Giacobbe Giusti, Defining beauty the body in ancient Greek art

Giacobbe Giusti, Defining beauty the body in ancient Greek art



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.

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. Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015.


26 March – 5 July 2015

Defining beauty: the Body in Ancient Greek Art at the British Museum gives visitors quite an eyeful

by Hugh Montgomery Author Biography

From fitness magazines to dating apps, you don’t have to look far for evidence of our modern society’s obsession with the body beautiful. But for all the think-piece chatter, this veneration of the toned and chiselled is hardlya 21st-century phenomenon: get a load of those Ancient Greeks, as you can at the British Museum’s spring blockbuster exhibition Defining Beauty.

Bringing together around 150 pieces from the Museum’s own collections and beyond, it will show how, from the fifth century BC on, Greek sculptors revolutionised the representation of the human form. Channelling the humanism that was at the core of the new Athenian democracy – the idea, as Protagoras said, that “man was the measure of all things” – they sought to celebrate the human form by depicting it in a radically naturalistic but idealised state.

And in doing so, lost the clothes, of course: the Greeks’ attitude towards naked male flesh, at least, was “exceptional and unique” within the ancient world, as curator Ian Jenkins points out. Rather than maintain the traditional associations of nakedness with shame and vulnerability, they re-conceived it as heroic. “When a young man took off his clothes in the gymnasium, he wore the uniform of the righteous,” says Jenkins.

Indeed, if today’s body-beautiful culture seems predicated on envy and aspiration, the exhibition’s marble, bronze and terracotta specimens will leave visitors in rather more sublime a state, hopes Jenkins. “The Greeks placed man at the centre [of their world] and elevated him to be uniquely self-determining … and the body is the illustration of that conviction … I want [people] to come out feeling more intelligent and beautiful than when they went in,” he says.

And if that’s not incentive enough, then here, as an appetite-whetter, are six of Jenkins’s pulchritudinous highlights:

1) Figure of a River God, (circa 438-432BC) – one of the Parthenon Sculptures or ‘Elgin Marbles’

Figure of a river god, one of the ‘Elgin Marbles’ Figure of a river god, one of the ‘Elgin Marbles’ (British Museum)
I have put this first among the six, because it is a Greek original; many of the others are Roman copies. It comes from the west pediment of the Parthenon, and is thought to represent the river Ilissos. To  get a figure to fit the space of a pediment’s raking cornice, you have to make it miniature or have it recline, and once you’ve got the figure to lie, it becomes a good subject for representing water, as it “flows” into the corner. The piece has about it that shifting indefinable quality of breathing vitality; cold marble is made lissom and languid by a process of almost magical alchemy and turned into warm flesh and flowing drapery, which is then converted again into water.

2) Bronze statuette of Zeus (1st-2nd century AD)

A bronze statuette of Zeus A bronze statuette of Zeus (British Museum)
This representation of the great Lord Olympus, some 20cm high, is an extraordinary piece: macho, commanding, erotically inspiring, all the things that the male body can be. It came into the British Museum collection in the mid 19th century having been in the collection of Dominique Vivant Denon, the first director of the Louvre. It is the quality of the piece that is so remarkable: as a French commentator said at the end of the 19th century, one could imagine in this statue that it were a colossus: it has such a major impact on the eye and when you look at it close up, it looks as though the detail could only be achieved on something of a much greater scale.

3) Aphrodite crouching at her bath, aka Lely’s Venus (2nd century AD)

‘Lely’s Venus’ a Roman copy of the lost Greek original

‘Lely’s Venus’ a Roman copy of the lost Greek original (Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015)
She’s a truly exceptional piece of carving and composition who represents the danger of getting too close to goddesses: the idea is that you approach her from behind and you see her broad flat back, her head looking forcefully down over her right shoulder, and her right arm reaching over her left shoulder and seeming to play with our attention and beckon us to move closer. So we do first a quarter turn, and then a three-quarter turn, but finally our expectations are denied because we do not get an intimate view of her sexual parts and instead what we get is an intimidating stare. A piece that seems at first welcoming is in fact, very threatening.

4) Marble statue of a boy athlete, aka the Westmacott Athlete (1st century AD)

The ‘Westmacott Athlete’ The ‘Westmacott Athlete’ (British Museum)
This representation of a young athlete fulfils an idea of the beautiful male athletic body that is much spoken of in texts of the time. He is the epitome of youth: standing firm but looking away from us demurely. This is a copy of a lost Greek original from around the time of Socrates, and I like to think of him as from Plato’s Charmides, a dialogue in which a beautiful boy is admired and interrogated by Socrates, who determines that he is not only beautiful but morally sound: he is drawn even more to him because he demonstrates “charis” or grace. You can also see here how the sexuality of the athletic nude is reduced by the downsizing of the genitals – and there’s no thrusting as you find with the goal-scoring footballers of today.

5) Statuette of a veiled and masked dancer, aka the Baker Dancer (3rd-2nd century BC)

‘The Baker Dancer’ ‘The Baker Dancer’ (British Museum)
This is an object which I first fell in love with when I went to The Met in New York aged 24. It’s a virtuoso, almost dazzling display of modelling, first of all in clay and then cast in bronze, of a female dancer using her drapery to suggest the body beneath, which she’s clearly very proud of. It’s a great example of the use of drapery as sexual innuendo by sculptors in a society where the depiction of the  female body was more problematic than the male.

6) The Belvedere Torso (1st century BC to 1st century AD)

The ‘Belvedere Torso’ The ‘Belvedere Torso’ (British Museum)
It is a privilege to have this on loan from the Vatican; it’s the first time it has travelled to the UK. This piece was much praised by Michelangelo, and inspired The Creation of Adam; when asked by the Pope to restore it, he refused on the grounds it was an inimitable work of art which, though broken, possessed the ideal principles of Greek sculpture. I think it’s probably a representation of Hercules, after his labours, awaiting divinity, though there are a few different theories – there is a suggestion that he’s Ajax – and what’s so remarkable about it is the articulation of the different planes of the body; it’s like a cubist painting by Picasso.


Giacobbe Giusti, TERRANTICA. Faces, Myths and Images of the Earth in the Ancient World

Giacobbe Giusti, TERRANTICA. Faces, Myths and Images of the Earth in the Ancient World



Visite serali guidate al Colosseo - Cosa fare a Roma


Terrantica, madre, 2800 aC,

Atene Museo dell’Arte Cicladica, Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris Foundation

Colosseo, 5 agosto – 30 settembre 2015

Since April 23, 2015 until October 11, 2015 the coliseum will host in its splendid arches an exhibition dedicated to the worship of the earth, from prehistory to the Roman Empire: Terrantica. Halfway between the human and the divine, the exhibition offers an insight on the strength of Mother Earth, told his visitors through 75 works, including ancient artifacts (statues, vases, reliefs), and contemporary photographs with the theme antiquity, the sacredness of the magic of the Earth. – See more at:

Giacobbe Giusti, Ancient bronze sculptures comes to Getty Museum

Giacobbe Giusti, Ancient bronze sculptures comes to  Getty Museum

The Pompeii Apollo”



Bronze statues

Kenneth Lapatin, associate curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum, gestures toward a sculpture which is part of the “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of Hellenistic World” exhibit in Los Angeles, Monday, July 27, 2015. (AP / Nick Ut)

John Rogers, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, July 28, 2015 9:35AM EDT

LOS ANGELES — It’s almost as if the dozens of exquisitely detailed, often perfectly intact bronze sculptures on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum disappeared into an ancient witness-protection program — and decided to stay there for thousands of years.

“Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World,” which opened at the museum Tuesday, brings together more than 50 bronzes from the Hellenistic period that extended from about 323 to 31 B.C.

Many of them, like the life-size figure of an exhausted boxer, his hands still bandaged from a match, brow cut and bruised, are stunning in their detail. So is the “The Medici Riccardi Horse,” a horse’s head complete with flaring nostrils and a detailed mane. “Sleeping Eros” shows an infant sprawled out sound asleep on a pedestal. One arm is draped across the child’s chest, his tousled hair in gentle repose.

Perhaps even more stunning, however, is the fact that any of these things survived.

Thousands of such beautifully detailed bronzes were created during the Hellenistic Age. Larger works were assembled piece-by-piece and welded together by artisans working in almost assembly line fashion and displayed in both public places and the homes of the well to do.

But most, say the exhibition’s co-curators, Kenneth Lapatin and Jens Daehner, were eventually melted down and turned into something else like coins.

“We know Lysippos made 1,500 bronzes in his lifetime, but not one survives,” Lapatin said of the artist said to be Alexander the Great’s favourite sculptor. “They’ve all been melted down.”

To this day, roads, fields and other public places across Greece and much of the rest of the Mediterranean are dotted with empty stone bases where bronze statues once stood, added Daehner during a walk-through of the stunning, hilltop museum ahead of the exhibition’s opening.

Which is why you rarely see more than one or two when you visit most any museum, said J. Paul Getty Director Timothy Potts.

The nearly 60 that will be on display at the J. Paul Getty until Nov. 1 are believed to represent the largest such collection ever assembled. They have been contributed by 32 lenders from 14 countries on four continents.

“Many of these are national treasures,” Potts said. “They are the greatest works of ancient art that these nations possess. So it’s been an extraordinary act of generosity for them to be lent to us.”

Many are completely intact, so much so that several still have their eyes, made of tin and glass. The result, they can stare right back in eerie fashion at museum visitors who go to check them out.

That they survived was in most cases the result of simple good fortune on their part, if not their owners’.

“It’s only through shipwrecks, through being buried in the foundations of buildings, being buried by a volcano at Pompeii or landslides that most of these pieces have survived,” said Lapatin.

“Herm of Dionysus,” for example, was believed to have been commissioned by a wealthy Roman homeowner. The detailed work of a bearded man with hat and animated eyes was found in a shipwreck off the coast of Tunisia in 1907.

The sculpture of an athlete raising an arm in victory was uncovered in the Adriatic Sea by Italian fishermen in the 1960s.

“The Pompeii Apollo” was discovered in 1977 in the dining room of a house in Pompeii that had been buried by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

It is believed to have been used, in a very ungodlike fashion, to hold the room’s lights. That’s something that inspired Lapatin to refer to it as the equivalent of a modern-day lawn jockey.

The exhibition featuring it and the other pieces was organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in Florence and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. It opened at the Palazzo Strozzi earlier this year. After it leaves the Getty, will go on display Dec. 6 at the National Gallery of Art.

It will also be the subject of study when the 19th International Congress on Ancient Bronzes convenes in Los Angeles in October.

Giacobbe Giusti, Power and Pathos at the Getty Museum

Giacobbe Giusti, Power and Pathos at the Getty Museum


Apollo (Apollo di Piombino). 120-100 a.C. circa; bronzo, rame, argento; cm 117 x 42 x 42. Parigi, Musée du Louvre, département des Antiquités grecques, étrusques et romaines, inv. Br 2. Ph. Fernando Guerrini (Archivio Fotografico della Soprintendenza Archeologia della Toscana)

The New York Times

In ‘Power and Pathos,’ Faces Frozen in Time and Bronze at the Getty Museum


A head of Seuthes III is among more than 50 ancient bronzes at the Getty Museum. Credit Krasimir Georgiev, via National Institute of Archaeology with Museum, Bulgaria

More than 2,000 years ago, artists of ancient Greece and Rome created sculptural representations of human beings that remain as striking for their anatomical and psychological realism as anything produced by Western artists since. The public does not often get to see many masterpieces of that time and place together, so “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World” at the J. Paul Getty Museum (and traveling to the National Gallery of Art in December) will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for comparing and contrasting. The exhibition convenes more than 50 ancient bronzes from the Mediterranean region dating from the fourth century B.C. to the first century A.D. Among them is the famous “Terme Boxer” from the National Roman Museum, a nearly life-size representation of a muscular, bearded athlete seated in a state of exhaustion, his face bruised and bloody, his head turned to his right as if to ask his coach for advice or to plead with the gods for relief from his barbaric plight. (310-440-7300;


Four of the more than 50 ancient bronzes at the Getty Museum. Credit Clockwise from top left: Marie Mauzy/Art Resource, NY; The Trustees of The British Museum; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worh, via Scala, Firenze; Archaeological Museum of Calymnos and Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, via Archaeological Receipts Fund

Giacobbe Giusti, Power and Pathos at the Getty Center

Giacobbe Giusti, Power and Pathos at the Getty Center

The Getty Center

Portrait of Seuthes III

Portrait of Seuthes III, about 310-300 B.C., bronze, copper, calcite, alabaster, and glass. National Institute of Archaeology with Museum, BAS. Photo: Krasimir Georgiev


Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World


Daily, through November 1

Exhibitions Pavilion

Free | No ticket required

During the three centuries between the reigns of Alexander the Great and Augustus, artists around the Mediterranean created innovative, realistic sculptures of physical power and emotional intensity. Bronze—with its tensile strength, reflective effects, and ability to hold the finest detail—was employed for dynamic compositions, dazzling displays of the nude body, and graphic expressions of age and character. This unprecedented international loan exhibition unites about fifty significant bronzes of the Hellenistic age.

This exhibition was organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington with the participation of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana. It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Learn more 

Giacobbe Giusti, Hermes tying his sandal

Giacobbe Giusti, Hermes tying his sandal

Hermes tying his sandal (egisto.sani) Tags: sculpture paris art greek arte roman louvre du marble hermes parigi greca scultura marmo ermes greekmyths lysippus muse louvre lisippo mitigreci
Bronze original Greek Sculpture

Attributed to Lysippus

4th century BC

Roman sculpture

1st-2nd Cent. AD [?]

Paris, Musée du Louvre

Hermes tying his sandal

Giacobbe Giusti, The Louvre portrait of Alexander the Great

Giacobbe Giusti, The Louvre portrait of Alexander the Great

Roman marble sculpture

About 1st – 2nd Cent. AA.

From Tivoli, Rome

Original bronze sculpture attributed to Lysippos

About 330 BC.

Paris, Musée du Louvre


About 1st – 2nd Cent. AA.

From Tivoli, Rome

Original bronze sculpture attributed to Lysippos

About 330 BC.

Paris, Musée du Louvre