(Image source is Rachel Patt / Corresponding newsletter)
This week's issue is curated by Rachel Patt, a recent Stanford grad in Classics with a concentration in Art History. Together with the museum and Art Department, she curated the exhibition "Appellations from Antiquity" at the Cantor Arts Center. Rachel will be continuing her studies in graduate school at the prestigious Courtauld Institute of Art in London, focusing on late Roman and early Byzantine art history from around 200-500 AD.
Wander up the staircase to the first floor of the Palazzo Nuovo in the Capitoline Museums, Rome, and you will encounter one of the most heartrending and exquisite statues of antiquity awaiting you at the top. The Dying Gaul, a 2nd century CE Roman copy of a 3rd century BCE Hellenistic original, astonishes with its ability to capture dignity in the moment of a soldier's death, a hallmark of the Hellenistic Baroque movement to which it belongs.
|1. Noble suffering:The Dying Gaul is part of a moving subset of Hellenistic sculpture known as the Hellenistic Baroque. These sculptures represented mortals who had fatally erred and consequently suffered, but whose suffering was nevertheless ennobling. Capturing a heroic pathos, the sculptures of the Hellenistic Baroque are some of the most poignant works of antiquity. Closer look:The Laocoön Group, perhaps the most recognizable Hellenistic Baroque group.|
|2. Torque: Although scholars are now confident that the sculpture does indeed represent a Gaul, it has had a storied range of identities since its discovery in 1623, including gladiator and herald. Closer look: The key attributes allowing art historians to make the final identification include the treatment of the hair, the torque about the figure’s neck, the bare cheeks, and the wave pattern on the shield. Compare the torque to the left to the torque around his neck! : )|
|3. Before Xerox copiers: While people associate Classical sculpture with gleaming white marble, many extremely famous works, such as the Dying Gaul, were originally cast in bronze and were only carved in marble as copies during the Roman period. Telltale signs such as struts between the arms and supporting palm trees indicate that a statue was originally bronze. Closer look: the Hellenistic Boxer from the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome can give us a good idea of what the Dying Gaul might have looked like in bronze. Wounds on his cheek, eyebrow, forehead, and ear are picked out in brilliant copper, as would have been the wound on the Dying Gaul’s abdomen.|
For more info, check out:
- Hartswick, Kim J. The Gardens of Sallust: A Changing Landscape. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004
- Marvin, Miranda. “The Ludovisi Barbarians: The Grand Manner.” The Ancient Art of Emulation, ed. Elaine K. Gazda. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002
- Pollitt, J. J. Art in the Hellenistic Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986
- Stewart, Andrew. Attalos, Athens, and the Akropolis: The Pergamene “Little Barbarians” and Their Roman and Renaissance Legacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004
All images, videos, and articles are linked to their respective sources. Elements of this post were also drawn from the following:
- Book: Close-up #3 is from Museo Nazionale Romano English Edition handbook, put out by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma pages 26-27.
- Online: Torque - Met Museum NY