An ideal male body

(16th-century public heroic statuary of male nudes, so there will be (small) penises, if that sort of thing worries you)

An ideal male body — or so Kenji Matsuoka pronounced it this morning:

(#1) Side view of [Italian] Oceano / [Latin] Oceanus by Giambologna (1576) at the Bargello National Museum, Florence: a simultaneous imagined depiction of Neptune, the Roman god of waters and oceans (whose Greek counterpart is Poseidon); and flattering tribute to the sculptor’s Medici patron — in a single beautiful male body

Giambologna’s largest marble; it once crowned a fountain in the Boboli Gardens in Florence, but in 1911 it was moved to the Bargello Museum.

KM no doubt chose this particular view of the statue because it shows Oceano’s / Neptune’s penis — a routine feature of public heroic statuary of male nudes (at some times in some places). This is the standard small penis of classical statuary, modestly situated in this work.

I’m assuming that the other elements of the sculpture (like Neptune’s signature creature, the dolphin) are assembled for their individual symbolic values, rather than (as in Michelangelo’s David) illustrating a larger story.

Now: from Wikipedia on the Flemish-born artist, with two more views of Oceano:

(#2) Front view of Oceano

Giambologna (1529 – 13 August 1608), also known as Jean de Boulogne (French), Jehan Boulongne (Flemish) and Giovanni da Bologna (Italian), was the last significant Italian Renaissance sculptor, with a large workshop producing large and small works in bronze and marble in a late Mannerist style.

(#3) Side / rear view of Oceano, focused on his leg and buttocks muscles

… Giambologna spent his most productive years in Florence, where he had settled in 1553, initially guested at Palazzo Vecchietti. In 1563, he was named a member (Accademico) of the prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, just founded by the Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, on 13 January 1563, under the influence of the painter-architect Giorgio Vasari, becoming also one of the Medicis’ most important court sculptors. He died in Florence at the age of 79; the Medici had never allowed him to leave Florence, as they rightly feared that either the Austrian or Spanish Habsburgs would entice him into permanent employment.

Another Giambologna Neptune, in Bologna. From the Bologna Uncovered site, “The Story Behind Bologna’s Fountain of Neptune”, by Silvia Donati on 1/7/17, with “Everything You Need to Know about Bologna’s Fountain of Neptune”:

– The Fountain of Neptune was erected between 1564 and 1566, when Pope Pius IV decided to give the Bolognesi something they did not yet have: a public fountain. Was it just a gesture of goodwill? Not really. After being an independent ‘Comune’ during the High Middle Ages, in 1508, Bologna became subjected to the Papal States. To mark the new political order, the papal legate, Pier Donato Cesi, promoted a series of architectural interventions in the city center, and especially  around Piazza Maggiore, to make sure the citizens knew who was now in charge. One such intervention took place where the Piazza del Nettuno now stands: several buildings were torn down to make room for the fountain.

(#4) Front view

– The monument is the result of a collaboration between architect Tommaso Laureti and Flemish sculptor Jean de Boulogne, known as Giambologna. Giambologna was summoned from Florence, where he was working at the court of the Medici, to create a bronze statue of Neptune. (You may know him from the  Rape of the Sabine Women marble sculpture, located in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria.)

– The statue of Neptune is almost four meters tall and weighs 2,200 kilograms – in fact, in Bologna, the statue also goes by the name of Il Gigante – or al zigant, if you prefer to say it in the Bolognese dialect.

(#5) Side / rear view

– Giambologna took his inspiration from ancient Greek-Roman statues. He designed Neptune with a strong body, but depicted an older face to symbolize the strength and wisdom of the pope. Neptune’s outstretched arm blocks the winds, as if he wanted to abate the sea, in a symbolic gesture meant to glorify Pope Pius IV and the power of the Catholic Church over the city of Bologna: just as Neptune rules the seas, the Pope rules the world, represented by the four putti (little angels), placed at the feet of the god, which stand for the Ganges, the Nile, the Amazon and the Danube, the rivers of the four continents known at the time.

… – Despite being commissioned by the Church, the statue is all but religious. To begin with, it represents a pagan god, Neptune. Once it was unveiled, Neptune, so muscular and manly, was considered too sexy. And how about those four sensual sea nymphs squeezing water out of their breasts? Legend even has it that Giambologna wanted to make Neptune’s genitals bigger, but, naturally, the Church forbade him from doing so. In retaliation, he designed the statue so that, from a certain angle, the outstretched thumb of his left hand seems to stick out from the lower abdomen, similar to an erect penis. …

Another Fountain of Neptune, in Florence. From Wikipedia:

The Fountain of Neptune (Italian: Fontana del Nettuno) in Florence, Italy, is situated in the Piazza della Signoria (Signoria square), in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. The fountain was commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1559 to celebrate the marriage of Francesco de’ Medici I to Grand Duchess Joanna of Austria. Cosimo I de’ Medici was the Duke of Florence from 1537-1569 and responsible for a vast number of architectural and artistic elements in Florence that still exist today.

The fountain was designed by Baccio Bandinelli, but created by Bartolomeo Ammannati with the assistance of several other artists between 1560 and 1574. It incorporates a series of mythological figures and iconographies that symbolize both Cosimo I de’ Medici’s power and the union of Francesco and Joanna.

(#6) The Florence Fountain (front)

(#7) The Florence Fountain (rear)

… Ammannati’s Neptune is wearing a crown and holding a lash in his right hand. Both the crown and the lash were a reference to earthly rulers, making this specific representation of Neptune symbolic of a contemporary ruler i.e. Cosimo I de’ Medici, rather than an Olympian deity.

One more Fountain of Neptune, in Florence. Continuing this Wikipedia entry:

… Cosimo I de’ Medici commissioned a second Fountain of Neptune in 1565. This second fountain was a bronze sculpture created by Stoldo Lorenzi and was placed in the main axis of the Boboli Garden behind the Palazzo Pitti in Florence and was a symbol of the Medici’s power over Florence.

(#8) Neptune wielding his trident in the Boboli Gardens

From Wikipedia about Stoldo Lorenzi:

Stoldo Lorenzi (Stoldo di Gino Lorenzi; 1534 – 1583) was an Italian Mannerist sculptor active in Florence and Pisa.

Born 1534 in Settignano, Tuscany, close to Florence. He was born the son of Gino Lorenzi, of a family of renowned stone-carvers (scalpellini)

… He was influenced by artists such as Giambologna and [Niccolò] Tribolo. Lorenzi mostly executed bronze sculptures. Among his best known works are the Annunciation in Santa Maria della Spina, Pisa (1561), the Fountain of Neptune 1565–1568) placed in the Boboli Gardens, Florence, and the bronze angel holding a candelabra which he executed for the Duomo di Pisa.

[Irrelevant silly note. Just to express thanks that there seems to be no mannerist sculptor named Lorenzo Stoldi, to go along with all this bouncing back and forth between Florence and Bologna. There have no doubt been people named Lorenzo Stoldi (versus Stoldo Lorenzi); I’m just thankful that none of them took up sculpture in the 16th century.


One Response to “An ideal male body”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    It turns out that my response here to Kenji Matsuoka’s “ideal male body” — and other Facebook responses about the male body in 16th-century Italian sculpture — was a clueless failure to get a joke (once again, I fail to be plugged into What’s Happening); KM (who happens to be in Florence at the moment) now tells us (on Facebook 9/15) that his comment was just a jokey meme reference — to the Know Your Meme site on the meme “This is the Ideal Male Body”:

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