Thursday, August 26, 2010

On the Bronze God from Cape Artemision

I always was thinking that I had plenty of images, images of my own choosing, for the vantage point in particular, of this statue, but in fact (like the Charioteer at Delphi) he usually is surrounded by a busload of persons, and when I go through my collection of teaching materials I find that only a few of them are really good. On the other hand, except for Max Hirmer's, I don't really like those in books or on line, either.
It and the little jockey on the enormous horse are not the only statues in the NAM in Athens that come from the sea at Cape Artemision (on the northern tip of Euboea: zoom about halfway up the slide), but if you do a search you get twenty pages of these two statues. So, if my images are, here, not sharp and, there, not to your liking, go get more.
First, in my opinion, the statue stood on a fairly high base in the open, perhaps even as high as the one erected at Thermopylae by the Greek-Americans of Brooklyn, I was told. So, whether he held a thunderbolt or a trident in his right hand, it would NOT cut across his face; even the visitors standing at his feet by his lower base in the Athens museum would not see the shaft of a trident obscure his face. Usually I think of the Artemision God as Zeus, who tends to have more neatly combed hair (though not necessarily so at this date), but there are plenty of vase-paintings and statuettes and decorative plaques attesting to both gods, who, indeed, with Hades were regarded as brothers, the triad ruling sky, earth (with the sea), and the underworld. The little statuettes tend to be from Dodona and do represent Zeus, its god; they also have a more Archaic hair style. Here is one in Berlin:
If Zeus, the statue may have held his eagle on his left hand, as in falconry, but the pose may simply be based on balancing to hurl something. None of the small works has the pose so horizontally extended as the Artemision statue.
Like the Dodona statuette, the coins of Olympia itself (and several other mints), bronzes from before the Pelopponesos became part of the Roman Empire, may show Zeus himself, sometimes with the eagle on his outstretched left hand (as some specimens of this die-pair do):
03 12 10 AE21, 5.23g ~6:30h  Elis, Olympia.  Head of Apollo, laureate, to r.  Zeus hurling thunderbolt, eagle on his outstretched l. hand.
ref. BCD Olympia 293

The great emphasis on the horizontal arms and shoulders and the frontal torso certainly, I think, was of special importance to the sculptor. The vantage point at a diagonal (Schrägansicht) is fine for the modern warrior at Thermopylae, but this one is certainly designed parallel to his base. The back view is so good (if you like great art made of musculature), so perfectly complementary to the front, that I am confident that it was meant to be viewed from either front or back. Like the Discus Thrower by Myron of Eleutherai, known in many copies, though its flanks are beautifully considered, taken as a whole it does not invite your eye to take you around it, and the arms do not 'read' well in the side views. That fact does not make it 'conservative', and its perfect balance (balancing to hurl well) does not actually make it 'static'. It may seem obvious, but in fact it is unique. You will note, by the way, the so-called 'heroic scale', about 20% larger than life-size.
Newer photos, but not full-length:
These encourage our looking at and appreciating the effect of the simplified neck-muscle pattern at the same time as we realize the simplicity of the pronate, outstretched left arm in contrast to the rotation of the right arm, which looks as if it has been carefully studied from athletes (whereas that of the little statuette uses a serviceable Archaic formula). Indeed, this artistic generation is called Early Classical precisely because it very rapidly starts using nature as the raw material for formal ends and using that same taste for reasoned form that governs the development of the architectural Orders in the same period so as to make nature obedient, so to speak. It is the generation just before the Parthenon sculptures; mastery of drapery will ensue.
Closer views, whether digital color or from black-and-white negatives, reinforce looking at statues of the human body, as distinct from looking at photographs, except when the latter also work with the Greek Classical vision, which by fusing empirical study with visual reason effects a transmutation of the natural beauty of a well-grown human body into a work of art of art: we can all at once relish the beauty of our own species and see it embodying the divine. It can be as naked as it is here and inspire awe. I have tested this over and over; even ten-year-old children, even 13-year-old children, are not embarrassed by this statue.
Using a bit of zoom to photograph over the heads of visitors (or, in the case of the black-and-white photo, taken with the fixed-focus 50mm lens and during the winter when one might have the gallery to oneself, except for the guard counting his koumbologia), we can study details.

First, the liners of the eye sockets, which became finely clipped eyelashes, and the eyes themselves, usually made of ivory or other bone and of colored stone, are missing, and so is the layer of rolled pure copper for the color of the lips and the areoles around the nipples, by this date regularly so treated. A statue that had a headband might have gold or silver inlaid maeander patterns on it, and if the lips were parted might show a glimpse of teeth (as we see on the Delphi Charioteer, if you can find a recent enough photo, or on any photo of the head of Riace Warrior A). Again, we notice how the abstracted forms of the pectorals, the rectus abdominis, and the lateral oblique muscles over the arch of the pelvic girdle are simplified and made more clearly structural in formal terms: this is formal beauty utilizing nature, not despising it but certainly not merely imitating it. Greek sculpture always did dote on small parts; Archaic kouroi and korai have perfect fingers and toes even very early, and fingernails (like lions' claws) are a special pleasure. There was a period, Late Archaic, where we have to admit that young men used their razors to refine the shape of the pubic escutcheon, but not here: Zeus or Poseidon is not a boy, and this is not Late Archaic art. Anyway, something more rewarding (since we do not usually think of navels as ornaments—or we didn't when I was young), notice how perfectly studied and rendered the god's navel is, how neatly wrapped above, how perfectly integrated with the abdominal median.
Now, there is another statuary type that, I firmly believe, was created by the same sculptor as the Cape Artemision god. There are a number of copies, but two are practically complete. Englishmen tend to prefer the Choiseul-Gouffier statue in the British Museum, though John Boardman (Greek Sculpture: The Classical Period, nos. 66 and 67) agrees in calling it "duller" (Wiki ought not to call it a 'kouros'). I don't have a proper catalogue at hand, but I suppose that it was bought at Rome, in spite of Ch-G's time in Istambul. I should think that it wasn't made in Athens, where, yes, a number of "Roman Copies" were made. Copies made in Athens often show features that the studio could observe from statues actually standing there. The "Omphalos Apollo", though the omphalos found near by does NOT belong to the statue, was found in the Theater of Dionysos in Athens, and, though it is a marble copy, certainly from a bronze, its maker preserved the tense eleasticity of the body forms. Its face, too, though of a young god, is alert and unique, not generalized like that of the Ch-G Apollo.
Here are front views of the heads:

It is the "Omphalos" copy that renders the metallic character of the hair and the almost mischievous, quite particular, face of this Apollo. And notice the eyes; they aren't the heavy-lidded eyes of most Roman copies (remember that in taking molds they had to cover the inset eyes and eyelashes, so they always had to be done rather generically).
In profile, too, we see that the "Omphalos" copy is familiar with an original bronze:

It is true that the "Omphalos" has lost its nose, but just compare his smiling profile with the generically classical one of the Ch-G (the reason so many copies from Rome look like Canova is that the latter learned being Classical before he saw the Parthenon sculptures). Most of all, the Ch-G has hair rendered as if molded from cooky dough, whereas the carver of the "Omphalos" managed to make marble look rather like hair and wisps fade into the surface of the marble neck.
I don't have exactly comparable images of the whole statues, but here are what I can offer, and you can go to the Album for a few more.

What I can show you, I hope, is that the hair of the "Omphalos" copy is profoundly similar, in spite of being a marble copy, to that of the Cape Artemision god:

and the body is knit together in the same way (I don't know how else to describe it). Also, unless they have moved both statues again, you can stand against the wall behind the "Omphalos" Apollo and consider the back view of the Cape Artemision god about three meters away (you have to use wide-angle to record this at all). The back and the buttocks and the legs, especially the thigh-knee-calf articulation of the flexed leg are, in my opinion, just alike.
Now I notice that some of the professors' notes on .edu web pages try to tell you the name of the great sculptor who did the Cape Artemision god. But, for example, we aren't even sure which generation (before or after mid-century) Kalamis worked in. Onatas also is a famous name. So is Hegias. But the 'knowledge' that we have of them is purely verbal and awfully brief, like Facts on File stuff. It is safe to say that a great sculptor created the Cape Artemision god, but it is trivial at best to try to stick one of the names that we have on him. It is just as silly as arguing over whether he is Zeus or Poseidon (especially since we don't know where the statue stood before it was wrenched from its base and put on a ship).
Spend your time instead, I always said in lecture, in studying as many photographs as you can find of the statue and trying to get inside the mind of its maker, until you can go to Athens and see it (if you go in January, you might even have him to yourself for a few minutes, but remember that in the winter the museums keep shorter hours).
Finally, here is a detail from the big amphora that is the namepiece of the Achilles Painter; it represents, in fact, Achilles himself. It seems to me to have a similar ideal of character to the Artemision god.
(to avoid risk of copyright, not sure where my image came from, I have substituted a link to an archive that seems to use the same image).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bronze Statuary-3

In these three posts, I have used my files of teaching photographs used in lectures from 1981-2005, and most of them are my own (hand-held, no-flash, teaching photos); please regard both those, imperfect as many of them are, and any by someone else as posted in fair usage, wholly non-commercial and educational. Similarly, all the coin photogrpahs are my own, except two with black background which, with his explicit permission, are Doug Smith's.
At the end of this post, I provide the .pdf link** of the last draft (2007) of the article I'd been working on for more than five years. Eventually I convinced myself that I'd never get it published. The .pdf has its footnotes for the first ten pages; thereafter the information that would have been footnotes is incorporated in the 'Ayiyoryitika' catalogue raisonné of the coins, which is linked below. For larger images of the coins, see the Picasa album also linked below. Persons seriously interested in the subject will find the notes, and probably the text, useful, and others may find its continuous text more intelligible. For those reasons, though I never finished editing it, I provide it here.

Statuary and its representation on coins and gems

I. Many Classical and later figural compositions (not counting some plainly meant to be placed in front of a wall) evidently were best viewed from somewhere in an arc of about 120°, from left to right, that offered a shifting variety of quasi-frontal pictorial views. "Good views" may be described as those that in the visual processes of our brains either make the subject more intelligible or are formally gratifying. 'Formally gratifying' implies a complex range of visual pleasure, but usually includes specific kinds of clarity and subtlety, avoiding the banal. The old handbooks' notion that Greek representation of figures progressed from something like Egypt's (stereotypically considered), to tentative contrapposto, to gradually mastery of twisting in space, to the representation of action in space (cf. Giambologna: This linear progression is simplistic, because intelligent artists responded to all sorts of siting demands, and a statue (or a tight group) that could be walked around but usually was seen more or less from in front, especially the sort of bronze statuary that was popular in sanctuary parks, was not backward or anachronistic but often more sensitive to its situation. Thus, many Late Classical types may be (so to speak) semi-pictorial, with that continuous 120° arc of best views. These (beginning with the famous Discus Thrower of Myron) are usually not very good in strict side views, but in accord to the ideals of Greek sculpture are fully modeled in depth.
Dresden #100 Young satyr pouring wine, type exemplifying an extended pose with an S curve, usually attributed to young Praxiteles and about a decade earlier (Todisco) than Boardman's date, thus about contemporary with his father's Eirene. Such a statue manifestly exists as a work of art with its aesthetic principles as its primary raison d'être (this is not a practical way to pour wine). As much can be said of many fourth-century types, even when an obscure cult can be found to explain them (as with the Apollo Lizardslayer).
The digital snapshots are of the Louvre statue, relieved of its restorations and cleaned.

Some statuary types may originally have been placed in the open, all views being nearly equal. The older photos were taken when the "Piping Faun" and the "Sauroktonos" stood in the open and with a 'normal' lens (50mm for Nikon F). Such a figure may seem unlikely for a coin, but those of Caesarea Panias seem to show the type of the "Piping Faun" (and, with tiny horns on its brow, it probably in fact is a Pan).

For students, I wrote of the "Piping Faun":
Paris, Louvre. Young satyr playing flute. This statue juxtaposed to the Resting Satyr perfectly exemplifies Lysippic as distinct from Praxitelean. Both statue types have the charm of the late fourth century, or a bit later, but the Piping Faun (as he may be called conveniently) has a face related to the Lysippos Eros stringing his bow and a nonchalant stance with leg crossed in front altogether opposed to the Praxitelean S-curve. Again, this boy-satyr is quasi-Caravaggiesque whereas the Praxitelean ones recall Andrea del Sarto or possibly Pontormo.

At that time (probably 1982) the Louvre, ex Borghese, Apollo Sauroktonos also stood in the open, with only window light, still with a couple of modern fingers, but as a statue it also benefits from the 50mm lens on the old Nikon F.

The small digital camera of 2002, with typical wide-angle distortion, did not show the combined tilt and twist of the boy Apollo's body as well as these do. Though the back view, even making allowance for a marble copy (photos of the Cleveland bronze show finer sinuosity), is plainly a secondary view, concealing the lizard motif that justifies the posture for the composition, it is not negligible, and the relation of the shoulders to the pelvis is plain in all three views (only a teacher intent on bringing the statue to students would have taken the photographically erroneous image in the center).
From every other point of view, I was lucky to get back to the Louvre one last time, if only with a pocket camera, in 2002:

The torso in the NAM Athens is worth studying because it not only has never been scrubbed, so that nuances on the front of the torso look subtle rather than slick but its lack of both arms reveals the fine relationship between the contours of the front and those of the back, young flesh over bones and muscles that knit the body together in life.

Though the reaching left side of the body has straighter contours, and the boy's torso is childishly plump (as on the Villa Albani bronze statuette), even in this fragmentary condition it is not at all "boxy" as those of bronze casts of bent and turning Late Classical torsos often are (including the Cleveland statue, if the photo in the press-release for it which shows the left flank gives us a true idea of it). The NAM torso helps us to understand the sculptural challenge of a supple adolescent Apollo or Eros for Praxiteles as much as an Aphrodite.
Why, if pointed copies in marble employed plaster models made from piece molds, do the difficulties of assembling the molds so as to recreate the sinuosity of a bent and turning body not appear in the marble copies? The marbles, though, do differ somewhat among themselves in their stance, and good marble workers, I think, would be able to fudge, in working out the continuities of flesh over skeleton around the flank; they usually would have extra bulk to work away, if we may judge from such as the youth from the Janiculum now in Copenhagen.

(Remember that all the above are merely my own point-and-shoot teacher's instructional pictures. For professional images and an up-to-date discussion, see Pasquier andMartinez, Praxitèle, 2007, Chapter III, Praxitèle: Un Choix romain, pp. 128–200. The two volumes by Antonio Corso are by now harder to find and much more expensive.)

II. To turn now to the questions, the art historical questions, raised by the representation of this opus nobile (for the ancient literary sources, see Praxitèle, pp. 423-428), the Apollo Sauroktonos of Praxiteles on coins, I have reserved two of the old photos taken with 'normal' lens for the Vatican and Louvre Sauroktonoi. One thing the ancient die engravers did not deal with is camera angles and the like.
(Zoomable images of my own photographs of the coins are available at
The same numbered series are listed with smaller images with descriptions and some discussion at
See its Introduction and its Tentative Conclusions.
The identifying numbers of the coins are shown bold face and in dark red. Only a few images to illustrate this discussion are reproduced in this blog post)

(a) Scale. The earliest of the Sauroktonos coins (all bronze) were issued by the governor Zeno for Antoninus Pius at the time when Marcus Aurelius was first Caesar and are only about 20mm in diameter. 1 The similar unsigned ones for Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, 2, 3, are scarcely larger. At such a small scale it is noteworthy that the engraver knows better than to include an outsize dart, but he is careful to indicate the lizard that identifies the motif.
(b) Single vantage point, with foreshortening. These earliest Sauroktonoi also show the figure very much as he appears against the wall in the Vatican, difficult as the foreshortened forearm is at such a scale, and Apollo is slender and stands straighter, resembling the Vatican copy more closely than any later one: 2.
It is, therefore, noteworthy that a Sauroktonos for Septimius Severus, 14, about a half century later (when Gallus was governor of Moesia Inferior), also conforms to this description:
(c) Composite vantage points for easier clarity. Die engravers never try a frontal face on these coins, but most of them do 'unfold' the dart-aiming arm, as if (logically) it were seen from farther right than the rest of the figure. On 12a a very fine small reverse die with an early-looking portrait of Septimius Severus suggests to me that it is contemporary with larger coins issued by Gentianus (study still in progress), or just before 198 BCE, when Tertullus became governor and Caracalla was made Augustus.
Like an eagle shown with spread wings, here the boy Apollo, both to fill the circle of the flan better and to show him ready to cast his dart most clearly. Hereafter most of the reverse dies will have what reminds those of us who learned to drive a car before there were lights for directional signals, of signaling for a left turn, though a classicist might think of Zeus about to throw a thunderbolt. A century later this tendency to show every part of a body from its most characteristic angle will become general, but here, I think, it is simply a die-engraver's response to a specific composition, one that in sculpture shows the figure in the act of turning.
(d) The first 'aberrant' Sauroktonos for Septimius. Still earlier, indeed the earliest Severan Sauroktonos of Nicopolis when Moesia Inferior had become a separate province, is 10. For the die link that places it in the governorship of Auspex, see where it is listed as 6b. The pose is similar to the last, but the style isn't. I was not astonished that the serpent on the tree is long enough for a snake (because on any copy these attributes could vary, being added separately), nor was I surprised by the snake (Praxitèle, p. 208, fig. 126c) found with the Cleveland bronze, but the apparent leafy twig (instead of a dart) held high in Apollo's right hand surprised me as much as it did Doug Smith, whose specimen (newly photographed for this study) remains the best one:
(e) Caracalla's Variant Apollo Sauroktonos. The most important Nicopolitan variant of the Apollo Sauroktonos reverse type is that issued for the boy Caracalla by the governor Tertullus, evidently when he was named Augustus. 11 It is important because it is certainly deliberate in all its details (not the work of an engraver perhaps left over from Commodus's reign and possibly unfamiliar with the subject).
The right arm is not stretched out horizontally, nor does Apollo seem to be poised to throw a missile; he is holding a leafy twig which we may fairly suppose is laurel. The lizard, mouth wide open, however, is shown very plainly and in the expected position on the tree trunk. The posture, for the first time here, is (like the Borghese-Louvre Sauroktonos) leaning forward. The whole figure is in 3/4 view, though the shoulders are very narrow and the engraver seems incapable of making the far (left side of boy's body) pelvis seem to melt into the background. The boy Apollo seems, actually, to resemble the boy Caracalla. What is most important is that this variant, with the lowered twig, is repeated: 17, 21 (for heirs to the throne, not for others).
(f) Geta's small but equal, and 'true', Apollo Sauroktonos. Sharing a reverse die with his father, we have Geta's small (copper) coin with another forward-leaning Sauroktonos but true to the statuary type, with a dart to hurl at the lizard. As on the last, the rendering of the pelvis in 3/4 view is ambiguous, and the letter forms also relate it to Tertullus's Caracalla. I call it Geta's, because his are more numerous and, it seems, finer. I post 13b Doug Smith's, the best of my own, and one 13a of Septimius, showing how the reverse die continued to be used even when on the verge of breaking. The die pairs are all the same.

Like the letter forms, the portrait of Septimius resembles those issued by Tertullus, and, of course, until he became Caesar himself, Geta did not have coins issued in his name. Many regard this as the nicest of all the Nicopolis ad Istrum Sauroktonos reverse dies. No large (D. 26–29mm) Apollo Sauroktonos coin issued by Tertullus for Septimius alone is known.
(Though all the images in this post are made to zoom to the same width, the coppers, mostly on whetstones for a background, are only 16–19mm in diameter).
(g) Plautilla and Geta share a distinctive die. In the years when Aurelius Gallus was governor of Moesia Inferior (which included the occasion of Caracalla's marriage to Plautilla) Septimius, after the issue of 14, discussed above (b), had shared reverse dies with a rather awkwardly engraved Sauroktonos, with the dart-throwing arm drawn back, as on 12a, (c), but not nearly so skillful. A different and more attractive Sauroktonos die was shared by Plautilla and Geta, 16a, b.
This die used the same mode of showing the dart-throwing arm, and it is very neat, but the body of Apollo does not lean forward (so the figure looks static, unlike that on 12a, where the forward thrust of the pelvis braced against the supporting right leg imparted the sense of impetus), nor does it have the graceful character of the Antonine ones that so closely recall the statue as we know it from full-size copies. The somewhat linearly nervous character is underscored by the almost comically gnarled tree trunk. Is this a die with a different prototype? That seems less likely than assuming that it is a differently trained die engraver. And for all that it is comparatively painstaking, it begins to look anti-classical—not "unofficial" or "Thracian" but "Late".
(h) The joint issue by Ulpianus for the Augusti of the Variant Sauroktonos 11 initiated by Tertullus. Unknown till recently and not directly relevant to the coins' relation to the statue type, at a date perhaps a decade later than Caracalla's being made co-Augustus, part of a group of Ulpianus issues for Caracalla showing him as an idealized beardless youth when his actual portraits show a tough guy with a thick beard. This is a numismatics question, but one of these, 17b, has a Sauroktonos reverse that attempts to recreate the Apollo of the Tertullus issue, 11. Stylistically, this too is painstaking but stiff and, in my opinion, makes no independent contribution to the question of the coins' dependence on larger models that may have been available.

(i) Longinus's obverse MDb for Macrinus, with Apollo Sauroktonos R7x, xbis, xter. The remarkable coins issued in less than a year (the entire reign being only 14 months in 217–218) for Macrinus are set forth in Some of these are the finest Nicopolis Severan (though Macrinus was not of his family) since Tertullus. Until the end of the 20th century no Apollo Sauroktonos issued by Longinus was known, and I show here the only one known to me that shows the dart in Apollo's right hand, 18:
What makes the Longinus issue so remarkable is that it leaves no doubt that an engraver, at least this engraver, had access to a faithful model for the Sauroktonos, leaning forward, resting his left forearm on the tree trunk, bracing his right leg, raising his head slightly, the whole convincingly suggesting the 3/4 view of the body which the large copies relation to their bases indicate is the primary pictorial view. Even though only a generous Danubian patina has preserved it for us, like the handsome and expressive portrait of the Mauretanian emperor, in a bust seen as from in front and wearing a fringed cloak over his armor, this Sauroktonos leaves no doubt of the engraver's training in Greek traditions of representation and his understanding of it. For anything like it we must compare Commodus's 9, , and that one is Bithynian. Compare also (without a tree or a lizard, so testifying only to the pose).
(j) The Agrippa Sauroktonos coins for Macrinus and Diadumenian. So far, we know of no Sauroktonos coin for Diadumenian except for the very last one, issued by Agrippa. Although the production of the Nicopolis mint for those last months when Agrippa was governor was prolific, it was also inconsistent, and one die engraver produced some aberrant work. Besides the last Sauroktonos for Macrinus, he also cut an Aphrodite die (used for both father and son) giving the goddess boots and a shoulder cloak.

14 08 06 Æ27 Nicopolis ad Istrum. Issued by Agrippa. Diadumenian, head to r. K M OPPEL ANTONI DIADOVMENIANOS. Rev., Aphrodite, stg. turning to r. in the pose of the Medici Aphrodite but wearing a cloak (though clearly on this example not boots); on the ground, at l., stg on its head, dolphin and at r. burning altar. VP AGRIPPA NIKOPOLITON PROS IS and in exergue TROmega (though the rho does resemble an iota). On this example the features of the profile face of Aphrodite are unusually clear, though the body is quite rough. Pick, AMNG I, 1, p. 459, no. 1799 (rev. die = no. 1690 of Macrinus), Taf. XV, 34.
Given that Aphrodite, shown here with one of Diadumenian's obverse dies, his Apollo Sauroktonos 20 is a little less surprising. There is nothing crude, by the standards of Greek Imperials, about this work, only it is weird. No preserved specimen, and I have looked at as many as a dozen, actually preserved Apollo's right hand in front of his body, several scholars besides myself have been unable to decide whether between his torso and the tree trunk we see a strung-out lizard or a twig with a few leaves, and on some specimens we see a stick or dart (between the lambda and the iota of the legend) that is inexplicable, especially in terms of lizard-slaying.
Yet the die is neatly cut, and apart from making no sense the figure clearly is modeled on dies like the Antonine ones with which we began. Therefore, it contributes nothing to the history of the Sauroktonos as such, if it was done by rote copying by a die engraver never in touch with the story that justifies the pose. Earlier, still Antonine, compare the anomalies in the small copper issued at Nicopolis for Commdous, 8:
The last known Sauroktonos, 21, is perhaps more remarkable, but it is not aberrant; its reverse shows the same variant of a true Sauroktonos, with a leafy twig in his lowered right hand, that from 11 and 17 we saw for Caracalla. Surely, whatever their idea was, it was used dynastically for Diadumenian as another Antoninus (poor lamb!):
This is a stripped coin (showing its Danubian brass), but it is one of only two known to me. Both are illustrated by Hristova & Jekov, Nicopolis ad Istrum (in Bulgarian), Blagoevgrad, 2009, no. (in their catalogue numbers are given in the captions for each of the Nicopolis coins). Though this die adds nothing to the evidence of 11 and 17 for the type of this variant, it does further reinforce its being deliberate, whatever it meant to them.

As for pastiches: For Apollonia ad Rhyndacum, I still have too few specimens to add anything to the remarks made on its pastiches using the Sauroktonos pose that I already posted near the end of the Sauroktonos Coins page.
One pastiche, 6, actually included in my own Sauroktonos list of reverse dies, because it is at Philoppopolis, may deserve extra attention:
The boy does stand ready to cast a dart or arrow, but the column or pillar, with a quiver or the like leaning against its base, negates the lizard-on-tree motif integral to the Sauroktonos anecdote. On the other hand, the childish round belly of the figure seems to follow the same prototype as for 4, which makes it seem proper to Philippopolis, and, as regards Faustina II's son, that may be a quiver (if it is anything in particular) on 8, shown above. Here we have an enigma. It is not at all comparable to Apollo's legs merely being miscrossed on the big coin, 5, which Gargilius Antiquus issued late in his reign for Antoninus Pius; the latter is a true Sauroktonos with one minor and insignificant difference. [Not insignificant, but I can't get at it to correct it right now, is my having typed 'NEIKO' instead of 'PhILIPPO' in the city's name! You can see the phi at about 1h. opposite Apollo's nose]. I wish the specimen were better, but this coin is very hard to obtain for photography.
III. The relevance and utility of the coins and statues for each other.
The purpose of these three blog posts and of both the Sauroktonos Coins Page and its supplement the Sauroktonos Coins album, taken all together, was to address this topic. Since scholars persisted in using the coins much as Overbeck had done (Griechische Kunstmythologie 4, Apollon, p. 304, no. 94; Münztafel V, 2), as testimonia as such, circular and inconclusive arguments continued much as always.
Here my conviction has been, as it has been for the last decade, that there are more questions that are unanswerable than not, and that truthfulness inheres in knowing what we ought to ask, and understanding why some questions cannot be answered—not now and perhaps never. It is not only that most of what antiquity possessed, both as common knowledge and as material goods, is irretrievably lost. Much that we would so much like to know was not deemed worth recording or, like so many public records (even in our own lifetimes) was lost in fire or flood or siege or simple abandonment if a whole population was reduced to near nothing in a plague or warfare and had to leave its site precipitously. When this has been going on for more than two millennia, and many populations were, besides, less committed to their own archives or less able to maintain them, it seems wonderful that we have what we do.
Look at the Prosopographia Imperii Romani, for instance. Certainly monumental inscriptions give us a lot of names, but the coins where governors and civil magistrates signed them are what hold together the tatters of civic and provincial history. Behind the huge compendia are the labors of R. Münsterburg, Die Beamtennamen auf griechischen Münzen, 1914, and Arthur Stein, Die Legaten von Moesien, Budapest, 1940, for example. For the Renaissance, generally speaking, information of this kind wants only editing, not to be wrung painfully from resistant, fragmentary material.
As for the primary evidence of art and archaeology, what hasn't been found as scrap metal ready to be reforged into tools and weapons (and persons my age can remember the perhaps impractical collection of toys and matrices for stamping phonograph records and plates for printing engravings in a patriotic drive for metal) very often found its way to the lime kiln, besides sometimes being smashed as idolatrous: in our own time, I shall never forget the huge old Buddhas of Bamiyan.
In sum, then:
What can the statuary remains tell us of relevance to interpreting the evidence of the coins?
As excavation and chance finds continue to yield more replicas and more variants of the sculptural images that people actually could see in cities and sanctuaries (and, if wealthy enough, in palaces and villas) the concept of a Répertoire (like that of Salomon Reinach) comes to seem delusory and futile. Therefore, we cannot assume that the little images on coins, unless they correspond to what Pausanias (preeminently Pausanias) saw at a particular place, can be identified with a specific statue or statuary group. And if they are identifiable they may, or may not, have tried to show the style of the statue, what it looked like, as distinct from what it meant to them. A similarly identifiable statuary type on another city's coins may simply show that fame inspires imitation, usually with variations, rather like a second comedian's aping another's routines or the images representing different visions of the Virgin Mary (in similar aspects) around the Christian world. We have seen how piece molds were useful in making 'new' types of pre-existing statuary images.
• Finds of near-replicas and deliberate variants of the canon of opera nobilia shows how widespread the basic figure types, as well as good replicas and near replicas, were. Tentatively, I would say that, as we move through the 3rd century AC, the demand for, and/or the availability of, close replicas and stylistically faithful evocations yielded gradually but inexorably to alternatives that, to us, start to look "late antique". But, for example, our Trajanic town, Nicopolis ad Istrum, had a decently Praxitelean-looking Eros of its own; it was found in the early excavations and published very well by Filow in 1909:
Once again, you can see it today in Sofia. It makes the style of the best of the coins a little less surprising, though their small scale is a limitation.
• Statues like that Eros also make Behrendt Pick's suggestion that Nicopolis may have had a Sauroktonos less surprising. So might Philippopolis have had one. They needn't have been exactly like each other; they might have been obtained at different times from different ateliers; they might have been of different materials or one of them might have been a statuette. Or not. Nicopolis may even have had made a Caracalla variant, holding a laurel twig low, when, age 10, he was made Augustus. That is NOT to suggest that they had! Only, it wouldn't be surprising. The same holds true for other cities, such as that prosperous colonia, Deultum, and for pictorial reliefs and paintings, such as Haimos in his landscape. Pick, whom I esteem particularly, imagined these possibilities (and emphasized that they are only possibilities) even without knowing half the statuary that we have today. Consider also (as shown at Marcianopolis in Pick, AMNG I, 1, nos. 751 and 783, pl. III, 13–15, Price & Trell, Coins and their Cities, figs. 85 and 499, Varbanov, Greek Imperial Coins, 2005, no. 1220, for illustrations) statuary used on honorary architecture; it need not have been of the highest quality, but it certainly was recognizable. On those coins, we see the statuary changed from one reign to the next; for the emperor, bronze could be melted down and recast: in Rome itself the statues and chariot groups on top of triumphal arches seem to have been of, always salvageable, bronze. After Caracalla's demise (and after that of Macrinus, similarly) we might assume recycling of sculpture perceived as honoring them.
What can a discrete series of coins like those with an Apollo Sauroktonos tell us of relevance to the statuary?
First, all the differences observable are not significant in the same way. Unfolding and flattening a figure that in statuary was composed turning in space is only a simplification to avoid translating the optics of foreshortening, at a date when optics in art was becoming rare everywhere. Having Apollo hold a leafy twig, instead of raising a dart to throw it, is certainly puzzling, but it has little effect on the figure. The gnarled tree trunk and corresponding figure style of the die shared by Geta and Plautilla suggest an engraver differently trained (reminding us that some engravers probably were itinerant, and we don't know where all of the training centers were), but it is the same statuary type. The excellence of Septimius's 14, which stands alone, being of a different kind from the Antonine ones, as of 13 and 19 which lean forward so noticeably, has no bearing on the identification of the type: after all, the Vatican copy does not lean forward so much, either.
• We cannot conclude that there were numerous statues to explain differences largely due to the necessity of translating the monumental to miniature. Also, though none of those commonly reproduced (see Praxitèle, nos. 9–12) exactly match our Sauroktonoi, and intaglio gems known to me from the Danubian region are not so fine as those, we cannot exclude gems, themselves works of the intaglio engraver's art, as not improbable models. It is fun to fantasize about the rings and other mounts for gems that men like our governors probably owned (note that I said 'fun' and 'fantasy').
• The use of the Sauroktonos type for about three generations in Philippopolis and, above all, in Nicopolis ad Istrum, in Moesia Inferior, and never at other mints in those provinces, strongly suggests that its use was intelligible to many, if not most, of those who used the coins, both as representing a work of art and very possibly, as I believe, to propagandize the succession to the throne. The latter depends on the former; those who handled the coins had to know it was a boy Apollo, already playing at being a powerful defender (whether or not you will allow the lizards to be childhood's Pythons).
• The effect of various engravers' efforts on the exact shape and stance of the figure of Apollo and its relation to the tree trunk only underscore the variability in the larger replicas due, themselves, to workshop practices described in the first post in this group; above all, each replica might have its own tree and reptile. If some do resemble one another it is sometimes due to using one replica to help restore another or to one being, literally, a copy of another.
• On the other hand, certain variations amount to real difference: a Sauroktonos must have something like a tree trunk; Apollo must have something like a lizard or a snake (a lizard, if it has legs, no matter how long it is) to aim at.
Artistically the tie between the boy's gaze and the aim of his right hand needs an object, not only narratively but to help in uniting the composition. That is why the assorted, and very pretty, pastiches of Apollonia ad Rhyndacum are not Sauroktonoi. They rely on the pre-existence of the Apollo Sauroktonos pose (which, after all, is from the 4th century BCE) and are, most of them, earlier than the Severan ones of Nicopolis. Therefore, all else aside, they can neither be variants of the Moesian ones, nor can the true Sauroktonoi of Nicopolis (let alone those of Philippopolis) be derivatives of them.
• Wouldn't I like to know more about Prusa, though!

The 2007 draft, referred to at the head of this post, is:
Sauroktonos as of 2007.pdf
** However, I found it better simply to save it as html and post it as an Addendum post to this one.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bronze statuary-2

In these three posts, I have used my files of teaching photographs used in lectures from 1981-2005, and most of them are my own (hand-held, no-flash, teaching photos); please regard both those, imperfect as many of them are, and any by someone else as posted in fair usage, wholly non-commercial and educational.

To repeat: we began with statuary that by now is fairly well understood, and I would insist again that contending where there is frank disagreement will get us nowhere. I should like, rather, to move toward basic understanding of the bronze statuary that comes up from shipwrecks and from the earth. It seems premature to decide definitively what’s what, but we need to get beyond simply sticking labels on things and then arguing to justify our own labels.
The age-old difficulty of evoking visual qualities in verbal terms (or evoking a poem in a painting) sets a terrible trap. One cannot read as much as a page on the bronzes without risking getting entangled in it. It is at least as tricky as trying to read political arguments objectively. We must, however, try.

Early Hellenistic large statuette of Pan. Paris, Louvre BR4359. Rolley, p. 204, says that it was found on the Asiatic shore of the Black Sea, and that may be the region where it was made. But the Louvre says ( that it came from Sozopol and attributes it (not certainly) to Cyzicus.
Claude Rolley knows what he means when he says of Paris, Louvre Br4359, a bronze statuette about half life-size but made like a full-size statue, in its hollow casting and finishing, “It is not clear whether the figure is stationary or turning, so subtly does the interplay of surfaces mask the motion of the slender body; it maintains an amazing equilibrium in which gesture and dance seem suspended.” Work that calls forth such language is what we think of as Greek. Rolley says that it is “hollow cast in the direct manner.” That is, the product is necessarily unique (necessarily, except for modern casts, like those of Athena and Marsyas in the park at Frankfurt’s Liebieghaus or the set at Malibu made for the Getty, made with molds taken off it—and those show on the interior their technology and generally have foundry marks, too).

When Mattusch says of the Vani torso that its technique is of the older kind, direct casting, and that slightly awkward, probably from the local Late Hellenistic foundry that operated just before the destruction of the place, it is because it is not “Greek” in quite the same terms as the Louvre Pan, though the manufacture is not like that of the Lampbearers. When she says, on the other hand, that the style is 5th century and compares the “Kritian Boy” from the Athens Acropolis, it is just confusing. The stance is comparable, to some extent, with that of the “Kritian Boy”, but in fact the Vani torso is stiffer than the really early marble boy. The sculptor of the Kritian Boy carved and finished the abdomen and the pectorals as softly and delicately as humanly possible (it is, after all, a very young boy, the same adolescent age as the kore statues). The Vani statue might as well have been wearing a corset all his life. That is to say (a) that the style of the Vani torso, like its technique, is probably Colchian and, therefore, (b) it is hard to say whether its severe stance is attributable also to its origin or to its belonging to the last phase of that local foundry. Mattusch says that the alloy, with a lot of tin, is also regional.
Colchian? Indeed: Vani (whatever its ancient name) is in Georgia:

Now, hollow casting in the direct manner does not imply stiffness. Far from it. Consider also beside the Louvre Pan the famous Getty Athlete (R. R. R. Smith, Hellenistic Sc. p. 49); both seem to belong to the generation active c. 300 BCE. It doesn’t matter here that we know too little of all Lysippic work to put a name to the athlete. Though representing an adult body, the Athlete is nearly as lithe as the Pan, and though it must have had an armature, as the Vani torso had, its fully realized form in no way suggests the necessary rigidity of armatures.
Old image of the boy from Marathon, as seen in Rodenwaldt, Die Kunst der Antike, Praxitelean, but its exact relationship to Praxiteles unknown. As exhibited now, it stands a little differently, and its r. foot is complete.

Still better, consider the famous Boy from the Bay of Marathon, a unique hollow-cast bronze, Athens Br 15118, H. 1.3m, which Boardman, GrSc, Late Classical, p. 70, pl. 42, dates c. 330.
Paris, Louvre. Profile of torso of the "Apollo of Piombino" photographed perforce through glass in a large gallery full of reflections. Brunilde Ridgway's article in Antike Plastik 7, 1967, pp. 43-75 remains epoch-making (including the epigraphic evidence found in the statue's foot). Though Late Hellenistic, this statuette remains singularly charming (but not Archaic!), especially compared with its cousin from Pompeii.
On the other hand, in skillful workshops, whether by (a) direct casting with a clay core on an armature and the final modeling, short of engraved detail and addenda such as curls, in wax, all (of each part: torso, limbs) held in register with the clay investiture by pins, so that the core or much of it, remains in the statue (as at Vani), and the investiture has to be broken off, so is lost, or (b) by indirect casting, so that several museums have equally authorized, first-edition casts of, for example, Rodin's "Praying Man" or "Fates" from the Gates of Hell, the finished statue may be just as 'plastic' (like modeling) as Rodin's or as stiff as any Early Archaic statue: as stiff, that is, as the sculptor's full size model.

When you go to Paris, you see the finished tinted plaster "Four Continents" by Rodin's master, Carpeaux, in the Musee d'Orsay, then you take the Métro to the Observatoire station and looking toward the Luxembourg you see the bronze Continents as the centerpiece of the fountain for which they were designed. True (as with woodblock prints and etchings) there exist late editions that have lost some refinements, but what I have called first-edition bronzes all are equally 'original' and all equally made using piece molds taken from the sculptor's final plaster. Late editions often are made from piece molds taken from finished bronzes or even (dare we say it) from marble copies using the pointing machine or from variant versions of the sculptor's handwork.
Using piece molds, if they did not join up exactly as first intended, could produce both unintentioal and deliberate differences, as study of them at the Baiae sculptor's studio showed, as the artisans toiled to make them fit together as they wished, and as molds developed worn joining surfaces from use or were modified. Once the piece molds were assembled, their interior was coated with the wax that would be lost, then clay was crammed or poured in. Thus indirect castings are usually of more regular thinness and often show drippings from liquid wax and fingerprints on the inside of the finished statue. In modern times, replicas are more exact, too, than ancient ones were.
Thus, on the dust jacket of Mattusch's Classical Bronzes, pseudo-Archaic "Apollos" , one from Pompeii and the other the famous Piombino one in the Louvre face each other, equally stiff, so as to look Archaic, but the Pompeii one not nearly so artistically or finely finished. Both are pseudo-Archaic without any early prototype, fussier than real Archaic, but not finished by the same artisans. The use of copper for lips and the areoles of nipples was not new, but it was very popular.
Paris, Louvre. Detail of head of the "Apollo of Piombino" photographed perforce through glass in a large gallery full of reflections. I'd rather risk having the lens of my camera appear encircling the statue's mouth than forego having an image that gives a comparatively lively impression of the statue.
There has to have been a real sculptor's model, a pseudo-Archaic original, and I do not doubt that the Piombino is true to it.
More difficult is the boy from the Janiculum, found in the 17th century, so that its bibliography traces four centuries of the best minds' ideas. I have an old photo of my own.
Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek I.N.2235. From Rome, found on the Janiculum Hill in the 17th century. The NCG catalogue of Fr. Poulsen (1951) assigned it to S. Italy, possibly Tarentum, ca. 470, which I find very difficult. Even Poulsen, not knowing that the statuette from Piombino would be re-dated, compared them, and in my teaching notes, so did I: "Of course, as Cicero makes plain in the Verrines, Sicily was plundered to furnish Rome, but this work in the torso recalls the neo-Archaic "Apollo of Piombino" and should also be academic revival work, in this case Neo-Severe, of the Late Hellenistic. The even thinness of the bronze also looks late."

Although Frederik Poulsen's catalogue was current in my youth, it no longer is uniformly up to date. It is interesting that, wherever it was made, and South Italy or Rome itself seem likeliest, of the works shown above it is the Vani torso that it somewhat resembles.
The foregoing may suffice to illustrate the variability of chance-preserved ancient hollow-cast bronzes and suggest how, apart from the modern casts made for study or for use outdoors, they might be pastiches or willful or accidental variants, such as the Lampbearers exemplify, or show simply regional variations. Besides the modern casts made at the direction of scholars in the 1920s and 1930s, we have numerous casts in castles and country houses (or now removed to museums) made, frankly, as interior decoration of the highest order. Some of them, like some emulative Renaissance and post-Renaissance coins of ancient types, are of high quality, but they don't concern us here. At least, we always hope not, though occasionally a small statuette is questioned; the African boy in the Cabinet des Médailles (Richter, Handbook of Greek Art, Phaidon Press, 2nd ed., 1960, fig. 185) is a case in point.
Among the bronzes from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum a couple of busts of famous sculptures may be (Rolley) from molds taken directly (barring the inset eyes and eyelashes) off the original. That of the Doryphoros, the Spearbearer, of Polykleitos is signed, Apollonios, son of Archias, the Athenian made it.

That is not to say it is not by Polykleitos! The Spearbearer statue, nicknamed 'the Canon', in some respects the opus nobile above all others, was as well known as the Mona Lisa is to us. Rather, the signature (not visible in the image shown, which is from a plaster cast in a study collection, since the original is hard to photograph well) proclaims that it is no mere knock-off and guarantees that the finishing is as good as the molds. A very old photo, however, in Bulle's Schöne Mensch, does show the inscription:
Very few bronze copies are of this kind. In fact, as the Herculaneum bronzes as a whole testify, the market for fine bronze statuary seems generally to have preferred some adjustments to the taste of their own time. Among the small versions of statuary types the best show a fine eye and great care; though these could be scaled by measurement, they could not be copied by mechanical pointing ( The ancient ones were only more awkward).
Much of the early scholarship in Greek sculpture, based on the marble replicas that had to be relied on then, understood the use of pointing but seems not to have considered, or to have considered very slightly, that the copyists did not use pointing directly from the famous statues. Indeed, in the case of marble statues that were tinted (like the Aphrodite of Knidos) or statues (like the Serapis at Alexandria) that were in mixed media, they had to work freehand. It was bronze that permitted taking working molds.
This means that the variability, which the use of piece molds entailed, affects marble copies as much as bronze ones. In other words, if the studio was going to add twigs to a tree trunk or place a lizard on it or add golden apples for Herakles to gather from the Hesperides, they were more or less free to distribute the apples on that tree as they saw fit, similarly in providing Apollo with a bow or Meleager with a boar. Most important, reassembling piece molds to make a cast from which pointing could be done, the slightest differences in the planes where the pieces joined cumulatively could (and did) affect the posture of the statue. (Consider how much trouble NOVA had after laying a couple of courses in keeping even a tiny Pyramid steady).
All of the ink and agony spent in arguing whether, for example, the Vatican or the Louvre copy of the Apollo Sauroktonos of Praxiteles is truer to the original was a waste, for the question is fallacious. For a marble copy, unless freehand, is at least at two removes from the original. It is not as if they had the huge studios and factories that Carpeaux had for the Four Continents (above).
Because a picture is worth more than verbiage, I should like to illustrate here the bronze Apollo Sauroktonos that the Cleveland Museum acquired in 2004. Not that I didn't download all the images in the press release, but, not only are they copyright, but just today, August 12, 2010, the statue (still not definitively published) went on exhibit for almost the first time, in the new galleries:
The brief description is a model of discretion: "the only known life-size bronze version of the Apollo Sauroktonos." Italics added. In other words, its date and its relation to the original are still not certain. Michael Bennett did describe it carefully in the Louvre exhibition catalogue of 2007, Praxitèle, pp. 206-208 and fig. 126a-c, and stated that it is an indirect cast, rather smooth inside, and metallurgically ancient (to summarize succintly). The statue's notoriety after its acquisition prevented its actually being exhibited in the great Louvre show. It had a questionable-seeming pedigree and was soon notorious in the Art Detectives literature, of which this is a mild example: Number 4 in that list, though, does have a picture.
Actually, there are so few bronzes that copy famous works, our opera nobilia, that the resemblance of the Cleveland statue to the ex-Borghese one in the Louvre, guarantees that both belong to one, very good tradition (and so does the Vatican one, only slightly different in stance), but it would be a pleasure to post here some details.
There are other copies, of course. Among them, the Villa Albani statuette (Praxitèle, fig. 122a-b) is charming, and the torso in Athens, NAM inv. 1623, bereft of head and limbs, has never been cleaned with acid or retouched in any way and will be used in the next Post. The head in the Benaki Museum in Athens, also illustrated in Praxitèle, is very fresh and sweet.

Marble copies and how they affect interpretation of Danubian coins will be considered in the next Post.