Besides the temporal attribution, it is the sculptures’ material that provides an important clue as to the artist who created it. They were carved from alabaster, a material that was not used for sculpture in Florence during the Renaissance, despite the rich deposits in nearby Volterra. The quarries in Carrara supplied superb marble, and so Florentine sculptors were not interested in the soft and very delicate alabaster. In northern Europe, however, alabaster was enjoying great popularity, which left an artist from the Netherlands as the only possible originator of the works.
The Dresden statuettes are among the earliest known replicas of the Times of Day from the Medici Chapel. They were not created as study models but are autonomous artworks, that is, Kunstkammer works. Though the figures are small in size, their quality is great; their sensual modelling and monumental effect do more than justice to the famous sculptures on which they were modelled. The fact that the sections left incomplete by Michelangelo, for example the head of Day, are complete in the statuettes, and certain attributes, which Michelangelo had omitted, are present, furthermore point to a decidedly confident artist, someone who not only “finalized” Michelangelo’s sculptures in his versions, but “improved” them.
The exhibition presents the view that the Dresden Times of Day were created by the young Giambologna as he embarked on his career in Florence. The work of the Flemish artist can only be fully appreciated in light of his study of Michelangelo, something that makes itself felt in such subtle ways in his later oeuvre that it has earned only minimal attention up to this point. Unlike fellow Italian artists who were unable to step out of Michelangelo’s shadow, Giambologna managed to cast aside the influence of the illustrious paragon in creative ways. The exhibition looks at what it meant to step out of the great looming shadow.
Opening in Dresden’s Semperbau, the exhibition brings together approximately 70 works, including valuable loans from the Prado in Madrid, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Fondation Custodia/Collection Frits Lugt in Paris and from major international private collections. The presentation is further enhanced by objects from the Galerie Neue Meister, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, the Grünes Gewölbe, the Kunstbibliothek, the Kupferstich-Kabinett and the Münzkabinett of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue in German and English, published by Hirmer Verlag. It offers a vivid presentation of Giambologna’s largely unknown early work and his study of Michelangelo and includes ample illustrations. Published by: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, with contributions by Claudia Kryza-Gersch, Raphael Rosenberg, Aleksandra Lipińska, Frits Scholten, Marion Heisterberg, 264 pages, ca. 180 colour illustrations, retail price: € 39.90; ISBN: 978-3-7774-3146-8.