Tuscan Secret Spot: Colosso Appenninico in Vaglia

Noa Weisberg 2 January 2024 min Read

A 30-minute drive from central Florence lies a true Tuscan secret: a 16th-century sculpture Colosso Appenninico by Giambologna. Discover with us this obscure Mannerist masterpiece.

Colosso Dell’Appennino
Giambologna, Colosso Appenninico, Villa di Pratolino, Vaglia, Italy. Photo by the author.

Florence, Italy, is home to great Renaissance masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and Brunelleschi’s dome of the Florence Cathedral. It is an art lover’s dream to visit a place with such historical and cultural importance. But there are also many lesser-known artworks in the surrounding Tuscan towns and parks. One of them is the Colosso Appenninico, or the Giant of the Apennines, located in Villa di Pratolino in Vaglia.

This Mannerist monument was carved out of local rock between 1579 and 1580. It rises 12 m high and sets in front of a big pond in a former Medici estate. The artist, Giambologna (1529-1608), born Jean Boulogne, was a sculptor from Northern Europe who moved to Italy in 1550. Some of his other works are presented today in different spots in Florence, such as the Bargello Museum or in the famous Piazza della Signoria, where you can find his most famous work Abduction of a Sabine Woman.

Giambologna, abduction of sabine woman
Giambologna, Abduction of Sabine Woman, 1579–1583, Loggia dei Lanzi, Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy. Photo by Tetraktys via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0).
Giambologna, Colosso Appenninico, Villa di Pratolino, Vaglia, Italy. Photo by the author.
Giambologna, Colosso Appenninico, Villa di Pratolino, Vaglia, Italy. Photo by Sailko via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-3.0).

The Tuscan terrain surrounding this sculpture is sunny and beautiful. In contrast, Colosso Appenninico looks a little bleak — he hunches over while his gaze strays over the pond below him. The choice of a personification of nature over a classical or Christian motif is also quite odd. One study suggests that Colosso Appenninico symbolizes the mourning of the High Renaissance — Italy’s artistic golden age. The study also mentions that the artwork’s patron, Francesco de Medici, had a taste for melancholic yet heroic art.

Stefano Della Bella
Stefano della Bella, Colossal Statue of the Appenino by Giambologna from Views of the villa at Pratolino, ca. 1653, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA.

Visitors can enjoy this newly reconstructed, man-made artwork in Pratolino Park. From October 2023 until Spring 2024 the Park is open to the public Monday-Friday from 9 am to 2 pm. To book tickets please email [email protected]. It is closed on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. The peaceful nature around it makes it only more impressive and worth a visit.

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