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Venus bathing

Museum Label:
Venus bathing
20th-century bronze cast from marble original by Giovanni da Bologna, 1524-1608. c 1583
Location: Boboli Gardens, Florence

Chiurazzi description:
Venus. Work of Giambologna. Has an entire harmonious lines.

Original size in marble: 134 cm.

Subject info:
Giambologna (Giovanni da Bologna) executed several figures of Venus, mostly for fountains. In these he achieves the Mannerist ideal in elongation and in concious courtly elegance. This statue belongs to a fountain in the Boboli Gardens.

A  work in marble by the Flemish sculptor and bronze worker Giambologna, commissioned around 1575 by the Medicis for the Boboli Gardens in Florence.The artist has infused the formal structure of the Venus with a sense of movement and precarious balance, which gives a decidedly anticlassical air to its Michelangelesque forms.The figure is shown with an almost unnatural twisting movement that originates in the left shoulder, which is turned backwards, and terminates in her hand which is resting on some drapery, which in turn covers an amphora. Her face, which is looking down, is turned so far to her right that her chin is in line with her shoulder, which is twisted forwards with her right hand resting on her left shoulder.



Her left leg, which supports part of the weight, is bent as her foot is resting on a high step, where the amphora is also standing. Her right foot stands on the “ground” and her leg is slightly bent, as if to absorb the weight of her body. The figure is not developed along a vertical line but follows a spiral. Her head is set on an unnaturally long twisted neck, her face is full and appears to be without expression or feeling and is framed by her curly hair which is described in the minute naturalistic detail typical of Mannerism. Her fairly loose plaits are held up by a finely modelled little crown.

Compare da Bologna's work with the Capitoline Venus and the Venus de' Medici, which were both thought be be ultimately derived from the Cnidian Aphrodite of Praxiteles.

As with Michelangelo's sculptures, there are multiple viewpoints and, because of the accentuated twisting of her body, the Venus can be viewed with pleasure from any direction. Unnatural and anti-classical poses were typical of Mannerism, where artistic experimentation was directed towards new and improbable human figures, where an elegant formalism made up for a lack of content. Mythological and historical subjects were reduced to pretexts for exhibiting brilliant virtuoso technique, as can be clearly seen in the work of Giambologna, one of the greatest Mannerist artists of the second half of the sixteenth century.He is particularly famous for his work in bronze, and to cope with innumerable requests, he organized a specialized workshop where there was certainly no lack of work. This clearly testifies to the popularity of his formal inventions among the highly cultured collectors who commissioned works.

More information on other sculpture.