Renaissance and Reformation Giambologna
Michael Cole
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0342


Before the 1970s, Giambologna (a.k.a. Giovanni da Bologna) was of interest to a relatively small circle of scholars. Several of his monuments featured in histories of large-scale sculpture, and his marble Sabine in particular stood as a touchstone for books and articles on “Mannerist” style. The two most important studies of his overall career, nevertheless, were a book written in Dutch (Dhanens 1956) and unpublished doctoral dissertation (Holderbaum 1983). What transformed the literature was a major exhibition, focused mostly on portable objects, held in Edinburgh and Vienna in 1978. This highlighted the artist’s works in bronze and made clear what differentiated Giambologna from Michelangelo, the artist to whom all late Renaissance sculptors responded. Since then, scholarship on the artist has grown exponentially, with hundreds of new books and articles. A good part of the literature can be grouped by genre. A series of catalogues, mostly to exhibitions held in Florence, have treated Giambologna especially as a court artist, connecting his project to the interests of the Medici dukes. Another group of catalogues has accompanied exhibitions of private collections that include important small works in metal; often coauthored by the works’ owners or by the dealers who sold them, these tend to occupy themselves in the first place with attributions. Giambologna’s marble Sabine has generated a rich separate discussion, much of it keyed to the inventive poems contemporaries wrote about the monument. Giambologna figures prominently in the history of sculptors’ models and of garden sculpture. Recent interest in the Counter-Reformation, finally, has turned attention to Giambologna’s religious art, particularly the chapel he designed in San Marco, Florence.

General Overviews

There is no comprehensive, up-to-date monograph on Giambologna in any language. The most widely read survey of his art remains Avery 1987; the most recent is Gasparotto 2005. One reason for the paucity of such books is that the artist worked across fields that have become semi-independent areas of scholarly specialization: small bronzes, monumental public sculpture, architecture. Another is that Giambologna was highly collaborative; in nearly every one of his important projects, other artists had roles as important as his. Books on Giambologna have tended to begin by aligning him with a geography. Patrizi 1905 started with the works that stood out as part of the urban fabric in Italy. Gramberg 1936 approached Giambologna as a Northern sculptor and ended its discussion at the point when he became Florentine. The great Dhanens 1956, among the richest books in the literature, sought to reclaim the sculptor as a Fleming. Avery, et al. 1978 emphasized his role in founding an international style. Keutner 1984 focused on a local collection. Pope-Hennessy 1986 and Cole 2011 both considered Giambologna in relationship to a broader Italian tradition.

  • Avery, Charles. Giambologna: The Complete Sculpture. Oxford: Phaidon, 1987.

    The standard survey in English of Giambologna’s work, organized around materials (marble, bronze), formats (monumental statues, statuettes), and subject matter. Appendices include English translations of several key sources and a summary catalogue of sculpture.

  • Avery, Charles, Anthony Radcliffe, and Manfred Leithe-Jasper, eds. Giambologna 1529–1608: Ein Wendepunkt der europäischen Plastik. Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum, 1978.

    German edition of the catalogue to the largest-ever exhibition of Giambologna’s work. The influential shows and their accompanying publications offered an accessible, comprehensive overview of Giambologna’s sculpture, particularly his smaller-scale productions, that has not been matched since. This catalogue and the companion English edition (Giambologna 1529–1608: Sculptor to the Medici [London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1978]) are the starting point for subsequent attempts to sort out the division of labor in Giambologna’s workshop.

  • Cole, Michael. Ambitious Form: Giambologna, Ammanati, and Danti in Florence. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011.

    Looks at Giambologna’s work in relation to that of his two most important contemporaries, with particular attention to the artist’s approach to the figure, to his transition from sculpture to architecture, and to the urban context of his statues.

  • Dhanens, Elisabeth. Jean Boulogne/Giovanni Bologna Fiammingo: Douai 1529–Florence 1608. Bijdrage tot de studie van de kunstbetrekkingen tussen het graafschap Vlaanderen en Italie. Brussels: Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van Belgie, 1956.

    Groundbreaking monograph based on extensive documentary research. The foundation for all modern Giambologna studies.

  • Gasparotto, Davide. Giambologna. Rome: Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso, 2005.

    Written by an expert in 16th-century sculpture, but published as part of series sold at newspaper stands, with the aim of addressing the general public as well as scholars, the book is an excellent and readable introduction to Giambologna’s art and career.

  • Gramberg, Werner. Giovanni Bologna: Eine Untersuchung über die Werke seiner Wanderjahre (bis 1567). Libau, Latvia: Meyer, 1936.

    Still useful early consideration of Giambologna’s career up to the point when he established a permanent workshop in Florence.

  • Holderbaum, James. The Sculptor Giovanni Bologna. New York: Garland, 1983.

    Holderbaum’s 1959 doctoral dissertation was made available by Garland in its typescript form and with illustrations of uneven quality. But the author was thoroughly familiar with the 16th-century sources, and his descriptions of Giambologna’s statues remain some of the most sensitive in the literature.

  • Keutner, Herbert. Giambologna: Il Mercurio volante e altre opere giovanili. Florence: S.P.E.S., 1984.

    Small booklet on the Giambologna statues in the Bargello and other Florentine public collections, by one of the great Giambologna experts of the 20th century.

  • Patrizi, Patrizio. Il Giambologna. Milan: Cogliati, 1905.

    The first monograph on the artist. Mostly dedicated to monumental works, with a chapter on Giambologna’s architecture.

  • Pope-Hennessy, John. Italian High Renaissance and Baroque Sculpture. Oxford: Phaidon, 1986.

    A widely read survey of premodern Italian sculpture that includes brief but good introductory discussion of Giambologna’s major works, framed in relation to sculptural genres.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.