This finely cast head appears to be unique. The hair is exquisitely modelled and cast with very little after work. The facture of the bronze would appear to date it to the end of the 16th century and may point to an early northern follower of Giambologna.
It is well known that Giambologna took little interest in the precise iconography of many of his figure groups. His most famous composition of three entwined figures in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence is identifiable as the Rape of a Sabine only by the narrative reliefs on the base. Similarly, with many of his single female studies, the titles are often of secondary importance and many are generically labelled as Venus. It should, therefore, not be surprising that the precise subject of this beautiful unique head of a woman is not certain.
The closest parallels for the head’s identification are the monumental group of Florence Triumphant over Pisa and the Fata Morgana. Both works show the woman’s head turned to her left, almost in profile. The heads are both tilted down slightly. The features of the personification of Florence and the Fata Morgana are neat and symmetrical, but the Florence certainly expresses more emotion with the mouth slightly open. The distinct drop of the left shoulder is similar in both works but the right shoulder of the Florence is pushed forward as she raises her elbow behind her, whereas the right arm of the Fata Morgana comes forward with her right arm resting on her breast. This gives a more gentle line to her shoulders and neck, more akin to the present bronze. The left arm of both figures comes forward, pushing slightly into the breast but in the case of the Fata Morgana the nipple very nearly touches the arm, as it does in this bust.
The present bronze is not currently known in any other versions. It is a relatively heavy lost-wax cast and in this is quite different to more prevalent late 17th or 18th century miniature busts. The classical cartouche and small socle have been joined in the wax and have the appearance of being an adaptation which may have been made to unify it into a series of male and female busts.
Giambologna (2006), pp.235-38, nos. 39-41 and p.135; Avery & Radcliffe, p.218-19, no.224; Avery (1978), pp.3-9; Avery (1987), pp.62-69, 79, pl.17; Bury, pp.96-100
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