 9, 10).[10] With internal dimensions of about 250 by 85 feet, San Francesco was roughly comparable in size to San Lorenzo in Florence. The Grimaldi Chapel occupied an honored position, in the transept immediately to the right of the main altar (Fig. 11). San Francesco was not an ordinary Franciscan parish church but a Conventual Franciscan church and convent with an illustrious history.[11] As the mother church of the Franciscan order, San Francesco was the


Figure 4.
Giambologna, Justice,  1584. Bronze, 175 cm. Università, Genoa.


Figure 5.
Giambologna, The Way to Calvary,  c. 1585–87. Bronze, 47 × 71 cm. Università, Genoa.

site of many of its general chapter meetings. The convent was founded about 1230, only four years after the death of Saint Francis and two years after his canonization. In 1250, when the building of the big church was begun, Pope Innocent IV granted permission for burials there, stimulating many wealthy Genoese to choose San Francesco as their final resting place.[12] Among these was Andrea Fieschi, a brother of the pope and a significant donor to the early building program of the church. In 1311 the church acquired a further distinction when a noble foreigner, Margaret of Brabant, queen of Luxembourg, died in Genoa and was buried there. The carving of her tomb brought the distinguished sculptor Giovanni Pisano to Genoa in 1312–13.[13] The burial of the queen in San Francesco was followed fifty years later by that of the near-mythical Simone Boccanegra (d. 1363), first doge of Genoa.[14]

The church's vulnerable position, on a hill above the center of the city beside the fortress of Castelletto, was largely responsible for the vicissitudes of its existence. In time of war there was the danger of bom-


bardment; from 1505 to 1537, for example, the friars abandoned San Francesco for fear of attack. Imperial troops sacked the church in 1522. In the mid-sixteenth century the friars carried on a sporadic renovation of their church. The embellishment of the interior proceeded slowly until the 1570s and 1580s, when activity reached its peak under the guidance of Brother Giovanni Battista Fornari.[15] It was during this period of activity, in 1579, that Giambologna received the commission for the Grimaldi Chapel. By then, the street just below San Francesco, known as the Strada Nuova (now Via Garibaldi), had become a fashionable residential street for the Genoese nobility; many of its splendid palaces had already been built.[16] On high ground overlooking the city, the Strada Nuova provided a more commodious and a healthier place to live than the older medieval quarters down near the port. Even more important, however, was the symbolic value attached to this street. The old nobility had been granted permission to develop it by the comune . It became the symbol of their power but also of Genoa's triumph over humiliation at the hands of external powers, for its location just below the old fortress of Castelletto, the site of many Genoese defeats, proclaimed the city's ultimate victory over past misfortunes.

A coincidence of facts points to Galeazzo Alessi as the designer of this magnificent new street. Documents show that the area was developed gradually, beginning in mid-century, on the initiative of the Padri di Comune and that the proceeds from the sale of property went to the Fabrica della Catedrale, where Alessi was heavily involved in renovations in the 1550s and 1560s.[17] It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that he was involved in some capacity in the plan of the street, if only as a consultant. The grand palaces on the Strada Nuova embodied the aspirations of the Genoese nobility that Andrea Doria had stimulated in the 1520s when he brought Perino del Vaga to Genoa.

Luca Grimaldi (son of Francesco), patron of the Grimaldi Chapel, was a member of the old nobility, his family allied to the Guelph party. Members of the family were stockholders in the powerful Banco di San Giorgio and for generations had served the city government in various capacities, including ambassador, procurator, senator, and doge.[18] An older relative of Luca Grimaldi, also Luca Grimaldi (son of Gerolamo), was among the first nobles to buy property in the area where the Strada Nuova would be laid out. In 1564 he sold a large portion of his land, 3,400 square meters, to another Grimaldi, Nicolò, Il Monarca, a noble-


Figure 6.
Giambologna, Angel,  1582–83, bronze. Università, Genoa.

man whose great wealth enabled him to become the principal banker to Philip II.[19]

Our Luca Grimaldi was one of several members of the family who were connected to the Church of San Francesco di Castelletto. Presumably he assumed responsibility for the Grimaldi Chapel when his father died.[20] At the time the contract was signed with Giambologna, Luca Grimaldi was living in an old quarter of the city near the Church of San Luca, close to the port and the Banco di San Giorgio. In 1580, the year after signing the contract with Giambologna for the rebuilding and decorating of the family chapel in San Francesco, Grimaldi acquired the palace of his cousin Luca di Gerolamo Grimaldi adjacent to the church and in all likelihood moved in (Fig. 10),[21] thus physically uniting the secular and religious parts of his life. The plague of 1577, during which Grimaldi was minister of health, might well have motivated him to rebuild the family chapel in 1579.[22] He was only seizing the opportunity to be known as the patron of the most sumptuous chapel in a church that members of the various branches of the Grimaldi family had been associated with for well over a century. Ansaldo, one of the largest stock-holders in the Banco di San Giorgio, made substantial donations to the Monastery of San Francesco. In turn, the monastery promised that a mass would be celebrated in perpetuity each year on his birthday, No-


Figure 7.
Giambologna, Angel,  1582–83, bronze. Università, Genoa.

Figure 8.
Gerolamo Bordoni (?),  View of Genoa , with San Francesco di Castelletto at center 
left, below the fortezza , c. 1616. Collection of Marchese Ludovico Pallavicini, Genoa.


Figure 9.
Facade, San Francesco di Castelletto, Genoa. Drawing from 
Domenico Piaggio, Monumenta Genuensia , early eighteenth century, 
Ms Mr. V.3.3, fol. 12, Civica Biblioteca Berio, Genoa.

Figure 10.
Eastern prospect, Salita di  San Francesco di Castelletto, with the palace of Luca Grimaldi to the right. 
From P. B. Cattaneo, Ms 1595–1600, Civica Biblioteca Berio, Genoa.


Figure 11.
Ground plan, San Francesco di Castelletto, with the Grimaldi 
Chapel to the right of the apse, c. 1785, no. 791, Collezione 
Topografica, Museo Sant'Agostino, Genoa.

vember 20, in the Chapel of the Holy Cross.[23] In 1573 Battista di Gerolamo Grimaldi, father-in-law of our Luca Grimaldi, had the oculus of the church repaired, substituting the Grimaldi coat of arms for the broken blue rose.[24] And in 1579 Luca Cambiaso completed a Last Supper that had been commissioned by Francesco Grimaldi, Luca's father, for the refectory of the monastery.[25]

Undoubtedly, the embellishment of San Francesco was stimulated in the 1570s and 1580s by the building activity nearby, but the spirit of reform initiated at the Council of Trent must have played a part as well. Provincial synods, such as the one held in Genoa in 1567, and apostolic visitations provided a strong stimulus not only for the reform of local


clerical behavior but also for the renovation of buildings.[26] Some two centuries later, under the Napoleonic government, the Franciscans were suppressed, the church and convent were expropriated by the government, and the church was gradually denuded of its marbles, bronzes, and paintings. The process of demolition was completed by 1820.[27]

Despite the tragic demise of San Francesco, the preservation of Giambologna's bronzes for the Grimaldi Chapel at the University of Genoa indicates that the chapel, much admired during its existence, continued to be held in high regard. In his chronicle of 1674 Raffaello Soprani exhibits his civic pride as he notes that Genoa was the site of one of Giambologna's major works. The magnificence of the Grimaldi Chapel was so dazzling, the bronzes of such high quality, he exclaimed, that they not only deserve great admiration in themselves but also leave no doubt that even if Giambologna had done no other work in his life, this monument had earned him the title of the best and most excellent maestro.[28]

The scant information about Giambologna's early years is summarized by Baldinucci, who gleaned his information from Borghini and Vasari, both of whom knew Giambologna firsthand. Baldinucci says that Giambologna came from Douai, now in France but at that time in Flanders. He went to Italy when he was about twenty-five and remained there until his death.[29] Although the artistic climate and opportunities in Italy during the last half of the cinquecento seem to have suited him perfectly (he may never have returned to Flanders), to the end of his life he remained strongly attached to his native land, always indicating his place of birth when he signed his works. The inscription on the Altar of Liberty in Lucca reads, "Ioannis Bolonii Flandren opus A.D. MDLXXIX" (work of Giovanni Bologna of Flanders, 1579). And he intended that his own funeral chapel in Santissima Annunziata in Florence provide a mausoleum for expatriate Flemish artists like himself.

Giambologna's middle-class parents had intended that he become a notary. Talent and inclination prevailed, however, and he entered the workshop of the Flemish sculptor Jacques Du Broeucq (1505–1584), where he served his apprenticeship in the late 1540s and early 1550s. During this time Du Broeucq was at work on the elaborate rood screen for Sainte-Waudru in Mons (Fig. 12).[30] It was there that Giambologna learned to carve marble in the round and in relief.

Du Broeucq, one of the principal importers of the Italian Renaissance style to Flanders, no doubt was inspired by the visit he had made to


Figure 12.
Jacques Du Broeucq, study for the architectural framework of the 
Sainte-Waudru rood screen, 1535. 
Archives de l'Etat, Mons.

Italy between 1530 and 1535.[31] He belonged to a growing group of sixteenth-century Flemish artists stimulated by Italian art, more and more of whom made the long journey south, returning with new artistic ideas and finally establishing the Flemish version of the Italian Renaissance style by the mid-sixteenth century. It was undoubtedly Du Broeucq who urged Giambologna to make his own study trip to Rome.

Du Broeucq's sculpture for Sainte-Waudru in Mons is one of the best examples of Flemish Italianate Renaissance style. His rood screen, partially destroyed in the nineteenth century but now largely reassembled, was an ambitious work comprising ten freestanding figures—seven Virtues, Moses, David, and Christ—and twenty-six scenes in relief, most of which relate events of Christ's Passion. The freestanding statues are solid, robust, almost peasant types with a tinge of classical calm absorbed from Rome. The stalwart figure of Fortitude, who grasps her broken column and gazes solemnly down toward the viewer, is typical of Du Broeucq's freestanding works.[32] The reliefs, pictorial in their definition of settings, three-dimensional in their rendering of figures, also reflect an acquaintance with ancient Roman relief. At the same time, they


Figure 13.
Jacques Du Broeucq, Ecce Homo,  Sainte-Waudru rood screen, c. 1546, marble.

retain a distinctly northern flavor. The Ecce Homo (Fig. 13), for instance, is packed with swaying, elongated figures who shout and gesticulate in response to Pilate's question. The emotion of the crowd, not spatial credibility or clarity, is the artist's interest here.

Having learned his trade as an apprentice with Du Broeucq, Giambologna must have been eager to go and see Rome for himself. According to Borghini and Baldinucci, he spent two years there, probably 1554–56. During that time he undoubtedly devoured all the riches, both ancient and modern, that Rome had to offer. Borghini and Baldinucci report that he made many wax and clay models, a few of which survive. Two ancient works visible in Rome that could not have failed to excite Giambologna were the Laocoön (Fig. 14), discovered in 1506, and The Punishment of Dirke (Fig. 15), unearthed only in 1546. Both exhibit the powerful energy that is a fundamental constituent of so many of Giambologna's later works. Surely he also studied, among the many works in Rome, monuments that Du Broeucq admired, such outstanding examples of Roman narrative relief as the Column of Trajan and the Arch of Constantine.[33] The restrained classicism of Andrea Sansovino's Sforza and Basso monuments in Santa Maria del Popolo would also have appealed to him. And he must have visited the Vatican frescoes of Michelangelo and Raphael more than once, mesmerized by their combination


Figure 14.
, first century B.C. Marble, 184 cm. 
Museo Vaticano, Rome.

Figure 15.
The Punishment of Dirke
, original of 150 B.C. Marble, 370 cm. 
Museo Nazionale, Naples.


of powerful energy, suavity, and grace. Baldinucci recounts an entertaining incident that purportedly took place between Giambologna and Michelangelo; whether true or not, it does set up an Italian artistic genealogy for Giambologna. According to the story, the young sculptor one day took one of his models to Michelangelo, who promptly destroyed it, fashioned another to please himself, and advised Giambologna to learn how to make a proper bozzetto before embarking on the finished product.[34] More certain, though not provable, are Giambologna's visits to the workshop of Guglielmo della Porta, where he could have learned bronze casting and seen restorations of ancient works.[35] The exposure to both ancient and Renaissance works was to inspire Giambologna throughout his career and very early superseded any lingering Flemish idiosyncrasies of style he might have acquired in his homeland.

About 1556, models in hand, Giambologna began the long return trip to Flanders, stopping off in Florence on the way. Initially he found support and work through the wealthy patron Bernardo Vecchietti.[36] The combination of Vecchietti's contacts and Giambologna's talent eventually led to continuous patronage by the ruling Medici: Grand Dukes Cosimo, Francesco, and Ferdinando. Such a receptive and welcoming environment evidently induced Giambologna to remain in Florence for the rest of his long life, during which he became the most famous and influential sculptor in Europe between Michelangelo and Bernini.

When he received the Grimaldi Chapel commission in 1579, Giambologna was fifty years old and enjoyed noble patronage as court sculptor to Grand Duke Francesco de' Medici of Florence. Writing a hundred years later, Baldinucci attributed Giambologna's fame to Medici patronage: "The celebrated Flemish sculptor Giovanni Bologna, thanks to having fallen into the hands of a magnanimous prince, achieved not only perfection in his art and riches but such fame as to render him immortal forever."[37]

Giambologna's reputation extended throughout Europe, principally because of his bronze statuettes, which were much in demand.[38] This reputation was protected by the high quality of the work that issued from his busy shop, where he supervised many well-trained assistants, who later went off to work for princes in northern Europe. Rarely did Giambologna leave Florence, and when he did, his position as court sculptor obliged him to secure the grand duke's permission to work for another patron.[39] Even the Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian II and


his son Rudolf II were unsuccessful when they tried to lure Giambologna to work for them.[40] This was the situation when Luca Grimaldi decided that he wanted the great Giambologna to decorate his family funeral chapel. How he lured him is an intriguing question that will be treated in Chapter 2.

Giambologna's efforts for his noble Genoese patron were very much in tune with the spirit of the Catholic Reformation in the late sixteenth century.[41] The Grimaldi Chapel is only one example, another being the Salviati Chapel in Florence, of how the prevalent view of Giambologna as a superficial mannerist is completely off the mark. Efforts at reform in the visual arts focused on a straightforward presentation of narrative and the elimination of any elements that might be considered distracting, implausible, or lascivious. Prominent among the reformers were Cardinal Gabriele Paleotti and Giovanni Andrea Gilio da Fabriano, both of whose treatises circulated widely.[42] But Giambologna went further than simply following their dicta in his work for the Grimaldi Chapel. He explored and exploited the narrative possibilities of relief to create a dynamic interaction between viewer and work of art. By adapting the multiple-view technique normally applicable only to freestanding sculpture, he succeeded in his relief sculptures in involving the viewer, through time, as an active participant in the unfolding narrative. After Giambologna, Bernini carried this involvement of the spectator to its apogee, integrating the pictorial and narrative characteristics of relief into freestanding sculpture.


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