Giovanni Bologna, called Giambologna

before 1588

Bronze; later addition: wooden cross, base with pietra dura inlays
Height 27.1 cm



This bronze crucifix is one of a series of small crucifixes executed in the workshop of Giovanni Bologna. The delicate, bearded Christ is nailed to the cross with arms outstretched and one foot over the other. A barely perceptible torsion animates the body, so that the right hip is pushed slightly forward. This bronze is thought to have been produced in the period before 1588: it shows similarities to two large-scale crucifixes in Florence made by Bologna at around that time. However, the strikingly slender body of the Frankfurt Christ and the loose modelling of the beard, the hair and the folds in the loincloth suggest that it was made earlier than the other two.

Jean Boulogne, who came from Douai in Flanders in the Southern Netherlands, set out for Italy in about 1550. He Italianized his name to Giovanni Bologna, which is sometimes shortened to Giambologna. His years of study, spent in Rome and Florence, lasted until 1557/58. From 1561 onwards he was court sculptor to the Medici. Beginning in the early 1580s he executed works—such as the marble group “Rape of the Sabine Women” in Florence and the equestrian statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici—which pointed the way forward for European sculpture.

A large number of small bronzes are attributed to his late period; they include portrayals of Christ, equestrian statuettes intended as commemorative pieces for indoor display, representations of classical gods, and animals as well. His style became widely known through these small bronze works, which were in great demand as collectors’ items, as well as through his pupils and assistants, who included such renowned sculptors as Antonio Susini, Hans Reichle, Hubert Gerhard and Adrien de Vries.