Giacobbe Giusti: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World

Giacobbe Giusti: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World

POWER14

 

by Mike Boehm Los Angeles Times

Here’s a paradox: Today’s art lovers would recoil at the thought of travel disasters, building collapses or volcanic eruptions afflicting their own communities. But over the next three months, visitors to the Getty Museum can enjoy a unique display of bronze statuary that was saved for posterity precisely because such calamities befell its ancient owners.

The show is “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World,” running Tuesday to Nov. 1 at the Getty Center in Brentwood — an atypical venue for an ancient-art show, which normally would be seen at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

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The two Getty curators who spent seven years organizing “Power and Pathos” say the 46 rare bronzes in the show needed to be seen in the best light and from all angles. The special exhibitions galleries in Brentwood afford space and natural lighting that the Villa lacks.

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Having spent up to 2,300 years buried far below the ground or sunken in ocean beds of the Mediterranean Sea, this is art that deserves a deluxe presentation, given all it has been through.

What’s most special about the exhibition, curators Jens Daehner and Kenneth Lapatin say, is that it’s the first to bring together so many prized and exceedingly rare works of its period and kind.

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For scholars it’s an unprecedented opportunity to eyeball one-fourth of the world’s known Hellenistic bronzes in one place, comparing and contrasting and perhaps leading to new understanding of how these works were created and what they meant to their ancient public.

For museum-goers, “Power and Pathos” is a chance to get a good sense of the complex currents that influenced creativity between the golden age of Greece, which historians call the “classical” period, and the dawn of the Roman Empire. The seeds of today’s conceptions about what art is for were planted in the Hellenistic world, as a burgeoning nonroyal upper class formed history’s first art market and began to commission works reflecting themselves rather than their rulers and their gods.

“All of what we have survived by chance, and we’re lucky to have it. How many more statues are under the sea bed or underground waiting to be pulled up, we don’t know.
— Kenneth Lapatin, curator

 

The Hellenistic period spans nearly 300 years, from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC to Augustus Caesar’s triumph over Cleopatra and Mark Antony in 31 BC. The Egyptian queen was the last descendant of Ptolemy, one of the generals who had divided Alexander’s empire, which sprawled from Greece to what’s now Pakistan.

With a few exceptions, the statues on display were lost for centuries. Some were excavated starting in the 1700s from sites such as Herculaneum in Italy, which perished along with Pompeii in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Many were pulled from coastal waters off Italy, Greece, Croatia, Tunisia and Turkey, where ancient cargo ships had been scuttled by pirates or wrecked by storms. One star attraction, a bronze sculpture of a seated boxer with bandaged hands and a battered, broken-nosed face and cauliflower ears, was placed in a deep pit at the bottom of an ancient wall in Rome for reasons that remain a mystery.

“All of what we have survived by chance, and we’re lucky to have it,” said Lapatin, whose vertical shock of hair makes him the Lyle Lovett of antiquarians. “How many more statues are under the sea bed or underground waiting to be pulled up, we don’t know. They were ubiquitous in antiquity, but they are rare today.”

Bronze was valuable and easily repurposed for myriad practical uses, so statues made of the metal became antiquity’s equivalent of the passenger pigeon — except for about 200 known exceptions. “You also had ideological reasons” for their wholesale destruction, Lapatin said. “Early Christians weren’t interested in preserving nude statues of pagan gods, and this was ready cash.”

That disaster kept a precious few bronzes from destruction “is the utter paradox” that underlies the show, said Daehner, an affable, soft-spoken German. “You could call it the paradox of archaeology in general, but for bronze it’s particularly true and poignant.”

Silver lining

The show is itself a silver lining of sorts. It had its genesis in the 2007 settlement of the Italian government’s grievances over looted ancient artworks the Getty had acquired, in which the museum returned 40 suspect pieces to Italy, including some of its most prized holdings. But with the return of comity and cooperation, Getty curators could now approach the great museums of Italy with ideas for art loans and collaboration on exhibitions. In 2008 the Getty entered a pact for art exchanges with the National Archaeological Museum in Florence.

Looking for intersections between the collections, curators noted that each sported magnificent Hellenistic bronzes — among them the “Getty Bronze,” a famous statue of a young athlete that was netted from the Aegean Sea by Italian fisherman, and the “Herm of Dionysos,” a Getty-owned example of one of the quirkiest forms of ancient art.

From there, they approached dozens of other museums, landing loans from 30 institutions in 12 countries — among them the Metropolitan Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, British Museum, the Prado and the Louvre.

“Many are national treasures or highlights of a museum,” Lapatin said. That so many pitched in — often with works never seen before in the United States — shows how strong the exhibition’s allure has been for scholars of ancient art. “It’s a testament to bringing them out of splendid isolation to [the Getty], where they’re talking to each other. No one has ever done this before.”

Today’s international politics kept a few desired sculptures out of reach. “There are pieces in Baghdad and Tehran that would have been very interesting to have in the show,” Daehner said. “In 2008 the world looked very different than it is now,” and getting them momentarily had seemed possible.

The display of the Getty’s two prime Hellenistic bronzes embodies the quest for consonance, comparison and contrast that Daehner and Lapatin were after. Viewers will get a simultaneous glimpse of the life-size “Getty Bronze,” which usually occupies a room of its own at the Villa, alongside similar works from the British Museum and the Museum of Underwater Antiquities in Athens. Together, Daehner said, they reflect the Hellenistic convention of idealizing the human body, yet making it more accessibly natural than would have been the case in the 400s BC and earlier.

Herms were boundary markers with a sculpted head at the top of a narrow pedestal and male genitalia poking out farther down. The genre gets its name from the god Hermes, whose head frequently topped the markers. The Getty’s herm shows a head of the god Dionysos, its hat and beard calling to mind portraits of the English King Henry VIII. To its right stands a near doppelganger fetched from coastal waters of Tunisia.

Were they made by the same sculptor or workshop? If so, why is the coloration so different, and why does the Tunisian herm have subtle, intricate touches — such as a fully detailed head of hair on the back of his scalp — that the Getty version is missing?

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The word “pathos” in the show’s title reflects the objects’ lost-and-found history of past tragedy as well as Hellenistic sculptors’ key aesthetic breakthrough — using bronze, which is more pliable than marble, to register in acute detail the often careworn lives of mere mortals after centuries in which the main purpose of statuary was to capture the otherworldly majesty of gods and heroes.

A gallery devoted to depictions of ordinary humans rather than gods or rulers shows how Hellenistic sculptors began to embody common feelings. The face of a large “Portrait Statue of a Boy,” dug from the sands on the island of Crete, wears a look that projects sneering disgust mixed with an aching throb of sadness. The angsty defiance of adolescents apparently predates Holden Caulfield and Kurt Cobain by two millennia.

“Our modern idea of capturing character or personality is something that happens in the Hellenistic age that isn’t there before,” Daehner said. “Expression, emotion and a certain psychological realism get into a portrait.”

The Hellenistic period was the era when Greece had ceased being a great power in the Mediterranean world, yet it triumphed culturally by spreading its styles and ideas far beyond the reaches of the Athenian empire at its height in the 400s BC.

Alexander, the Macedonian king whose father had conquered Greece, carried his sword — and Greek notions about art and philosophy that he’d learned from his teacher, Aristotle — through most of the world known to ancient Europeans.

Lapatin said that one way to understand what was happening in bronze sculpture during the era is to follow the money.

“It’s an economic development,” he said. “In the classical period if you were wealthy you made a donation to the sanctuary” and commissioned a statue of a god. “In Hellenistic times, you could decorate your villa. The wealthy had more options, and a lot was about displaying statues and showing you were wealthy and cultured.” The vast sacked riches of Persia, Alexander’s key conquest, contributed mightily to enlarging this new class of private art consumers, Lapatin said.

The show that brings together so much begins with nothing at all: an empty, broken stone pedestal that, like many others across the landscape from the eastern Mediterranean to central Asia, sports an inscription but no statue.

“It’s signed by Lysippos, the favorite sculptor of Alexander the Great,” Lapatin said. Lysippos was credited in ancient times with having created more than 1,500 bronze statues, “none of which survives,” he said, except via copies made by others.

While Hellenistic artists and their public responded to new cultural currents, they did not turn their backs on tradition. A bust of a man, signed by the Greek sculptor Apollonios, is a blatant knockoff of a famous full-length statue of a spear-carrier by Polykleitos, who’d lived 400 years earlier.

“The original is famous, but it’s a good copy, so he signs it,” Lapatin said. “It’s got the cachet of an old master.” As a business move, that seems downright contemporary.

Although it is organized by the two Getty curators, “Power and Pathos” first was seen at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Its last stop, after the Getty, is the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

mes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-getty-hellenistic-bronze-20150726-story.html
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Giacobbe Giusti, Bronze Sculpture Discovered in Georgia Goes on Display in Los Angeles

Giacobbe Giusti, Bronze Sculpture Discovered in Georgia Goes on Display in Los Angeles

An ancient statue dating back to the Bronze Age and discovered in Georgia goes on a display among the ancient world’s masterpieces in Los Angeles.

After the long term collaboration of the Georgian National Museum and J. Paul Getty Museum unidentified bronze statue named Torso of a Youth dated 2nd – 1st century BC, discovered in Vani settlement, wester Georgia were available to go on a display at the exhibition in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

A major exhibition named Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World was open at the Los Angeles Getty Museum on July 28 and will last until November 1.

Before moving to Los Angeles, following exhibition was presented at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence and after Getty Museum, exposition will move to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Other pieces which are exhibited at the Los Angeles Getty Museum are from world’s leading ancient museums, such are the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Galleria degli Uffizi and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the Musйe du Louvre in Paris, and the Vatican Museums.

The exhibition in Los Angeles is 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 Tuscany’s directorate general for archaeology and it represents one of the largest expositions of this kind.

National Museum of Georgia is temporary housing of the statue, but as soon as Otar Lordkipanidze Vani Museum-Reserve will finish its large scale reconstruction works in 2016 the bronze torso of a youth will be returned at the original place.

 

 

 

Georgian National Museum currently takes part in one of the most important international cultural event. From 14 March to 21 June 2015, Palazzo Strozzi in Florence is hosting a major exhibition entitled “Power and Pathos”. Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World, devised and produced in conjunction with the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana, Tuscany’s directorate general for archaeology.  The exhibition showcases a host of outstanding examples of bronze sculpture to tell the story of the spectacular artistic developments of the Hellenistic era (4th to 1st centuries BCE).

The exhibition hosts some of the most important masterpieces of the ancient world from many of the world’s leading archaeological museums including the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Galleria degli Uffizi and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Vatican Museums and the Georgian National Museum, which  represented bronze torso of a youth dated 2nd – 1st century BC, discovered in Vani settlement (Georgia).

Participation at the exhibition is due to the long term collaboration of Georgian National Museum and J. Paul Getty Museum. After the exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, all exponents will be showcased at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2016.

As soon as Georgian National Museum Otar Lordkipanidze Vani Museum-Reserve will finish its large scale reconstructive works, bronze torso of a youth will be returned at the original place.

http://museum.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=72&info_id=13315

http://georgiatoday.ge/news/938/Bronze-Sculpture-Discovered-in-Georgia-Goes-on-Display-in-Los-Angeles

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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

GETTY CENTER

Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World

GETTY CENTER

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.

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http://www.getty.edu/visit/cal/events/ev_425.html

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Giacobbe Giusti, Power and Pathos

Giacobbe Giusti, Power and Pathos

POWER16

First Ever Major Exhibition of Hellenistic Bronze Sculptures Will Travel Internationally

 

MEDIA CONTACT:    
Amy Hood
Getty Communications
(310) 440-6427
ahood@getty.edu
Beginning in March 2015, the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., will present Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World, the first major international exhibition to bring together approximately 50 ancient bronzes from the Mediterranean region and beyond ranging from the 4th century B.C. to the 1st century A.D.
“The representation of the human figure is central to the art of almost all ancient cultures, but nowhere did it have greater importance, or more influence on later art history, than in Greece,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “It was in the Hellenistic period that sculptors pushed to the limit the dramatic effects of billowing drapery, tousled hair, and the astonishingly detailed renderings of veins, wrinkles, tendons, and musculature, making the sculpture of their time the most life-like and emotionally charged ever made, and still one of the highpoints of European art history. At its best, Hellenistic sculpture leaves nothing to be desired or improved upon. The 50 or so works in the exhibition represent the finest of these spectacular and extremely rare works that survive, and makes this one of the most important exhibitions of ancient classical sculpture ever mounted. This is a must-see event for anyone with an interest in classical art or sculpture.”

Potts continues: “The Getty Museum is proud to be collaborating on this project with our colleagues in Florence at the Palazzo Strozzi, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana, along with the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C..”

During the Hellenistic era artists around the Mediterranean created innovative, realistic sculptures of physical power and emotional intensity. Bronze—with its reflective surface, tensile strength, and ability to hold the finest details—was employed for dynamic compositions, graphic expressions of age and character, and dazzling displays of the human form.

From sculptures known since the Renaissance, such as the Arringatore (Orator) from Sanguineto (in the collection of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence), to spectacular recent discoveries that have never before been exhibited in the United States, the exhibition is the most comprehensive museum survey of Hellenistic bronzes ever organized. In each showing of the exhibition, recent finds—many salvaged from the sea—will be exhibited for the first time alongside famous works from the world’s leading museums. The works of art on view will range in scale from statuettes, busts and heads to life-size figures and herms.

Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World is especially remarkable for bringing together works of art that, because of their rarity, are usually exhibited in isolation. When viewed in proximity to one another, the variety of styles and techniques employed by ancient sculptors is emphasized to greater effect, as are the varying functions and histories of the bronze sculptures.

Bronze was a material well-suited to reproduction, and the exhibition provides an unprecedented opportunity to see objects of the same type, and even from the same workshop together for the first time.

The travel schedule for Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World is:

Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy
March 14 – June 21, 2015
http://www.palazzostrozzi.org

J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
July 28 – November 1, 2015
http://www.getty.edu

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
December 6, 2015 – March 20, 2016
http://www.nga.gov

This exhibition is curated by Jens Daehner and Kenneth Lapatin of the J. Paul Getty Museum and co-organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; with the participation of Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana. It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Bank of America is the National Sponsor of this touring exhibition. The Los Angeles presentation is also supported by the Getty Museum’s Villa Council, Vera R. Campbell Foundation, and the A. G. Leventis Foundation.

Giacobbe Giusti, Antikythera Ephebe

Giacobbe Giusti, Antikythera Ephebe

 

ganymedesrocks:panasfaidon:Museus Athens Efivos Adikithira 4th Century B.C.  The Antikythera Ephebe, here a profile head detail of the bronze statue of a young man of languorous grace, which was found in 1900 by sponge-divers in the area of an ancient shipwreck off the island of Antikythera, Greece.

 

 

 

The Antikythera Ephebe is a bronze statue of a young man of languorous grace that was found in 1900 by sponge-divers in the area of the ancient Antikythera shipwreck off the island of Antikythera, Greece. It was the first of the series of Greek bronze sculptures that the Aegean and Mediterranean yielded up in the twentieth century which have fundamentally altered the modern view of Ancient Greek sculpture.[1] The wreck site, which is dated about 70–60 BC, also yielded the Antikythera Mechanism, an astronomical calculating device, a characterful head of a Stoic philosopher, and a hoard of coins. The coins included a disproportionate quantity of Pergamene cistophoric tetradrachms and Ephesian coins, leading scholars to surmise that it had begun its journey on the Ionian coast, perhaps at Ephesus; none of its recovered cargo has been identified as from mainland Greece.[2]

The Ephebe, which measures 1.94 meters, slightly over lifesize, was retrieved in numerous fragments. Its first restoration was revised in the 1950s, under the direction of Christos Karouzos, changing the focus of the eyes, the configuration of the abdomen, the connection between the torso and the right upper thigh and the position of the right arm; the re-restoration is universally considered a success.[2]

The Ephebe does not correspond to any familiar iconographic model, and there are no known copies of the type. He held a spherical object in his right hand,[3] and possibly may have represented Paris presenting the Apple of Discord to Aphrodite; however, since Paris is consistently depicted cloaked and with the distinctive Phrygian cap, other scholars have suggested a beardless, youthful Heracles with the Apple of the Hesperides.[2] It has also been suggested that the youth is a depiction of Perseus holding the head of the slain Gorgon.[2] At any rate, the loss of the context of the Antikythera Ephebe has stripped it of its original cultural meaning.

The Ephebe, dated by its style to about 340 BC, is one of the most brilliant products of Peloponnesian bronze sculpture; the individuality and character it displays have encouraged speculation on its possible sculptor. It is, perhaps, the work of the famous sculptor Euphranor, trained in the Polyclitan tradition, who did make a sculpture of Paris, according to Pliny:

By Euphranor is an Alexander [Paris]. This work is specially admired, because the eye can detect in it at once the judge of the goddesses, the lover of Helen, and yet the slayer of Achilles.[4]

The Antikythera Ephebe is conserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.[5]

Notes

  1. Other well-known underwater bronze finds have been retrieved, generally from shipwreck sites: the Mahdia shipwreck off the coast of Tunisia, 1907; the Marathon Boy off the coast of Marathon, 1925; the standing Poseidon of Cape Artemision found off Cape Artemision in northern Euboea, 1926; the horse and Rider found off Cape Artemision, 1928 and 1937; the Getty Victorious Youth found off Fano, Italy, in 1964; the Riace bronzes, found in 1972; the Dancing Satyr of Mazara del Vallo, near Brindisi, 1992; and the Apoxyomenos‘ recovered from the sea off the Croatian island of Lošinj in 1999.
  2.  Myers 1999
  3.  Minute fragments of bronze adhere to the fingers (Myers 1999).
  4.  Natural Histories, 34.77: Euphranoris Alexander Paris est in quo laudatur quod omnia simul intelliguntur, iudex dearum, amator Helenae et tamen Achillis interfector.
  5.  Inv. no. 13396.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_Ephebe

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Giacobbe Giusti, Puissance et Pathos, bronzes du monde hellénistique

Giacobbe Giusti, Puissance et Pathos, bronzes du monde hellénistique

Allestimento di Potere e pathos
Allestimento di Potere e pathos

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http://www.giacobbegiusti.com

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

 


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

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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