Florence Triumphant over Pisa
- Place of origin:
- Materials and Techniques:
Terracotta, made from modelled clay
- Credit Line:
Presented by The Art Fund and the Pilgrim Trust in memory of David, Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, Chairman of the NACF 1945-70, Trustee of the Pilgrim Trust 1945-75
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, case 16
This model forms the second stage in the preparation of the design for Giambologna's colossal marble group. The marble is 2.6 metres high and is now in the Bargello museum in Florence. It represents the city of Florence, who is personified as a powerful but elegant female, triumphing over the crushed figure of the elderly male figure of Pisa. This nearby rival city was then under Florentine rule.
The sketch was modelled on a wooden board, the imprint of which is visible underneath. It is solid apart from the torso of Florence. The sculptor is focusing on the treatment of the female figure. He presumably removed the arms to allow more detailed working on the torso, the surface of which has probably been finished with a soft, damp rag. Pisa, on the other hand, is worked very loosely. His features are merely suggested by pinches of clay, and the surface finish remains quite rough. The details of the final composition are, however, taking shape. This is shown both by the basic relationship of the figures and the quickly incised marks on the thigh of Florence, which indicate the position of the drapery.
A 'sketch model' in terracotta of a male figure, Pisa, crouching head downwards with his arms behind his back, while over him stands a naked female figure, Florence, whose right knee is poised above his shoulder.
Modeled on a wooden board, the imprint of which is visible underneath, this sketch is solid apart from the torso of Florence. Giambologna has focused on the treatment of the female figure, and presumably removed the arms to allow a more detailed working of the torso, the surface of which has probably been finished with a soft, damp rag. Pisa on the other hand has been worked very loosely, his features merely suggested by pinches of clay and with the surface finish remaining quite rough. The details of the final marble composition are, however, taking shape, both in the basic relationship of the figures and in the quickly incised marks on Florence’s thigh to indicate the position of the drapery.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Terracotta, made from modelled clay
Height: 39 cm, Width: 15 cm, Depth: 17 cm maximum
Object history note
This object was once in the possession of the Rucellai family and housed in the prestigious Palazzo Rucellai in Florence. With a long standing history as a wealthy Tuscan mercantile family, the Rucellai had owned the Palazzo for over 500 years during which time they commissioned work from artists such as Alberti, Michelangelo and Botticelli
Bought by the National Art Collection Fund (N.A.C.F) and the Pilgrim Trust in 1979, this statuette was given to the V&A in memory of David, Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, Chairman of the N.A.C.F 1945-70 and Trustee of the Pilgrim Trust 1945-75.
Prior to its donation, it had been on loan to the V&A from P.& D. Colnaghi & Co Ltd.for the period of one year for its display in the 1978 touring exhibition Giambologna 1529-1608: Sculptor to the Medici.
Historical significance: This terracotta is one of a series of surviving models for Giambologna’s colossal marble group of Florence triumphant over Pisa, now in the Bargello. Following on from the wax model (4118-1854), which is believed to be the first, this is the next stage in the evolution of the composition. It represents the city of Florence, personified as a powerful but elegant female, triumphing over the crushed figure of Pisa, the nearby rival city then under Florentine rule.
The terracotta bozzetto conforms closely to Sirigatti’s description of clay modeling included in Borghini’s Il Riposo, a dialogue set in the villa of the same name belonging to Giambologna’s long-standing patron and collector of his models, Bernardo Vecchietti. It is largely due to the growing interest in the creative process that so many of his models have survived, as well as the few by Michelangelo which were not destroyed. The latter’s clay Hercules and Cacus (Casa Buonarroti, Florence) for example, generated significant interest in the theme of two figures in conflict.
The extraordinary number of extant models and the lack of drawings by Giambologna indicate his preference for working out ideas in three dimensions. Moreover it is possible to track the evolution of this particular design from inception to completion because of the unprecedented survival of every apparent stage of the process as described by Vasari. These comprise the initial idea or pensiero in wax (Inv. No. 4118-1854), this bozzetto, and two terracotta heads in the Bargello, which are fragments from a larger-scale model that have been worked up in more detail. The composition was further developed in the full-sized clay model, from which Francavilla probably carved the marble
While the daring undercutting separating the limbs gave greater movement and space to the marble version, the freshness of the modeling seen particularly in this terracotta was lost in the more detailed carving of the features and the polished surface of the finished work. The surprisingly languorous position of Florence’s right leg, though less awkward than the terracotta version, produces a strained elegance. However, the overall feeling of power and monumentality of the victor has been increased by her more upright and defiant pose. The columnar support under Pisa becomes a fox in the finished marble, presumably representing the cunning of the Pisans.
(For all the above see New Haven 2001 and Florence 2006).
Historical context note
Florence triumphant over Pisa is one of a number of such two-figure victory groups produced around the mid-sixteenth century, including those by Pierino da Vinci, Vincenzo Danti and Ammanati. While all these were influenced by Michelangelo’s works, Giambologna’s version was specifically designed to be placed in direct comparison with the older master’s marble. Despite his dependence on modeling, of which this is amongst the first, his working method varied considerably from that of Michelangelo, who made comparatively limited use of assistants. In contrast, Giambologna set up an extremely efficient workshop, concentrating his own efforts on invention, and ceding most of the time-consuming execution of the finished marbles and bronzes to others.
The marble group was commissioned in 1565 by Prince Francesco de’ Medici as a pendant to Michelangelo’s Victory, which had been presented to the Medici by Michelangelo’s nephew and heir following the master’s death the previous year. The two marbles were intended to be displayed together in the Salone del Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio at the festivities of Francesco’s marriage to Joanna of Austria in December that year. However, there was insufficient time even for the marble block to be chosen and transported from the quarry and instead the full-sized clay (gesso) model (currently in the Palzzo Vecchio, Florence) was substituted for the final work, which was not completed until 1570.
Statuette, model, terracotta, depicting Florence Triumphant over Pisa, by Giambologna, Italy (Florence), 1565
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Boucher, Bruce, ed. Earth and Fire, Italian Sculpture from Donatello to Canova. with the collaboration of Peta Motture, Anthony Radcilffe, Paola D'Agostio, and Carlo Milano. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001, 172 p. ill. ISBN 0300090803
Avery, Charles, Giambologna. The Complete Sculpture Oxford: Phaidon, 1987. pp 219. ISBN 714880264
Avery, Charles, and Radcliffe, Anthony, ed. Giambologna 1529-1608: Sculptor to the Medici London: Arts Council, 1978. pp.218-9, 224 ill. ISBN 0728701804
Avery, Charles; Laing, Alastair; Katz, Lois eds.Fingerprints of the Artist: European Terracotta Sculpture from the Arthur Sackler Collections Washington: Harvard University Press, 1981, p.20 ISBN:0674302028
Ferrais, Ilaria, ed. Giambologna: gli dei, gli eroi. Florence: Polo Museale, 2006, pp. 235 ISBN 8809042921
Avery, Charles. Giambologna, The Complete Sculpture. Oxford: 1987, pp. 65-7, plates 68, 71-5, VIII, cat. 190, p. 276
Avery, Charles. Fingerprints of the artist. European Terra-Cotta from the Artur M. Sackler Collection. Exh. Cat, Washington, 1981, p. 20
Satzinger, Georg and Schütze, Sebastian, Der Göttliche. Hommage an Michelangelo, Bonn: Bundeskunsthalle, 2015, exh. cat., p. 232, cat. no. 175
Eclercy, Bastian, ed. Maniera: Pontormo, Bronzino and Medici Florence, Munich, 2016, exh. cat., pp. 206-207, cat. 89.
Labels and date
This expertly modelled terracotta sketch records the next stage in the development of Giambologna's colossal marble version of Florence Triumphant Over Pisa intended for the Salone del Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. While the female torso and head, which are hollow, are more fully worked up, the male figure is solid and still only roughly suggested. 
Male figure; Female figure