Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.



  • Place of origin:

    Florence (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1578 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Giambologna (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Unfired clay

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 16

Clays come from decomposed rocks ground down by weathering. Skill is needed in preparing wet clay to give it strength and ease of modelling, also to remove excess water and air before it is fired in a kiln. Firing fuses the clay particles and causes other structural changes that affect the colour and lead to shrinkage of about 10%. Comparatively few works in unfired clay survive because they are fragile and easily damaged. This figure is unfired and you can see the natural colour of the clay. Clay that is merely dried and not fired is known as ‘terra secca’. This is an unfired sketch model for grotesque masks on the façade of a building.

Physical description

A frowning male face, with folds of drapery at each side. Cracked and repaired; the nose broken. The inside filled (in 1909) with tinted plaster.

Place of Origin

Florence (made)


ca. 1578 (made)


Giambologna (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Unfired clay


Height: 7.6 cm

Object history note

Acquired in Florence from the Gherardini collection.

Descriptive line

Mask, by Giambologna, unfired clay, Italy (Florence) ca. 1578

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1854. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 17.
Maclagan, Eric and Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture. Text. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1932, p. 130.
Pope-Hennessy, John. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Volume II: Text. Sixteenth to Twentieth Century. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1964, p. 473.
Trusted, Marjorie, ed. The Making of Sculpture. The Materials and Techniques of European Sculpture. London: 2007, p. 37, pl. 54
Avery, Charles, Giambologna. The Complete Sculpture, Oxford: 1987, cat. 180, p. 275.

Production Note

This is an unfired sketch model for grotesque masks on the façade of a building. For the Palazzo Vecchietti, Florence, which was designed by Giambologna for his patron, Bernardo Vecchietti. It was Vecchietti who encouraged the sculptor to stay in Florence and introduced him to the Medici, for whom he became Court Sculptor.






Sculpture Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.