Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mannerism, The Rape of the Sabines, & Giambologna

One of the first works of art to be started and complete without a patron. This beautiful sculpture is at home in the Loggia of Florence. It has a prominent spot at the front right. With its twisting figures, raw emotion, and grace it is a proud pendant to the Perseus of Cellini.

The sculpture was created by Giambologna. It is named the Rape of the Sabines, but it didn't start out that way. Giambologna was a student at the Art Academy in Florence and wanted to prove his technical skill with multifigured sculpture and complex narrative. This was only allowed because he was a student who was to learn the art of sculpture free of direction and traditional convention. This is the painting that, more or less, kicked off Mannerist sculpture.

First how the sculpture landed in the Loggia. When Giambologna completed his masterpiece Cosimo I's son Grand Duke Ferdinand I saw it and decided then and there that it should be added to the Loggia. This was a huge deal. Consider the artwork and sculpture of Florence and you'll get a sense of how important it was to even be considered for placement in the Loggia.

The powerbase of Florence discussed what the work repressented...what was the narrative of the work? A few things came to mind. First, it was considered to repressent Andromeda, the wife of Perseus, to tie it to Cellini's work and complete the narrative theme of the Loggia's statues. That didn't really fly. I'm not sure why since it would have worked. Raffaello Borghini, a member of the Academy, offered the Sabines as its narrative and it stuck.

The story of the Sabines is about the founding of Rome. The Roman's needed more women to grow the Eternal City's population. As the Romans often did they took what they needed from neighbors. This is no different. They took the Sabine women by force (they did ask first, but were denied) and brought them back to Rome. The statue repressents the sacking. It isn't actually a statue of rape, but it does conjur up the image rather well.

This is one of the more photographed statues in Florence due to its location in the Loggia. The next time you see it in a photoalbum you can tell them the artistic and historical story.

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