Many surviving Hellenistic and Roman bronze statuettes are variants of lost large-scale works, among them well-known Classical masterpieces. The degree of a statuette’s adherence to a statue type, however, is difficult to assess if not unknowable, even when full-size Roman marble copies exist. Thus it is fair to ask just how informative these portable bronzes are regarding the sources of their inspiration. Answering this requires analysis of individual examples and assessment of dates. A group of bronze Hermes statuettes can be seen to be dependent on male figure types generally accepted to have been created by Polykleitos, corresponding in stance and sometimes body structure, if not in gesture. There are several small bronze versions of Polykleitos’s Diadumenos that deviate subtly from closely related marble copies of the original. A small bronze Diskobolos is one of two poised in the same complicated posture as the finest Roman marble copy of Myron’s fifth-century bronze original (their veracity is suggested by the description of the original by Lucian Philopseudes 18) but does not share its Classical style. Among other statuettes provoking problems of truth to prototype, date, and origin are bronze Aphrodites that reflect several distinctive models, not all of which survive in Roman copies.
- Beryl Barr-Sharrar, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Ancient Greek bronzesmiths had a variety of techniques at their disposal to enhance the appearance of their creations. Due to their often fragmentary state of preservation, the modern observer tends to think of early Greek bronzes as monochromatic, but it is clear that the practice of inlaying other materials into bronze started early in ancient Greece.
- Seán Hemingway, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
- Dorothy H. Abramitis, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Inlays appear in a broad variety of bronze object types from weapons and armor to vessels and jewelry to relief-decorated objects and figural sculpture. Many of the finest early Greek bronzes were embellished with inlays that enlivened the sculptural forms and may have added symbolic or even magical qualities. Eyes were often given particular prominence with inlays.
Of special interest is a new technical analysis of a Late Geometric statuette of a man and a centaur (Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. 17.190.2072) in which the eyes of the man were inlaid with silver to contrast with the eyes of the centaur, which appear to have an iron-rich inlay. Although the evidence is frequently incomplete, it is clear that a wide variety of colorful inlays such as gold, silver, iron, bone, ivory, and amber were utilized, and other materials, such as stone and shell, were certainly used as well.
This paper looks at the evidence for the Geometric (900–700 BC) and Archaic (700–480 BC) periods with particular reference to artworks in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
A Hellenistic bronze statuette of a bearded, balding man in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1972.11.1) has attracted attention for its serious expression and startling silver eyes. The compact, muscular figure wears an exomis and carries a wax tablet, attributes that have led to his identification as a master sculptor of myth or history, such as Daidalos or Pheidias. Craftsmen of words, such as Odysseus, might also wear the exomis. But what of other wordsmiths? I suggest that the figure represents the sixth-century BC poet Hipponax, the contentious composer of iambic poetry and “limping” meters, who wrote acerbic attacks on the fictive sculptors Boupalos and Athenis and is credited with the invention of parody. Hipponax’s poems accuse Boupalos and Athenis of representing him in a laughable way, an open invitation to historical sculptors to characterize him likewise. Later authors describe him, presumably on the basis of his self-descriptions and outrageously negative poetry, as misshapen in ways compatible with this statue. Hipponax’s revival in Alexandria by Kallimachos in the third century BC may have inspired the imaginative portrait seen in the statuette: a figure who, though imperfect in form, is strong, with a thoughtful countenance; whose extraordinary intellectual and creative powers shine through silver eyes; and who bears a wax tablet to record those extraordinary thoughts. With an artisan’s body and a poet’s means of expression, the Hellenistic bronze statuette becomes a personification of the paragone between poetry and the visual arts at the heart of Hipponax’s poetry.
- Elizabeth McGowan, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts
In the British Museum is a collection of statuettes known as the Paramythia bronzes, named after the place of their discovery near Paramythia, Epirus, Greece, ca. 1792. The statuettes depict various deities including a Roman lar figure, and therefore they presumably once belonged to a lararium (a Roman household shrine). It is likely that the bronze statuettes originated in a Roman villa situated in or near the ancient Roman colony of Photike, which is located a short distance from Paramythia. The bronze hoard provides valuable evidence for the presence of Roman settlers in Epirus and, more importantly, informs us about Roman domestic cult activities in the province of Achaea. Additionally, the bronzes may be interpreted as symbols that served to project and reinforce the cultural and ethnic identity of the Roman householder.
- Heather Sharpe, West Chester University, West Chester, Pennsylvania
Numerous bronze statuettes of deities discovered in the Marche region of Italy probably come from domestic lararia, belonging to the domus or villas in the territory of Umbria and Piceno. They are particularly emblematic for their quality and for their inspiration from Greek statues. Their iconographic scheme, while often displaying the characteristic autonomy of these statuettes, is nevertheless clearly dependent on the prototypes. Furthermore, they confirm that there was in this area a grassroots distribution of bronze statuettes in the domestic sphere. There were numerous bronze artifacts, often of high quality, including well-known statues of medium size, such as the famous Idolino lychnouchos and the Eros-Hypnos lampadophoros from Pesaro. This is indicative of a considerable circulation of these statuettes: they may have been imported, but it is also possible that local workshops created them. One of these workshops might be the foundry discovered in Sentinum (Sassoferrato, Ancona), which some scholars believe to be responsible also for the creation of large gilded-bronze statues.
- Nicoletta Frapiccini, Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici delle Marche, Ancona
In contrast to life-size statues and small bronzes, medium-sized statuettes have rarely been the focus of scholarly interest. As to their function, it is often assumed that there must have been a clear distinction between purely decorative pieces and statuettes that were used as votive objects. The epigraphical and literary sources, however, contradict such a distinction and rather draw attention to their multipurpose usage. With this broader approach in mind, some medium-sized statuettes from both secular and religious contexts of Rome’s northwestern provinces are discussed.
- Annemarie Kaufmann-Heinimann, Universität Basel
One of the most interesting groups of Roman bronze metalwork spans the second and third centuries AD. It comprises about ten enameled statuettes portraying roosters, possibly standing on bases. Their provenance is attested at sites of the Western Empire, possibly connected with Celtic art. The roosters are portrayed in attack position, with the beak open and the crest up. Their chests are decorated with triangles or lozenges of multicolored champlevé enamels and they have detachable backs. The recent find of a similar item, complete with its tail, has brought renewed attention to these objects, but they are still rarely published or are mentioned only in old scholarship. There are still open questions about them, such as how they were made and why, with such an elegant and precious technique. Furthermore, there are debatable aspects of both the metalworking and the shapes of these objects, which are probably connected with the Celts, as well as problems related to ateliers and workshops. Finally, it would be interesting to know more about their function, whether as lamps, containers, or simple decorative statuettes.
- Federica Grossi, Università degli Studi di Milano
Zeus and Jupiter were venerated gods in ancient Albania, as we can see from numerous attestations in inscriptions, coins, and marble sculpture. The presence of four bronze statuettes depicting Zeus/Jupiter is added evidence for his cult in this territory, which was situated on an important crossroads of the Mediterranean. The bronze statuettes representing Zeus with a thunderbolt follow the canons of the Greek world and find many similarities with other statuettes that were used as votive offerings in various temples. The two Roman examples depicting Jupiter follow models widely used in the Roman Empire, mostly reproductions of the sculpture of the fourth century BC.
- Sabina Veseli, Institute of Archaeology, Center of Albanian Studies, Tirana
These bronze statuettes attest not only to the cult of Zeus/Jupiter in the territory of ancient Albania but also to influences of style and bronze-working techniques, and to similarities in religion shared with the rest of the Mediterranean world.
Roman-Age Casting Techniques of Small Bronzes from Marche
This contribution examines the Roman-era bronze artisans’ techniques and their methods for overcoming difficulties in casting small objects. In observing a group of small bronzes from the Italian region of Marche, realized with the lost-wax technique, we noticed some interesting features about the methods of production. The techniques for improving the casting involve, primarily, the positioning of the casting and vent channels. They can be seen in proximity to those parts of the casting that were more difficult for the molten metal to reach. During the realization of the wax model, the metal-workers concealed the channels so as to become a part of the final sculpture itself, hidden in columns, trunks, or drapery.
- Fabio Fazzini, Italy
Figural Bronze Statuettes in the Ashmolean Collection and the Aesthetics of Replication
This paper presents recent research on the Hellenistic and Roman bronze statuettes in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum. A number of individual statuettes are analyzed for the information they provide regarding the repetitive use of figural types developed during the Classical and early Hellenistic periods in later, primarily Roman, contexts.
- Nicholas West, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York
Two categories of iconography are investigated: types that appear to be dependent on large-scale Classical visual forms, such as the very commonly found standing Mercury motif, and types that were conceived in small-scale format, such as dwarfs and genre figures. The paper provides a brief analysis of the visual relationships that these types have with their earlier models and with images in other media to offer some preliminary conclusions and ask further questions about visual replication in the realm of small-scale bronzes.