The massive statue is 4.10 meters high (statues became much bigger after Michelangelo’s David) and depicts a young man lifting a girl up over his shoulder, as an older man is crouched at his feet in complete dismay. For this reason, the statue is also known as the ‘Three ages of Man’. At the base of the statue there is a bronze plaque that depicts scenes of the abduction of the Sabine women in bas-reliefs. The statue was positioned in the Loggia della Signoria, also called the Loggia dei Lanzi, together with many other statues, including Cellini’s Perseus. At the time, the Loggia was intended as an open-air museum, as it still is today. Donatello’s bronze Judith and Holofernes was originally placed in the same position under the Loggia, however due its smaller dimensions and the scene it represents, it was moved to the Arengo in Palazzo Vecchio. Giambologna’s statue substituted it in 1583.
Giambologna was one of the greatest exponents of Mannerism. Named Jean de Boulogne (Douai 1529 - Firenze 1608), he was an official sculptor for the Medici, who commissioned the statue. Giambologna proved classical paradigms wrong by sculpting the massive statute from one single block of marble, thought impossible at the time. It was his advanced technique and expert skill that allowed him to accomplish this very difficult and complex statue from one single block of marble. The upward spiral of the figures, and the awkward positions they are in, made this an undeniable masterpiece. Another important feature of the statue is that it can be viewed from all sides. There is a chalk copy of it in the Museo dell’Accademia. In a state of deterioration due to pollution and vandals, in recent years, the statue has under gone a series of restorative efforts.