I. Large-Scale Bronzes
1. The Bronze Athlete from Ipanema
- Georg A. Plattner, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
- Kurt Gschwantler, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
- Bettina Vak, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
In the second year of the Austrian excavation in Ephesos (1896), fragments of the Athlete of Ephesos were found in the ruins of the Harbor Baths. Vast parts of the marble architecture of the palaestra had been destroyed by earthquake and fire, but 234 statue fragments of various sizes, buried beneath the burnt roofing, were preserved. Most unusually, the base on which the statue was mounted was also preserved.
Due to an agreement between the Ottoman sultan and the Austrian emperor, the statue and base were taken to Vienna as a gift to the imperial collections. In Vienna, sculptor Wilhelm Sturm was commissioned to restore the statue. Recognizing the similarity of the statuary type, Sturm based the arrangement and composition of the athlete on the Apoxyomenos in the Uffizi in Florence. The Athlete of Ephesos was put on display immediately, in the first show of finds from Ephesos in Vienna in 1901. Since 1978, it has been part of the Ephesos Museum in the former Austrian Imperial Palace in Vienna.
Since the first publication of the statue in 1906, dating and art historical classification of the athlete have been disputed. While it is widely accepted that the cast itself is Roman, some authors cite Greek models from the Late Classical/Early Hellenistic period from the third and second centuries BC, while others argue for a Roman work of eclecticism.
Sturm realized the reconstruction of the statue in 1897–98. He built an internal armature scaffold of tinned iron, brass bars, and screws to mount the preserved fragments. These original parts underwent several mechanical and chemical treatments, as was common at that time. Sturm used a magnesium-chloride mortar as a filler and stabilizer. Even in the first exhibition, this hygroscopic material caused problems of efflorescence due to temperature and humidity fluctuations.
In the ensuing eight decades, sculptors undertook two major interventions. In 1951, the position of the right arm was corrected, and in 1977 a synthetic resin was added as a new filling material.
To dispel lingering doubts concerning the stability and strength of the interior scaffold or the possibility of active corrosion on the original bronze fragments, the Kunsthistorisches Museum together with the Getty Museum undertook scientific investigations to characterize and evaluate the mortar chemically and structurally. A solid construction of aluminum square tubes with custom-fit interior design was developed for transport.
Link to Paper
2. Was the Colossus of Rhodes Cast in Courses or in Large Sections?
- Ursula Vedder, Kommission für Alte Geschichte und Epigraphik des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Munich
The paradoxographer Philo of Byzantium (De septem mundi miraculis 4) claimed that the Colossus of Rhodes was cast in situ in horizontal courses buried gradually by an earthen embankment. The study of large-scale ancient bronzes and foundries, however, has provided evidence only for casting in large sections. Here it is argued that the technology used for the Colossus was no exception.
How do we reconstruct the fabrication process of an exceptionally large and lost statue? First, the general parameters for the working steps must be known. Therefore, the indirect lost-wax process in antiquity is compared with better-known methods used to create two extant colossal statues, the Great Buddha in Nara (cast in courses) and the Bavaria in Munich (cast in large sections). Then the various steps of the working process attested in ancient times are examined. The analysis reveals basic differences between the three casting methods.
Philo’s text contains a certain level of technical knowledge but lacks important details and indeed states an important falsehood. A possible explanation for this discrepancy is that he used a written reconstruction of a working process. This means that we can give the archaeological evidence greater weight than this text.
Link to Paper
3. Bronzes from the Aegean Sea: A Reassessment of Old and New Finds
- George Koutsouflakis, Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, Athens
Bronze artworks have seldom survived the whims of fortune on land. The Mediterranean Sea remains the richest reservoir of ancient bronzes lost in transit, and over the last 130 years the Aegean Sea has yielded some of the most spectacular and well-known masterpieces. The bronze pieces retrieved by salvage operations sponsored by the Greek state at Antikythera (1901) and Cape Artemision (1928) inaugurated a discussion about the exact nature of such cargoes that continues well into the twenty-first century. Yet bronzes from known underwater contexts are far outnumbered by isolated finds unexpectedly brought to light by fishing activities. Extracted violently from their postdepositional environment, they offer little information about the circumstances of their transit, while the wreck sites from which they originate continue to resist discovery.
The aim of this paper is to examine the existing evidence of bronzes found in the Aegean Sea, highlighting less-known material retrieved from the sea over the last twenty years or long forgotten in museum storerooms.
Link to Paper
4. A Royal Macedonian Portrait Head from the Sea off Kalymnos
- Olga Palagia, University of Athens
The over-life-size head of a bearded man wearing a kausia, the Macedonian elite hat, and a padded headband was found in the sea near Kalymnos in 1997.
Representations of Macedonians wearing kausias in Macedonian wall-paintings, for example, the hunting frieze of Vergina Tomb II and the banquet frieze of the Tomb of Agios Athanasios, do not include headbands. Only Macedonian kings could wear the kausia with a cloth diadem, its ends falling down the back, according to a custom introduced by Alexander the Great. This headgear is documented by the ancient sources, by the coins of Seleukos II and of Antimachos I of Bactria, and by a wall-painting from Boscoreale portraying a Macedonian king.
The Kalymnos head does not, strictly speaking, wear a royal diadem since its tail ends do not fall down his back, and it has consequently been argued that it is not a royal portrait. However, the similarity of the bronze head to a marble head of the second century BC from Kos wearing a royal diadem indicates that he is a king. As both the Kalymnos and Kos heads resemble the coin portraits of Philip V of Macedon, it is suggested that they are portraits of this king.
Link to Paper
5. The Bronze Head of Arsinoë III in Mantua and the Typology of Ptolemaic Divinization on the Archelaos Relief
The paper proposes the bronze head of Queen Arsinoë III from the collection of the Museo Civico di Palazzo Te in Mantua, Italy, as a portrait type relating directly to the representation of the queen on the bottom register of the British Museum’s Archelaos Relief. There, the figure is identified by inscription as Oikoumene. The structural elements that so distinguish the bronze head in its profile views are very similar to those of this marble relief, in which the queen, together with Ptolemy IV, is presented as a deified and deifying force in the act of crowning Homer. Arsinoë’s label “Oikoumene” helps define the meaning common to the relief and the head and suggests a new dimension of immortality, including the choice of bronze. In contrast is Arsinoë’s representation on the contemporary trilingual Raphia Stele, where she is divinized in the Egyptian manner. The role of Hellenistic Alexandria, arguably the place of origin for both the bronze head and the marble relief, is seen as essential for the gestation and diffusion of such a sophisticated typology.
- Patricia A. Butz, Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia
Link to Paper
6. The Apollo from Salerno: Hellenistic Influence in Southern Italy
- Silvia Pacifico, Museo Archeologico Provinciale di Salerno, Italy
The bronze head of Apollo found in the waters of the Gulf of Salerno in 1930 still offers an opportunity to discuss the date, casting, production, place of manufacture, and function of the work of art in antiquity.
Laboratory analyses show that the bronze has percentages of copper (81%), lead (11%), and tin (5.5%) that can be associated with alloys found in the Roman Imperial period. The presence of copper seems to have been more elevated in the oldest bronzes (84–92%). Further evidence confirms that during the Roman phase, for large-scale bronze statuary, the lead content reached 20 percent and the tin, 10 percent. In terms of manufacturing, the head was made with the indirect lost-wax technique: the top of the head was joined above the fillet, as were individual curls.
The head once belonged to an over-life-size sculpture, probably wearing a cloak and intended to be seen mainly from the front for a religious purpose or as a symbolic expression of elite power. The size and softness of forms define a composition of elements expertly aggregated as often in bronze and terracotta. The rhythmic complexity, resulting from the movement and inclination of the head, seems to be subjected to a single principle: a rendering style of curves and contours inherited from the Hellenistic Baroque. The features that might suggest an Italian production (that was able to combine tradition and innovation) still have to be evaluated and analyzed more in depth. Influences from both the cosmopolitan Hellenistic world and the Vesuvian region as well as from, even more extensively, Magna Graecia, may also be present.
Link to Paper
7. Tiberius from Herculaneum: Methods of Assembling a Monumental Bronze Portrait
- Erik Risser, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
- David Saunders, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Between 2012 and 2013, the J. Paul Getty Museum collaborated with the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli to return the bronze portrait of Tiberius from Herculaneum to display. The project provided an opportunity for a full investigation into the statue’s eighteenth-century restorations and its ancient manufacture.
The restoration techniques proved typical of the Royal Foundry at Portici, as documented for other Herculaneum bronzes by Edilberto Formigli and Götz Lahusen. Rather less expected was the discovery that the monumental statue—erected in AD 37—had been assembled from a large number of individually cast pieces. This has valuable implications for our knowledge of Roman bronze-working, and in particular the techniques that were employed to simplify the production of a large, complex statue. The many drapery folds of the toga offered a way of subdividing the larger-than-life-size portrait into numerous smaller parts that could be cast separately. The multiplicity of cast pieces not only made their molding easier but also allowed for smaller, safer pours of molten bronze, required less lead in the alloy, and demanded fewer chaplets. Once cast, the individual pieces were then joined with simple and economical tack welds, which were able to sustain the great weight of the statue.
Link to Paper
8. When a Statue Is Not a Statue
- Carol C. Mattusch, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
A number of large-scale bronzes that have been identified by scholars as being Archaic, Classical, or Hellenistic statues of kouroi, mellephebes, a very young Apollo, or Dionysos may need to be reclassified. Many of them are now assigned to the Hellenistic or Graeco-Roman period, the explanation being that wealthy Romans continued to enjoy earlier styles of statuary. Other evidence suggests a different interpretation. At least three of these figures originally recognized simply as statues were found together with fragments that were identified after reconstruction as elaborate supports for trays. At least one wall-painting depicts such a tray-bearer on a base in a triclinium, and literary testimonia also refer to such figures. Two of the figures previously identified as statues were in fact discovered in triclinia. So in what sense are they statues? One by one, these bronzes are being added to an ever-expanding genre of what might better be described as luxury furniture—tray-bearers and lamp-holders. It appears to be a genre that was very popular in wealthy homes of the Graeco-Roman world. Interestingly enough, no marble examples of this type have as yet been identified, and so far none of the bronzes can be securely dated before the Hellenistic period.
Why have we been so slow to recognize this class of ancient bronzes? Is it because we might have to describe them not as statuary bronzes belonging to the major arts, but rather as interior decor, as a minor art, or—perhaps somewhat easier on our own aesthetic perceptions—as luxury art? Will familiar works like the Apollo from Piombino and Apollo the Citharist from Pompeii no longer shape our modern aesthetic? Is it possible that even statues such as the Marathon Boy will be moved from future discussions of Classical sculpture into the category of luxury arts? A new and expanded view of the luxury arts may well change our comprehension of ancient art.
Link to Paper
Second-Century Large Bronze Workshop at Gerasa (Jerash, Jordan): Jordanian-European Cultural Heritage Conservation Program at Jerash 2012
- Lutfi Khalil, University of Jordan, Amman
- Jacques Seigne, University of Tours, France
- Thomas Weber, University of Jordan, Amman
In 1993, 2012, and 2014, well-preserved partial remains of a large bronze-workshop were uncovered at the Sanctuary of Zeus in Jerash. Thanks to the close cooperation between Jordanian, German, and French specialists, more than three thousand mold fragments have been restored and the other relevant installations of the workshop, dated to the second half of the second century AD, preserved. All the pieces will be accessible, as a unique cultural heritage monument of Jordan, through an exhibit in the Jordan National Museum.
The bronze-workshop was located on the lower terrace of the Zeus sanctuary. At the moment, its remains include four large mold pits, with traces of large copper-alloy cast objects at the bottom (two circular, two rectangular in plan). Some three thousand pieces of the smashed mold mantle (consisting of baked earth), along with numerous fragments of the furnaces and other installations, had been dumped into these pits when the casting process was finished. The negative impression on the interiors of the mold fragments led to the conclusion that large-sized draped statuary, as well as other objects (cultic instruments?), was fabricated in this workshop by the lost-wax procedure.
Apoxyomenos: Discovery, Underwater Excavation, and Survey
- Jasen Mesić, Parliament of Croatia, Committee for Science, Education, and Culture, Zagreb
The main goal of this paper is to present the discovery and underwater survey of the ancient Apoxyomenos and to explore the mystery of how the statue ended up at the bottom of the sea.
A Belgian diver, R. Wouters, discovered the bronze statue of the Apoxyomenos by chance while diving in the waters off the island of Mali Lošinj in the Republic of Croatia. The statue was found at a depth of 46 meters on a curved seabed, stuck between two rocks. After very exacting preparations, which incorporated the advice of many experts, the process of excavation began. The statue was brought to the surface with the cooperation of underwater archaeologists and members of the special police. Afterward, the Apoxyomenos was delivered to conservators. A month of research was then conducted at the underwater site where the statue was found.
The research was international in character, with English, Belgian, and Croatian divers. They were driven by the same goal: to find other discoveries and possibly the underwater shipwreck. Unfortunately, despite detailed investigation with underwater metal detectors and waterpipes, the shipwreck has not been found. Does this mean that we will never find out how the Apoxyomenos ended up on the seabed? To answer this question, we will have to look more deeply into historical, geographic, climatic, and nautical contexts.
The Bronze Statue of Germanicus from Ameria (Amelia)
- John Pollini, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Although it was discovered many years ago near Amelia (Italy), a handsome, over-life-size bronze cuirassed statue with an inserted portrait head of Germanicus has garnered relatively little attention. In pose and typology, this work resembles the statue of Augustus from Prima Porta, but the imagery of the muscled cuirass—depicting the death of the Trojan Troilos at the hands of Achilles—is quite different.
Because of its seemingly odd subject matter for a Roman sculpture, the principal interpretation of this statue, in a 2008 monograph by G. Rocco, is that it originally represented King Mithridates VI, who saw himself as a new Achilles in his war against Rome. The depiction of the defeat of Troilos would have served as a reference to Mithridates’s victory over Rome, which traced its origins back to Troy. In the end, Mithridates was himself defeated by Sulla, who, according to Rocco, then brought the statue back to Rome, where its head was first replaced with a portrait of Sulla and eventually with one of Germanicus.
I argue, however, that the portrait of Germanicus either was integral to the original composition or was substituted for the head of his son Caligula after Caligula’s assassination and damnation. My interpretation is based on the decorative motifs of the armor, which go back to Hellenistic models but are also found in Roman art, as well as technical considerations and a very different interpretation of the meaning of the defeat of Troilos.
(The full article based on this abstract has appeared in AJA 121.3 .)
The Doryphoros in Bronze: Venerated–Suppressed–Forgotten
The two reconstructions of Polykleitos’s lost Spear-Bearer in bronze can tell us many stories. They were both made in Munich from three Roman copies between 1910 and 1921. This paper addresses the bronzes’ place in history: in ancient art, in Stettin and Munich, and in Germany after the First and Second World Wars.
- Rolf Schneider, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich
The Influence of Ancient Bronzes in Cuban Large-Scale Sculptures
- Jorge Rolando Toledo, Subasta HABANA Auction House, Havana
This project studies the influence of ancient bronzes on Cuban large-scale sculptures that are still on display in Havana today. It focuses on the process of creation and construction of three specific works, located inside the capitol of the Republic of Cuba in the twentieth century.
These pieces are The Republic, The Progress of Human Activity, and The Virtue of the People. They were commissioned from the Italian sculptor Angelo Zanelli (1879–1942), who created them and was in charge of placing them inside the capitol. This poster explains the impact they had on the Cuban architectural style of the period.