Giambologna’s composition of the present model is thought to derive from marbles from Antiquity that he had studied early on in his career and clearly also references Michelangelo’s Samson and the Philistines, of which a stucco model is kept in the Casa Buonarotti whilst early bronze casts are now in the Bargello and Berlin (Paolozzi Strozzi/ Zikos, op.cit., p. 47). Michelangelo was the key influence for Giambologna’s generation and it is therefore not surprising that Giambologna had already been inspired by the Samson group for his rendition of the subject from 1562.
This is the only known version of the composition in marble. Giambologna worked on single figures in marble on several occasions, mainly early on in his career, including the Putto for the Ospedale degli Innocenti now in Douai, the Fata Morgana and the Venus of the Grotticella. Their supple musculature and soft modelling compare well to the present figure. This is particularly evident on the reverse with its typical recessed spine. The execution of the hair, with voluminous curls at the front and closely cropped and more summary towards the back of the head, is similar to the Putto while the general shape of the curls can also be seen Fata Morgana’s hair. The concentrated gaze, obtained by enlarged eyes with strongly delineated eyelids, is equally characteristic of these figures. Sadly, no document about a marble Hercules or further marble Labours of Hercules by Giambologna survive. Several of Giambologna’s pupils, like Pietro Tacca and Pietro Francavilla, executed their master’s designs in marble.
C. Avery, Giambologna. The complete sculpture, London, 1987; M. Bury, ‘Giambologna’s Fata Morgana rediscovered’, Apollo Magazine, no. 336, February 1990, pp. 96-100; B. Paolozzi Strozzi and D. Zikos (eds.), Giambologna, gli dei, gli eroi. Genisi e fortuna di uno stile europeo nella scultura, exh. cat. Florence, 2006
Sotheby's would like to thank Rosario Coppel for her assistance with cataloguing this lot. A full expertise by Professor Coppel is available from the department.
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