Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Giambologna, Narrator of the Catholic Reformation

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Giambologna, Narrator of the Catholic Reformation

Article excerpt

Giambologna, Narrator of the Catholic Reformation. By Mary Weitzel Gibbons. [California Studies in the History of Art, XXXIII.] (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1995. Pp. xviii, 262; 13 colorplates, 81 black and white figures. $50.00.)

Mary Gibbons successfully challenges the generally held view that Giambologna was not interested in subject matter. She demonstrates that the style he invented for the bronze reliefs of Christ's Passion in the Grimani Chapel in Genoa was his response to the newly voiced requirements of the Catholic Reformation that art be legible and comprehensible to the worshiper. She thus removes these works from the context of late maniera court art and places them firmly in the avant-garde of Baroque religious art.

The chapel, commissioned in 1579 by Luca Grimani, a prominent Genoese who would later serve as doge, has been neglected because it was destroyed when the church of San Francesco di Castelletto was suppressed under Napoleon and Giambologna's bronzes transferred to the university. The author reconstructs the Grimani sepulcral chapel with the aid of the artist's contemporary Salviati Chapel in San Marco in Florence, which she call his "most important extant architectural and sculptural complex" (p. 27), and other precedents where painting and sculpture were combined.

She associates the rare pairing of a series of Virtues with a Passion cycle to the Catholic Reformation's focus on good works and the new catechism of 1566 that joined these two elements (p. 57). Passion cycles took on new prominence with the post-Tridentine emphasis on the Eucharist as first among the sacraments, insistence upon the real presence in the consecrated host, and the desirability of frequent communion for the faithful. The Passion story reminded the worshiper that Christ's sacrifice was made for humankind's redemption, as celebrated in the Eucharist. The prominence of Pilate in Giambologna's cycle is linked to the dilemma of choosing between political expediency and personal conscience, faced by the patron Grimani as a prominent member of the Genoese government. …

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