M. Leithe-Jasper and P. Wengraf, European Bronzes from the Quentin
Collection, exh. cat. The Frick Collection, New York, 2004, no. 10.
C. Avery and A. Radcliffe, eds., Giambologna: Sculptor to the
Medici, exh. cat., London, 1978, pp. 93-99.
Mars, or sometimes refered to as Gladiator, was one of Giambologna's most popular models. As Avery notes, the original model probably dates from around 1587, when a version was presented by Giambologna to the Elector of Saxony, Christian I, and was recorded in the archives of the Dresden Kunstkammer (Avery, op. cit., p. 93). Although the model by Pietro da Barga already existed several years prior.
While his right arm would have originally been intended to have a long sword blade -- and does, in several of Giambologna's versions -- the dramatically extended left arm and curious arrangement of its dangling fingers might have also been intended to hold the severed head of St. John the Baptist. A bronze by Soldani, the Executioner with the head of St. John the Baptist, in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, is one such, later, example.