Giacobbe Giusti, Le Gaulois

Giacobbe Giusti, Le Gaulois

 

Gaulois captif, en bronze. Fouille du Rhône. Musée départemental Arles antique

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                         

 

Le Gaulois découvert en 2007 a ses mains liées dans le dos et son genou à terre. Il commémore la victoire de César sur la Gaule. Ce type iconographique se retrouve sur plusieurs pièces de l’époque. Sa chevelure fournie et sa barbe sont là pour rappeler le barbare qu’il est face aux romains, quant à sa posture toujours fière malgré la soumission, elle accentue la puissance du vainqueur face à la force du vaincu.

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Giacobbe Giusti, Apollo of Piombino

Giacobbe Giusti, Apollo of Piombino

 

 

 

 

 

In 1977 a similar statue of an archaising Apollo was found at Pompeii in the villa of C. Julius Polybius, and based on photographs the two were soon ‘associated’ … the slight scandal of the Pompeian piece is that it was excavated with tendrils which probably held a wooden tray, and so its nature as a piece of decorative furniture in a fancy Roman house could not be denied.

 

Apollo of Piombino

Lithograph of the Piombino Apollo from Bulfinch Mythology, 1908

The Apollo of Piombino or the Piombino Boy is a famous Greek bronze statuette[1] in late Archaic style that depicts the god as a kouros or youth, or it may be a worshipper bringing an offering.[2] The bronze is inlaid with copper for the boy’s lips, eyebrows and nipples. The eyes, which are missing, were of another material, perhaps bone or ivory.

It was found in 1832 at Piombino (Roman Populonia), in Etruria, in the harbor off the southwest point and was purchased for the Musée du Louvre in 1834. Its archaic style led scholars like Reinhard Lullies and Max Hirmer[3] to date it in the 5th century BCE and place its facture in Magna Graecia, the Hellenic culture area of southern Italy; Kenneth Clark illustrated it in The Nude (1956),[4] Karl Schefold included it in Meisterwerke Griechischer Kunst 1960[5] and casts of it were to be found in university and museum study collections; one made by the Louvre has been returned to Piombino.[6] Instead, B.S. Ridgeway (Ridgeway 1967) proved it to be— not simply an archaising sculpture of the 1st century BCE, of the kind designed to appeal to a Roman with refined tastes— but a consciously fabricated Roman forgery, with a false inlaid inscription of silver in archaic lettering on the left leg. The inscription dedicates this Apollo to Athena, an anomaly.[7] The two sculptors responsible could not resist secreting inside the sculpture a lead tag inscribed with their names, which was found when the sculpture was conserved in 1842.[7] One was a Tyrian émigré to Rhodes. The Louvre’s website adds that a comparable work uncovered in 1977 in Pompeii, in the villa of C. Julius Polybius, corroborates the hypothesis of an archaising pastiche, made for a Roman client in the 1st century BCE.[7]

 

Apollon de Piombino.jpg

The study of ancient Greek sculpture in the last decades has moved away from the traditional practice of identifying sculptures based on brief literary descriptions and attempting to recognize the characteristic manner of some famous names as reflected in reproductions of their work and variants based on their style, to concentrate instead on the socio-political world in which sculpture was created and other less subjective criteria.[8]

 

  1.  1.15 m.
  2.  The latter suggestion is made, for example, by Jaś Elsner, “Reflections of the ‘Greek Revolution’ in art”, in Simon Goldhill and Robin Osborne, eds. Rethinking Revolutions Through Ancient Greece 2006:71; of the bronze ephebe found in the House of the Bronze Ephebe, and identified by Dorothy Kent Hill as having held a lamp (Hill, “Roman domestic garden sculpture”, in Elisabeth B. MacDougall, et al., Ancient Roman Gardens 1981:89); Hill observes “today we can recognize many lamp-bearers of the same ephebe type”, instancing the Apollo of Piombino first among others.
  3.  Lullies and Hirmer, Greek Sculpture, 1960.
  4.  Clark, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, 1960, fig 23, p. 60; Clark expressed his reserves with the sculpture in his text, but attributed the “uneasiness” to its archaic stiffness.
  5.  Plate 235.
  6. According to Thomas Hoving, False Impressions: the hunt for big-time art fakes 1996:34; Hoving quotes his previously unpublished impressions of first viewing the Apollo in the early 1960s: “…a simpering Cupid…. the stomach is a muddy landscape of flesh…”
  7.  Musée du Louvre: Apollo of Piombino.
  8. Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway characterized the new directions scholarship in this field was taking in “The Study of Ancient Sculpture” American Journal of Archaeology 86.2 (April 1982), pp. 155-157. A response and dialogue appeared in William Hood, “In Defense of Art History: A Response to Brunilde Ridgway” The Art Bulletin 68.3 (September 1986), pp. 480-482, with a rejoinder by Mrs Ridgeway.

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Giacobbe Giusti: Jens M Daehner and Kenneth Lapatin, the co-curators of Power and Pathos

Giacobbe Giusti: Jens M Daehner and Kenneth Lapatin, the co-curators of Power and Pathos

 

1. Head of Athlete Holding a Strigil (Ephebe Apoxyomenos from Ephesos),
AD 1-50. 205cm x 78.7cm x 77.5cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

 

Jens M Daehner and Kenneth Lapatin, the co-curators of Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World, explain the thinking behind their stunning
new exhibition

In the winter of 2000, two bronze statues in the Berlin Antikensammlung, the so-called Praying Boy and the headless Salamis Youth, were joined by two other bronzes lent from Florence and Los Angeles, the statue of an ephebe called the Idolino and the victorious athlete known as the Getty Bronze. They had been brought to Germany to undergo scientific testing at the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (Bundesanstalt für Materialprüfung, BAM), particularly CT scanning to measure and visualise the thickness of the casts. While they were there, the curators in Berlin seized the rare opportunity to display these four sculptures, two Greek and two Roman, side by side in the rotunda of the Altes Museum.

2. Bronze portrait head of a man,
1st century BC. 29.5cm x 21.6cm x 21.6cm.
The J Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection.

3. Ephebe (Idolino from Pesaro) circa 30 BC, bronze with copper inlays and lead. National Archaeological Museum, Florence.

4. Apollo-Kouros, 1st century BC to 1st century AD, bronze, copper, bone, dark stone, glass.
128cm x 33cm x 38cm.
5. The head of Apollo-Kouros.Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Pompei.

The coming together of four life-size male nudes in bronze was unprecedented, inviting direct comparison­ – exploration without scientific equipment – in which topics such as the body as rendered in bronze, various depictions of age and degrees of realism, and the Classical versus classicising, all powerfully came to the fore. The two Greek athletes from around 300 BC and the two Roman youths of the Augustan age, produced three centuries later, made a quartet framing the beginning and the end of the Hellenistic epoch, yet depicting
very much the same subject in the same medium. This temporary installation in Berlin also highlighted persistent challenges in comparing large-scale ancient bronzes: as rare survivors from antiquity, they usually exist in ‘splendid isolation’ at their home institutions, which seldom possess more than one in their collections. Such statues are usually granted a questionable status as unique masterpieces of ancient art. This means being able to see and study more than one or two bronze sculptures at a time is exceptional, but in our exhibition visitors are able to do just that.
Marble sculpture, by contrast, exists in relative abundance, filling galleries and storerooms in museums worldwide. There is a solid, highly evolved set of critical methods for comparing and making sense of marbles, based on the quantity of available specimens and centuries of perceptive experience with the medium that is shared by lay and expert viewers. An equivalent ‘toolbox’ for seeing and understanding bronze statues in direct juxtaposition does not exist, or, simply put, we lack the familiarity of seeing them side by side. This affects not only aesthetic questions such as the assessment of style, but also the interpretation of bronze-specific surface phenomena such as corrosion, intentional patinas ­– both ancient and modern – and the cleaning methods employed in earlier restorations.
One of bronze’s principal characteristics is that, like any metal, it can be melted down and reused. Ancient bronze statues therefore survive in numbers far smaller than their counterparts in more dur-able marble. In fact, with the exception of very few sculptures that seem never to have been lost and subsequently recovered, the ancient bronze images that are so greatly admired today have been preserved largely by chance – whether they were discovered accidentally or unearthed during carefully planned and executed scientific excavations. Given the law of supply and demand, the rarity of ancient bronzes has elevated their value and status. So, although scarce in museum galleries, they are prevalent both in our textbooks and in popular consciousness.
Greek and Latin literary sources and the fact that bronzes were transported as booty, but also as scrap, leave no doubt that the statues were valued. But were they valued more highly than those fashioned from other materials? Certainlynot more than images of gold and ivory, whose materials alone placed them in a different class altogether. But since the Renaissance, when scholars sought to connect surviving artefacts with works mentioned in ancient texts, bronze statues have come to be prized as ‘originals’, frequently in contrast to marble ‘copies’, and they have frequently been considered Greek rather than Roman.

6. Bronze statuette of Alexander the Great on horseback, 1st century BC. 49cm x 47cm x 29cm. National Archaeological Museum, Naples.

There are several paradoxes here: first, the devaluing of marble, which was a primary, natural, local medium for the Greeks and always had to be carved by hand. Second, and more significantly, that bronze, a material that lends itself to the serial reproduction of similar, if not identical statues through the use of moulds and the indirect lost-wax technique, should be regarded as the premier material for the creation of unique, original works of art.
Such is the allure of ancient bronzes that there has been an irresistible urge among scholars to attribute them to famous sculptors – a trend that continues to this day in an almost predictable pattern: the head of a boxer from Olympia has been attributed to Silanion; the Getty Athlete and the Terme Boxer, both to Lysippos; and the Mazara Satyr declared to be an original by Praxiteles. The latest example is the bronze version of the Apollo Sauroktonos in Cleveland, also believed by some to have been cast by Praxiteles himself, or at least by
his workshop.
Indeed, scholars hardly agree on what distinguishes a direct from an indirect casting or how to determine whether surface details were executed in the wax or as part of the cold work after casting. Yet these distinctions are often considered particularly important in the hope of establishing how original a given bronze is, and deemed crucial in any effort to find Greek sculptural ‘originals’.
The number of statue bases whose cuttings indicate that they supported bronze statues preserved in cities and sanctuaries across the Mediterranean world certainly demonstrates the popularity and status of bronze as a medium, as do their inscriptions and other ancient documents recording with varying specificity what achievements those depicted had accomplished or benefactions they had granted in order to merit such
an honour.

7. Bronze head of Apollo, 1st century BC to 1st century AD. 51cm x 40cm x 38cm. Provincial Archaeological Museum, Salerno.

But was bronze always to be preferred over marble? Surviving statues demonstrate that Hellenistic marble carvers were no less skilled than their colleagues who modelled wax and cast bronze, even if the inherent characteristics of bronze, including its greater tensile strength, allowed sculptors to achieve dramatic visual effects less readily realised in other materials. Marbles, too, were enhanced by added colour, and extreme poses could be depicted.
The truth of the matter is that throughout antiquity marble appears to have remained the preferred material for images of gods, for funerary statues, and, as we might expect, for architectural sculpture. But in the Hellenistic period, as the social currency of honorific statuary became even more important than it had been in preceding centuries, bronze became pre-eminent, and the metal contributed its own economic, mythological, and ideological qualities to its unique physical ones.
Exaggerated or not, the fact that Lysippos is credited with having made 1500 bronze statues (Pliny, Natural History, 34.37), of which not one has survived, is a cogent reminder of the known unknowns regarding bronze sculpture at the very outset of the Hellenistic period. More than a Socratic statement of ignorance, the empty statue base from Corinth – inscribed with the name of Lysippos and with cuttings for the feet of a bronze figure – emphasises not only the pervasive loss of Hellenistic bronze statuary, but also the difficulties of reconstructing the original functions of those works that have survived in secondary if not tertiary contexts such as shipwrecks, warehouses, or intentional burials. Wherever statues have escaped re-melting and recycling, the ancient markets for art and metal have often ‘interfered’ in their lives and thus complicated the record. Ironically, it is largely due to the trade in works of art – and the accidents that occurred during such transitions – that bronzes have survived at all.
The relatively small corpus of large-scale Hellenistic bronze sculptures known today has grown slowly but steadily over the past centuries. To this day, however, there is no comprehensive survey of the material, comprising physical, iconographical, and textual evidence. Despite manageable quantities of works and fragments, the obvious challenges lie in defining ‘large scale’ and identifying what belongs to the Hellenistic period, including the vexed question of what may be casts of earlier models or Roman casts after Hellenistic models.
Our exhibition, Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World, features both Hellenistic works and Roman bronzes in a Hellenistic tradition, including some representative medium and small-scale examples. So it seems worthwhile to offer some historiographical perspective and mention some of the landmark discoveries that have shaped our current knowledge and understanding of Hellenistic bronze statuary.
Excavated in the 1750s, the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum has yielded the largest number of ancient bronzes ever found at a single site and almost overnight catapulted the study of bronzes from antiquarian pastime to art-historical discipline. Outnumbering the villa’s marble statuary by a ratio of almost 3:1 (63:22), the bronzes belonged to the superlative sculpture collection of late-Republican and Augustan patrons, which included statues and herm busts of gods, heroes, and athletes; portraits of rulers, citizens, and intellectuals as well as animal sculptures and small-scale fountain decorations. Many of these are replicas of opera nobilia of Classical Greek art; others, particularly some of the portraits, reproduce works of the Hellenistic period, yet there are also creations in the Archaic and Severe styles of the early 5th century BC: not actual ‘antiques’ but deliberate imitations, if not outright forgeries. The decorative programme of the villa thus encapsulates many of the aspects relevant to research into Hellenistic bronze explored in this exhibition: replication, imitation, retrospective styles, originality, and the challenges of dating, as well as the tradition of Hellenistic art in a 1st-century BC Roman context.
When two over-life-size statues, known today as the Terme Ruler and the Terme Boxer, were discovered on the Quirinal hill in 1885, it immediately became clear that they survived intact not by chance, but because they were­­ – for reasons still unknown – carefully deposited in antiquity. The find, if not the circumstances of burial, illuminates the fate of many Greek bronzes that were removed from their original locations and transferred to Italy, beginning with the Roman conquests of the Eastern Mediterranean in the mid-2nd century BC. Although we can easily imagine the Quirinal bronzes installed in a Greek sanctuary or civic space, we can only speculate about their function and display in Rome. They may have been part of the city’s collection of Greek works of art, admired by Romans much as we admire them today. In fact, nothing associates these two Greek bronzes within their new cultural context beyond their extraordinary artistic and conceptual qualities. Since the moment of their discovery, the ruler’s heroic image of power and the boxer’s graphically rendered pathos have helped crystallise in the modern mind two paramount phenomena of Hellenistic art.
Like many bronzes found underwater in the Mediterranean, the cache of statues found – on land – at Athens’ port, Piraeus, in 1959 were sculptures in transition. Packed tightly together in two crates, the five bronzes – Athena, Apollo-Kouros, two statues of Artemis, and a tragic mask – must have been destined for shipment from a warehouse in the ancient harbour that burned down in the early 1st century BC. The group highlights the existence of a vibrant market for Greek bronzes, yet how old exactly they are in this case has not been properly determined. The Apollo in Archaic style, now considered a Hellenistic creation, if not an actual Archaic bronze, is the extreme in the group, while the goddesses have been dated either on the face value of their style (with little consideration that they could be bronze copies of older works) or as contemporary casts of a single commission. Regrettably, since their discovery 56 years ago, the Piraeus bronzes have not been systematically analysed or had their casting techniques examined.
But the seductive opportunities to look inside the hollow-cast bronzes with endoscopes and through their walls with x-rays have, at least for a time, sidelined efforts to make sense of their exteriors and of the medium’s specific aesthetics. We know a lot about the chemistry of man-made alloys, minute details of casting, cold-working, and repairs, but still very little about bronze’s role in artistic development, how its use impacted style, or why it was chosen for particular subjects, genres, or iconographic categories. That bronze as an artistic medium has been studied largely from a technological point of view, perhaps more so than other metals, has to do with its complex metallurgy as a copper alloy and the sophistication of the casting process.

8. Bronze portrait head of Arsinoë III Philopator, late 3rd century to early 2nd century BC.
30cm x 20cm x 30cm. Civic Museum, Palazzo Te, Mantua.

Rarely, however, has technical or analytical data allowed us to narrow the date of a bronze sculpture beyond what could be – and mostly had been already – established on stylistic grounds. In no period of Greek and Roman art is this more apparent than in the Hellenistic age: some of the period’s signature bronze sculptures can be placed, with persuasive stylistic arguments, at various points within a 300-year window spanning the entire period, while none of the intensive scientific investigations have yielded viable arguments in favour of an earlier or later date. Like certain styles in Hellenistic sculpture, bronze-casting technologies cannot (so far) be pinned to particular phases or excluded from others within this long period. Even less so once we recognise that some artists not only imitated earlier styles but also chose old-fashioned techniques. Thus the three Hellenistic artists who left their names on lead tablets inside the Piombino Apollo fashioned their statue, basically an Archaic kouros, with copper inlays for the eyebrows – a typical treatment for Archaic bronzes – and silver inlays for the antiquated letters of the dedicatory inscription.
Either our data on the alloys and techniques of Hellenistic bronze sculpture is too limited for making better distinctions, or the casting process and other metallurgical traditions did not change all that much during the period. So unless the decision is between an actual Archaic bronze and an archaistic cast 500 years younger, many analytical test results are found to be merely ‘not inconsistent’ with a Hellenistic attribution of the object
in question.
Of course, technological and metallurgical diagnostics ought not to be reduced to the issue of chronology or authenticity: we do understand bronze sculptures better because the analytical lens allows us to comprehend how they were made. As mentioned above, this kind of manufacturing data, like simple measurements, is increasingly becoming part of the common infrastructure for the serious study of ancient bronzes. Yet the investigations could go significantly further when the methodical juxtaposition of actual works – through loans, exhibitions, or parallel conservation treatments – creates opportunities for comparative inquiries, generating and fuelling future analytical questions. In fact, some recent and current analytical explorations already go hand in hand with a new art-historical interest in the aesthetics of bronze surfaces.

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9. Herm of Dionysos (Getty Herm), from the workshop of Boëthos of Kalchedon, bronze, copper, calcitic stone, 2nd century BC. 103cm x 23.5cm x 19.5cm. The J Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection.

The challenges of chronology in Hellenistic sculpture often seem to get compounded when dealing with bronze. In our exhibition, the artworks follow only a broad chronological framework: the image of Alexander – represented not by a contemporary bronze portrait (which has not survived) but by a 1st-century BC equestrian statuette – and portraits of subsequent rulers, among which only the heads of Arsinoë III and Seuthes III of Thrace are plausibly (though not indisputably) identified and hence dated.
The subsequent thematic sections each cut across time and geography. Their topics are a blend of iconographical and aesthetic categories ­– portraiture, the body, realism, imitation, and replication – setting up a framework to correlate bronze sculpture to cultural trends, artistic tendencies, and stylistic developments in the Hellenistic age. The idea is to identify and describe phenomena specific to bronze and to bring out what bronze as a medium contributes to the period’s sculpture, be it as a vehicle for tradition or a catalyst for change. How are the expression and the expressiveness of portraits impacted by the use of bronze as opposed to marble? How do surface finishes, such as patinas or polychrome details, affect the question of realism?
Particular emphasis is placed on the aspect of replication. The one phenomenon that distinguishes bronze from other media is its reproducibility through casting. Several examples of multiple versions of the same statue are shown in the catalogue, the extraordinary case being the Apoxyomenos of the Ephesos type, for whom there are three bronze versions, all of them probably late Hellenistic or early Roman Imperial copies of a 4th-century BC athlete holding a strigil. The number of bronze replicas extant has now compelled experts to reassess that
work’s attribution.
Bringing these three bronzes together for the first time in the exhibition will provide an opportunity for comparative study, looking not only at casting and finishing techniques, but also at proportions, details, and styles in order to understand the bronzes’ relation both to one another and to their obviously famous prototype. The two herms of Dionysos, one of which is signed by the 2nd-century BC sculptor Boëthos of Kalchedon, may present a case of multiples produced by the same workshop. The evidence is less clear on this issue for the two archaistic Apollo-Kouroi from Piombino and Pompeii. Although often compared in print, till now neither of these two pairs has previously been displayed side by side.
The idealised sculptures, Idolinos such as the Florentine statue, were made around the time of Augustus, reproducing, refashioning, and sometimes mixing the severe and high-Classical styles of Greek sculpture in the 5th century BC. The Vani torso from ancient Colchis – cast in a local workshop, probably at the height of the Hellenistic period, but in the early Classical idiom of at least 300 years earlier – reminds us that Classicism and other retrospective modes of representation are neither Roman inventions nor exclusive to Italy. Established in Hellenistic art, they fed into the taste for what looks like a Greek revival at the very beginning of the Roman Empire. Bronze certainly was the material of choice that made this period an early ‘age of mechanical reproduction’.

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Giacobbe Giusti, Bronze and gold helmets

Giacobbe Giusti, Bronze and gold helmets

Giacobbe Giusti, Greek antiquities

Giacobbe Giusti, Greek antiquities

Giacobbe Giusti, Classical Sculpture

Giacobbe Giusti, Classical Sculpture

Classical Sculpture The body beautiful

Classical Sculpture: The body beautiful

Classical sculpture is the focus of a series of exhibitions this spring, one of them at the new Rem Koolhaas-designed Fondazione Prada in Milan. Claire Wrathall reports

‘This is the body people want to have,’ said Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, of the Belvedere Torso, the powerfully muscled trunk and thighs carved from marble during the first century B.C. and signed by the Athenian sculptor Apollonios. He was speaking at the launch of Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art (26 March– 5 July), one of several major surveys of classical sculpture opening this spring. This, the work on which Michelangelo based his depiction of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling and which usually resides in the Vatican, will be a highlight.

Ilissos. Marble statue from the West pediment of the Parthenon. Designed by Phidias, Athens, Greece, 438BC-432BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

In these body-conscious times, perhaps it’s not so surprising that a fashion brand would want to launch the new HQ of its arts foundation with a celebration of classical statuary. Hence Miuccia Prada’s decision to open the new Fondazione Prada — Rem Koolhaas’s radical reinvention of a derelict, century-old distillery in Milan’s Largo Isarco — with Serial Classic (9 May–24 August). The show, curated by the distinguished archaeologist Salvatore Settis, explores ideas of imitation, multiples and editioning in Greek and Roman sculpture.

So committed to the idea of celebrating antiquity is Prada that it is staging a second, concurrent show, Portable Classic (9 May–13 September), at Ca’ Corner della Regina in Venice, which will explore miniaturisation and portability through 90 artworks. It, too, will feature versions of the Belvedere Torso: a 16th- century bronze just 20cm tall from the Bargello Museum, and a 19th-century plaster cast from the Museum of Classical Art at the Sapienza University of Rome, which is approximately the size of the original, a monumental 1.59m high.

A figure of a naked man, possibly Dionysos. Marble statue from the East pediment of the Parthenon. Designed by Phidias, Athens, Greece, 438BC-432BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Left:The bronze statuette of Ajax. Greece, 720BC-700BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum Right:Bronze vessel in the form of the head of a young African woman. Hellenistic, 2nd century BC-1st century BC. Funded by The Art Fund. © The Trustees of the British Museum

As the Vatican’s catalogue points out, the work — currently thought to depict Ajax as he contemplates suicide — was probably inspired by a bronze from the first half of the second century B.C. According to Jens Daehner and Kenneth Lapatin of the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the curators of Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (Until 21 June), this medium ‘allowed artists to impart an unprecedented level of dynamism to their full-figure statues and of naturalism to their portraits, where psychological expression became a hallmark of the style’.

Left: Marble statue of a discus-thrower (discobolus) by Myron. Roman copy of a bronze Greek original of the 5th century BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum Right: Marble statue of a naked Aphrodite crouching at her bath, also known as Lely’s Venus. Roman copy of a Greek original, 2nd century AD. Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

Left: Pottery: black-figured amphora: the death of Priam. Greek, 550BC-540BC (circa). Vulci, Lazio, Italy. © The Trustees of the British Museum Right:Marble statuette of Socrates. A Hellenistic original of the 2nd century BC, or a Roman copy, Alexandria, Egypt. © The Trustees of the British Museum

One can only wonder at how expressive the original bronze sculpture might have been, although even in marble and without its head, the Vatican Torso communicates extraordinary tension and strength, even anguish. As Michelangelo wrote of it: ‘This is the work of a man who knew more than nature.’

Belevedere Torso. Photograph © 2015 Scala, Florence

 


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Classical Sculpture: The body beautiful

Classical sculpture is the focus of a series of exhibitions this spring, one of them at the new Rem Koolhaas-designed Fondazione Prada in Milan. Claire Wrathall reports

‘This is the body people want to have,’ said Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, of the Belvedere Torso, the powerfully muscled trunk and thighs carved from marble during the first century B.C. and signed by the Athenian sculptor Apollonios. He was speaking at the launch of Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art (26 March– 5 July), one of several major surveys of classical sculpture opening this spring. This, the work on which Michelangelo based his depiction of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling and which usually resides in the Vatican, will be a highlight.

Ilissos. Marble statue from the West pediment of the Parthenon. Designed by Phidias, Athens, Greece, 438BC-432BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

In these body-conscious times, perhaps it’s not so surprising that a fashion brand would want to launch the new HQ of its arts foundation with a celebration of classical statuary. Hence Miuccia Prada’s decision to open the new Fondazione Prada — Rem Koolhaas’s radical reinvention of a derelict, century-old distillery in Milan’s Largo Isarco — with Serial Classic (9 May–24 August). The show, curated by the distinguished archaeologist Salvatore Settis, explores ideas of imitation, multiples and editioning in Greek and Roman sculpture.

So committed to the idea of celebrating antiquity is Prada that it is staging a second, concurrent show, Portable Classic (9 May–13 September), at Ca’ Corner della Regina in Venice, which will explore miniaturisation and portability through 90 artworks. It, too, will feature versions of the Belvedere Torso: a 16th- century bronze just 20cm tall from the Bargello Museum, and a 19th-century plaster cast from the Museum of Classical Art at the Sapienza University of Rome, which is approximately the size of the original, a monumental 1.59m high.

A figure of a naked man, possibly Dionysos. Marble statue from the East pediment of the Parthenon. Designed by Phidias, Athens, Greece, 438BC-432BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Left:The bronze statuette of Ajax. Greece, 720BC-700BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum Right:Bronze vessel in the form of the head of a young African woman. Hellenistic, 2nd century BC-1st century BC. Funded by The Art Fund. © The Trustees of the British Museum

As the Vatican’s catalogue points out, the work — currently thought to depict Ajax as he contemplates suicide — was probably inspired by a bronze from the first half of the second century B.C. According to Jens Daehner and Kenneth Lapatin of the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the curators of Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (Until 21 June), this medium ‘allowed artists to impart an unprecedented level of dynamism to their full-figure statues and of naturalism to their portraits, where psychological expression became a hallmark of the style’.

Left: Marble statue of a discus-thrower (discobolus) by Myron. Roman copy of a bronze Greek original of the 5th century BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum Right: Marble statue of a naked Aphrodite crouching at her bath, also known as Lely’s Venus. Roman copy of a Greek original, 2nd century AD. Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

Left: Pottery: black-figured amphora: the death of Priam. Greek, 550BC-540BC (circa). Vulci, Lazio, Italy. © The Trustees of the British Museum Right:Marble statuette of Socrates. A Hellenistic original of the 2nd century BC, or a Roman copy, Alexandria, Egypt. © The Trustees of the British Museum

One can only wonder at how expressive the original bronze sculpture might have been, although even in marble and without its head, the Vatican Torso communicates extraordinary tension and strength, even anguish. As Michelangelo wrote of it: ‘This is the work of a man who knew more than nature.’

Belevedere Torso. Photograph © 2015 Scala, Florence

 


For more features, interviews and videos, see our Art Digest homepage

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Giacobbe Giusti, Piero di Cosimo

Giacobbe Giusti, Piero di Cosimo

Piero di Cosimo egg white

Venere, Marte e Amore (Venus, Mars and Cupid) by Piero di Cosimo, dated to 1490
 This month an exhibition of paintings by Piero di Cosimo – Renaissance Italy’s answer to Hieronymus Bosch – travels from the National Gallery of Art in Washington to the Uffizi in Florence, bringing home until 27 September a collection of lilac skies, lifeless trees and unfathomable creatures.As much as I admire the oil paintings, my eyes will be fixed on the paintings Piero rendered in egg tempera, a mixture of colour pigment, egg yolk and clove oil or vinegar. It’s not their subject matter, nor even their bold colour that confounds me, but the mind-aching enigma of what Piero did with all his leftover egg whites.

Where, I ask myself, did all the egg whites go? Where did any of the great artists’ egg whites go? Such luminaries as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Botticelli were among those who mixed yolks to make tempera even after oil painting had become the vogue, appreciating how opaque and luminous it made their subjects’ flesh, and how quickly it dried.

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Piero, who for a time ate nothing but eggs, setting 50 or more to boil at once alongside the glue he heated to seal his paintings, used tempera to paint the nude mythological figures of his Tritons and Nereids. If he followed the advice of a handbook available at the time, he would have used the yolks of town hen eggs for the females’ pale and youthful skin, and those of country eggs (considered ruddier) for the swarthier complexions.

But the question remains: what did he and the others do with the whites? Leonardo, exemplifying one possible use, boiled eyeballs in egg whites to make them easier to dissect for his anatomical drawings; many painters added whites to the gloss for their paintings.

Perhaps another answer lies in Europe’s first cookbook, which contained recipes from the court where Leonardo was based. The author, Bartolomeo Sacchi, known as Platina, filled it with dishes he had learned from a Maestro Martino, onetime court chef for the Sforza family in Milan. On Honest Pleasure and Good Health, which he began writing around 1464, was printed in 1475, seven years before Leonardo arrived as painter at that very court. Piero di Cosimo was then 13 years old.

Lo and behold, the book’s recipes are peculiarly rich in egg whites. While we would normally use yolk or whole egg to make pasta, Maestro Martino advised making vermicelli and Sicilian macaroni from flour, rose water and egg whites.

His herbe torte is to be made with 15 or 16 egg whites, no yolks. White torte combines 12 or 15 egg whites with cheese, lard, butter, milk, sugar, and ginger. Fritters, a variation, perhaps, on the modern tempura batter (no relation to egg tempera), required egg whites and flour.

Even where the standard recipe called for egg yolks, there were alternative “white” versions, such as white broth and white dumplings.

While some of Maestro Martino’s recipes must have been circulating since medieval times, Platina ensured that they were disseminated across Europe. From Venice the book travelled to Louvain, Bologna, Strasbourg, Cologne, Paris, Lyon and Basel.

Based at the court where Maestro Martino had worked his magic, Leonardo must have been among the first to taste his recipes – especially because he was vegetarian. Indeed, he remarked upon the variation of flavour combinations in the finished cookbook.

But this was not the egg’s only contribution to the Renaissance. To win the commission to design the roof of the Florentine Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore, Filippo Brunelleschi challenged his rivals to make an egg stand unaided on a piece of marble.

No one could do it, until Brunelleschi set it down firmly enough that the bottom of the shell cracked – without piercing the egg sack inside – to produce a flat base. He won the commission and, wasting no time on hefty arches and supports, built a slightly flattened dome within a dome, just like the sack-lined egg. The trick became so famous that it was also attributed to Christopher Columbus as he showed that discoveries, such as that the world is round, are only obvious after the fact.

It is truly sobering to think that, through all the achievements of the time, the egg, in its various component parts, might just have provided the sustenance by which the Renaissance was nourished.

Harry Eyres is away

http://europe.newsweek.com/how-renaissance-was-built-eggs-328941#bigshot/7222

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