The Bronzes of Riace

The Bronzes of Riace

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Riace Bronzes Analysis

The Riace Bronzes, also called the Riace Warriors, are two full-size bronzes cast about 5th century BC. The two statues are hosted at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale della Magna Grecia in Reggio Calabria. Since their discovery in the coast of Riace Marina (RC) in 1972, they represent one of the most significant sculptural masterpieces of the Greek art in the world, thanks to their outstanding manufacture. In addition to their extraordinary realism, the Bronzes have become one of the most important symbols of their hosting city. Over the years, many studies carried out both in historic area and in scientific field, aimed at implementing technical improvements for their maintenance and restoration. This paper describes the methodology for the.

The advent of the laser scanner has been an incredibly versatile solution for the acquisition of huge amounts of data with greatly reduced acquisition times guaranteeing high accuracies. This technology is widely used in archeology, and mapping is a critical aspect of the documentation for cultural heritage, especially for archaeological excavation, documentation, interpretation. Recently has emerged a technique, which, starting from two photographic images taken from two different points of view is able to obtain a metric 3D model of the object.

However, studying the materials and casting technique, there is an undoubted difference between the two statues. This matter would make them attributed to various artists and achievements in different periods or by the same artist in different places. Early theories formulated by W. Fuchs, dating back to the late 70s early 80s, speculate that the two statues belonged to donario of the Athenians at Delphi, and that they were the work of Phidias4. The Greek and Roman art historian Paolo Moreno, performing new and more detailed studies of historical documents and melting earth, formulated a new theory that the Bronze "A", the young, would represent Tydeus, a ferocious hero of 'Etolia, son of the god Ares and protected by the goddess Athena. Bronze "B", the old man, reproduce, however, Amphiaraus, the warrior prophet who prophesied his own death under the walls of Thebes4. From this hypothesis, one might think that the author of the bronze "A", Tydeus the young, much resembling the decorations in the temple of Zeus at Olympia, both Hageladas, a sculptor of Argos who was working at the sanctuary of Delphi in mid V century BC4. For the Bronze "B", Amphiaraus old, Moreno confirms the hypothesis of the Greek archaeologist Geòrghios Dontàs stating that author was Alcamenes, a native of Lemnos, Athenian citizenship.

Two millennia at the bottom of the sea, a heritage of humanity is waiting to be discovered at the MARC (Archaeological National Museum) of Reggio Calabria

After the recovery, the statues were sent for a first restoration, which was carried out between 1975 and 1980 in Florence. This intervention had two objectives: to clean and preserve the external surfaces. The removal of the fused land was carried out in a restoration laboratory located in the Reggio Museum from 1992-1995. The last restoration was finally concluded between 2010 and 2013. The two statues, named “A” and “B”, later renamed in Reggio as “il giovane” (“the young”) and “il Vecchio” (“the old”), are respectively 1.98 and 1.97 metres high. Their original weight of 400 kg has now decreased to about 160 kg thanks to the removal of the fused land. Today, they are on display to the public at the Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria.


Regarding their date, location, creators, and which characters are represented by the Riace Bronzes, there are twelve accredited hypotheses by scholars from all over the world, all of which are different from one another. This increases the charm and mystery around the two heroes even more!

The Bronzes of Riace

The Bronzes of Riace were discovered by Mr Stefano Mariottini, an amateur scuba diver from Rome, during a holiday on the Calabrian coast.
They turned out to be one of Italy's most important archeological finds of the last 100 years.
The two sculptures look human and divine at the same time, between reality and myth.

These renowned personages are wrapped in mystery, we don't know anything about their identity, paternity and origins not to speak of their destination.
These works are beautifully made, and succeed in awakening deep feelings among the populace. These are, after all, the main reasons of the enthusiasm the bronzes of Riace have aroused.
Some speak, however, of "magnetic force", "eroticism", " halo of fear".
Some other bring Freud into the discussion. And much more will be said on this topic.
They have been exhibited in Florence, then in Rome, lastly and definitively in the Museum of Reggio Calabria.

Mariottini, who spotted the statues 300 meters off the coast and eight meters underwater, said the bronze was so realistic he initially thought he'd found the remains of a corpse.

When they first went on display in 1981, a million people came to see them and the pair were even featured on a commemorative postage stamp.

As a consequence, the right thigh stands in an upper position than the left one: such movement in the Bronze A, doesn't involve the upper part of the thorax, where pectorals and shoulders are in an almost horizontal position,while,in the bronze B, it involves both the pectorals, defined by a tilted line, and on the shoulders: the right one is in a lower position than the other.

The bodies : The two statues show a crossed rhythm pondeal system: the leaned left arm,to hold the heavy shield, finds a correspondence with the vertical right leg, supporting the body's weight the right arm, while the lower right arm, holding the mast, finds a correspondence with the flexed left leg, in an advanced position.

The powerful muscles are made stronger, thanks to the plastic vigor, in a more geometrical and static way as for the Bronze A, while it's more analytical and dynamical in the Bronze B.
Among the anatomical accurate reproduced particulars in the Bronzi, we can see the sub-skinned veins, particularly appreciated in the hands and in the feet.

The nakedness,allowed to put in evidence the human body's beauty, considered both an essential element of the &ldquovirtue&rdquo, and the intellectual and moral capabilities.

For this reason, the nakedness was the ideal way to represent divinities, heroes, but also the athletes, not just because they played naked, but because, in case of victory, they received the hero's honors.

The &ldquoA&rdquostatue's head. The head is characterized by a refined shave, with strongly plastic sinuous wisps, and the hair, withheld with a large band.
The long wisp of waved hair, sulking all the scalp, falling into curled wisps on the shoulders, makes us suppose the head was in origin devoid of the helmet on the top, there is a hollow, maybe for a meniscus, a functional bronzed tip, to keep the birds away from the statues.
Nevertheless, in a second time, a Corinthian helmet was placed, as stated by a standing signs, and the transformation of the original hollow into an inlet for the same helmet. In that time, the well shaped ears,were covered by applied wisps.
The mouth shows coppered lips and an upper row of five teeth, shaped in a silver foil.
The eyes show a bronzed foiled lashes, and ivory corneas while the irises, not kept, were probably in glassed pasta or of a precious stone.

The Bronze A would represent Tideus , so fierce to bite his enemy and devouring his brain (hence the visible silver teeth)

The &ldquoB&rdquostatue's head. The head is smooth and deformed, probably because it had a raised Corinthian helmet, and covered by a leather or a felt cap we can see some plate cats, covered by little hammering and the sulk on the sides of the shave the lower side of the throat.

The ears' lower lobes and hairs wisps came out of the cap, and were similar to the shave's ones, not so thick, and plastic.
Even the mouth has the coppered lips we only have the right eye, with the white marbled cornea, the iris, made up of a whitish ring and a pinkish one, and the black eye pupil.

The Bronze B, would be Anfiarao , who forecast his own death thanks to his prophetic spirit (recalled by the cap, worn by seers).

Apart from differences in the face, hairstyles and beards, the right hip of statue B is considerably displaced, attributing this statue to the generation directly following that of statue A.

The creation - The Bronzi have been created through a compartments' welding, separately cast: head, thorax, arms (divided into three sectors), hands, legs, feet, feet's medium fingers.

A widespread opinion is the Bronzi were performed by two sculptors, working in different chronological periods.
The hypothesis of their creation in Attica, in the Phydia ' s environment, author of the sculpture's decoration of the famous Parthenon of Athens, is confirmed.

The A statue, would have been performed around the half of the 5 th century B.C, while the B one, with a new artistic sensibility, whose main author was Polycletus, 30 years after.
Their same stance, the close analogy of the metal alloys used, the fusion technique and the expertise shown in the metal inlay used for certain touches (the areolas, lips and teeth) all lead us to the origins and original purpose.

All the more so because these 30 years fall in the richest, most vibrant and the most innovator period of the 5th. BC in the classical environment enveloping Phidias and the great Parthenon workshop.

ANSA - Rome, August 17 - 2007 - Thirty-five years after the famed Riace bronzes emerged from the sea, a probe into a third ancient statue thought to have gone missing at the time is gathering pace.

Prosecutors, investigating the claims of local art sleuth Giuseppe Bragho', say there is growing evidence that a third work of art was smuggled from the scene during the discovery.

He says a third statue - "completely different from the other two" - as well as two shields and a lance, were seen lying on the seabed by the finder, scuba diver Stefano Mariottini.

Bragho' points to a statement made by Mariottini the day after he discovered the statues on 16 August 1972.
In the statement, he refers to "a group of statues presumably of bronze" (un gruppo di statue presumibilmente in bronzo).

Original document signed by Mr Mariottini stating that: "Le statue sono di colore bruno scuro salvo alcune parti piu' chiare, si conservano perfettamente, modellato pulito, privo di incrostazioni evidenti. )

In english: " The statues are dark brown in color except for some parts where they look clearer, they are perfectly preserved, clean, and free of any visible incrustation . )

(Le due emergenti rappresentano delle figure maschili. l'altra presenta sul braccio sinistro uno scudo.
The two protruding figure are male the other has a shield on left arm.)

In addition, the expert has provided prosecutors with the name of a man who allegedly helped smuggle a shield and lance away from the scene of the discovery.
As further evidence of his theory, Bragho' has produced a series of recordings of a male voice, who claims he acted as a mediator for representatives of the John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Bragho' believes that the alleged weapons and possible third bronze ended up in the museum's collection.
However, the institute has vigorously denied the claims, categorically stating: "the spear, shields and helmet purportedly found with the bronzes have never been part of our collection.
"This information is wrong and must be corrected," the museum said.

Statement from the J. Paul Getty Museum Regarding the Riace Bronzes - 03/02/07
"In recent weeks, there have been reports in the press suggesting that pieces from the Bronzes of Riace (a shield, lance, and helmet) might currently reside at the J. Paul Getty Museum. This information is wrong and should be corrected. These objects, that are suggested to be part of the Riace Bronzes, have never been in the Getty Museum's collection.

ROME, Sept. 25 - 2012 &mdash In a low-key ceremony, the Italian Culture Ministry and the J. Paul Getty Museum of Los Angeles signed an agreement here on Tuesday under which the museum will hand over 40 archeological artifacts that Italy says were looted from its soil.

It was an anticlimactic coda to nearly two years of highly charged negotiations that broke down several times, with Italy threatening &ldquoa cultural embargo&rdquo against the Getty unless it surrendered the items.

In a joint statement, the Getty&rsquos director, Michael Brand, said the museum&rsquos scholarly research had shown that the artifacts&rsquo &ldquoproper home is in Italy.&rdquo The accord on the pieces was announced in August.

Looming over Tuesday&rsquos signing was the Italian trial of a former curator of antiquities at the Getty, Marion True, who has been charged with conspiracy to acquire looted artifacts. &ldquoWe know the restitution will involve pain for the museum, but also opens up new possibilities,&rdquo said Mr. Brand, who attended the signing in Rome.

The fate of a disputed bronze statue of an athlete found at sea, which Italy says was illegally exported after being hidden in that country and that the Getty contends was found in international waters, awaits an Italian court&rsquos decision.

In its accord with Italy, the Getty rejects any suggestion that it knowingly acquired looted artifacts. Still, the pact does not protect the museum from future investigations.

Within the past five years, museums have returned to the Italian and Greek governments more than 100 artifacts worth nearly $1 billion.

The Met gave back 21 pieces, including its celebrated Euphronios krater, a Greek vessel dating to about 515 B.C., which the museum had acquired in 1972 for a then-record $1 million.

The Boston MFA returned 13 objects, including a statue of Sabina, wife of the second-century A.D. Roman emperor Hadrian.

In no case did a museum acknowledge wrongdoing on its part, and, in a historic shift, the Italian government agreed to make long-term loans of other antiquities to take the place of those that had been repatriated.

The Getty gave back more objects than any other museum&mdash47, nearly a dozen of them masterpieces&mdashand the last piece to go was its iconic goddess.

The story of the statue stands as a case study of how longstanding practices in the market for Greek and Roman antiquities were overtaken by changes in attitude, the law and law enforcement.

A new book tells the story of beauty, corruption and the waste of millions of dollars.
"The book (Chasing Aphrodite) traces the Getty Museum's illegal acquisition of antiquities..


Ai nostri visitatori piace il Sud Italia, vuoi dire loro qualcosa?
Il nostro obiettivo e' quello di promuovere prodotti tipici del Sud in un contesto di marketing globale, e allo stesso tempo proporre
il nostro Meridione come alternativa turistica, ben consapevoli che il successo dell'uno è essenziale per il successo dell'altro.​
Paesi di provenienza dei visitatori in ordine numerico
Stati Uniti - Canada - Italia - Gran Bretagna - Australia - China - Germania - Francia - Nuova Zelanda - Olanda

Coloro interessati ad inserire la loro attivita'/azienda/ nel sito
sono pregati di mettersi in contatto usando il modulo sottostante .
Per saperne di piu'.

  • BOOKS - Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum by Jason Felch (Author), Ralph Frammolino (Author).

The answer lies at the Getty, one of the world&rsquos richest and most troubled museums, and scandalous revelations that it had been buying looted antiquities for decades. Drawing on a trove of confidential museum records and frank interviews, Felch and Frammolino give us a fly-on-the-wall account of the inner workings of a world-class museum and tell the story of the Getty&rsquos dealings in the illegal antiquities trade.

We know very little about the Riace Bronzes: who are their creators, who are those portrayed, where were they located in Antiquity and when?
They are sculptured masterpieces, rather well-known all around the world, and the major attraction at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria.

Their singularity is due to the fact that very few Greek bronze statues have arrived to the present day intact among them, these bronzes are perhaps the most beautiful. The two majestic statues - discovered by chance hundreds of miles off the coast of Riace, on the floor of the Ionian Sea in 1972 - became the symbol of the City of Reggio Calabria. They depict two male figures - most likely two warriors - marked by perfect beauty. It is believed that they date back to the 5th Century B.C., and that they are of Hellenic origin they are about 6.6 ft tall and in mint condition.

According to the most recent studies, Bronze A (called "the youth") might represent Tydeus, a fierce hero from Aetolia, son of the god Ares. Bronze B ("the elder") could represent Amphiaraus, a warrior prophet.
The statues were likely made in Athens and then sent to Rome however, when the vessel transporting them sank, the precious load ended up in the deep of the sea.

The Mystery of the Riace Bronzes

Dr. Guiseppe Foti, Superintendent, Antiquities, Calabria (right), supervises movement of the statues upon discovery in 1972.

Is it any wonder that after sampling the magnificent cities and incredible works of art of Rome and Venice that visitors to Italy rarely get beyond Naples? Well, yes, some do make it to Tuscany and Sorrento, but I like to get off the beaten path and that’s why I decided to take the train and head to the foot of the country, to Calabria. It’s a mountainous region with a questionable past and often overlooked by tourists. But here, off the rugged Calabrian coast, my travels were rewarded with a mystery that still intrigues archaeologists and historians.

In l972 an amateur scuba-diver off the coast of Riace caught a glimpse of an arm protruding from the sandy bottom of the Ionian Sea. The Antiquities Department of Calabria was alerted and four days later, despite stormy seas, two enormous bronze statues were raised and carried to land. In the days that followed 2,000 years of marine incrustation was carefully cleaned away to reveal extraordinary workmanship. While the statues had been cast in bronze, the eyes were a mixture of ivory and glass, the teeth were silver and the lips and nipples were copper. After micro-surgical instruments determined the inner structure and condition, technicians removed the lead tenons from their feet and emptied each statue of 60 kg of foundry earth, dust, clay, and sea sand. The dating of the soil convinced restorers that they were looking at original Greek statues of the 5th century BC and companion pieces of very few works surviving in the world today. Scholars now grappled with the questions. Who made the statues and what was their destination when presumably either shipwrecked in a storm or sunk in a battle? It is a mystery that captivated me from the first moment I entered the special room built to house the statues in the National Museum of Reggio Calabria. The anatomical detail is exquisite. I wondered if perhaps they had been destined for the great palace of Locri. The first statue has the features of a young man with a thick, curly beard. The second statue has lost its shield, lance and Attic helmet. He has a full, flowing beard and a more mature appearance. Restorers revealed that his right arm was not part of the original cast but soldered on at a later date.

Although recovered together the two statues may have been united only on the voyage and while they both represent the ideal warrior hero they are somewhat dissimilar in style. Scholars believe that the young man is the work of Phidias (460 BC) and the older man, that of Polyclitus (430BC). Some theorize they may have come from a temple built by the Athenians to commemorate the victory over the Persians at Marathon and others that they may be the work of Pythagorus who was the first sculptor to represent such anatomical details as veins and considered the greatest artist of Magna Graecia.

Because of their weight (each weighs approximately 250 kg), whoever was transporting them would have had to use special equipment to remove them from their bases and load them onto a ship. The shields may well have been packed separately. It is unlikely that both statues could have been stolen in a quick furtive raid since many people would have had to be involved. Whoever removed them did it by force of arms or had approval. As for how they came to rest at the bottom of the sea, since there is no wreckage in the vicinity, the belief is that they were tossed overboard, either to lighten the ship’s load in a storm or to prevent them falling into the hands of pirates.

Owing to a number of missing elements, the Antiquities department authorized more underwater studies of the spot at which they were discovered. These excavations revealed a handle of one of the shields and the keel of a Roman Age ship and 29 rings of its sail rigging. But there was no evidence that the ship was connected to the Bronzes. />Today the statues are preserved in the Submarine Archaeological Section of the National Museum of Reggio Calabria where a special room has been fitted with gauges that measure temperature and humidity stability, and an aspiration unit for carbon dioxide and acids. To protect them against the motion of earthquakes, they stand on steel pins that rest on cushioned pistons inside cement pedestals. With all this scientific technology I couldn’t help wondering whether man will be as successful as the sea was, in protecting them for the next 2,000 years.

Riace Bronzes

The Riace Warriors were discovered by Stefano Mariottini on August 16, 1972, on the bottom of the Ionic Sea near Riace Marina in Calabria in Italy. The statues have been dated to roughly 450BC. The statues&apos eyes are inlaid with bone and glass, the lips and nipples are made from copper while the teeth are silver. Both statues at one point held spears and shields however, those have not been recovered. Both statues stand firmly on the right foot, with the left foot forward and left knee relaxed. The right hip is thrust out with the right hand lowered at the side. The left forearm is raised to hold a shield and the head is angled to the right (Mattusch 1996).

The dating of both statues has been made difficult due to their unique location. Hundreds of years under the salt water have aided in the deteriorating of the statues. Scientists have rather had to rely on the style in which both statues were created to properly determine the time in which they were created. Both of the statues exhibit typical features of a 5th century statue. Beginning in the 5th century the ideals for a perfect statue moved from realistic to a more idyllic form. The statues were created in a symmetrical form with unnatural enhancements. The continuation of the iliac crest to the back of the statue creating a divide along the rear as emphatically as the front was added to be aesthetically pleasing, as was the dimple added on the descent of the spinal cord (Spivey 1996). It is at this same time that Greek scientists and doctors were delving more deeply into the human body, investigating the human form from the inside out to better understand how a person moved and functioned. This newfound knowledge is most certainly applied to the statues which show an advanced understanding of movement (Pedley 2007).

Many possibilities exist as to the origin and creator(s) of both of the Riace Bronzes, however the one thing that scientists agree upon is that both statues are from a "set" of statues which all came from a single model or form from the same workshop (Spivey 1996). A cooperative effort would have been required by more than one artist on such a huge group of sculptures which the Riace Bronzes most certainly belonged to. The details betwixt the two particularly in regards to the face are attributed to changes made on the wax models of the statues before they were cast in bronze. Statue A is that of a youthful leader who portrays arrogance and self confidence with long curls and a layered beard, while statue B is that of an older man who personifies strength and stolidity with a narrow face and short hair and beard (Boardman

The lost art of Greek bronzes

Cl assical art is a heritage of loss. The great majority of the works of art produced in ancient Greece and Rome no longer survive. Paintings have rotted, crumbled or burned. Marble statues were smashed or perished in medieval lime-kilns. As for sculpture in bronze, it has suffered as a result of its intrinsic material value, with statues melted down and recycled throughout the intervening centuries.

Head of a Man with Kausia, 3rd century BC. Archaeological Museum, Kalymnos

Bronze was an important and prestigious material in classical art. Large-scale bronze statuary was extremely difficult to make well but at its best it offered a dynamism and subtlety that is rarely matched in stone. Bronze sculpture starts with the modelling of clay and wax, and contrasts with the unforgiving, reductive process of marble-carving in which one false move with the chisel or an unexpected flaw in the stone can spell disaster. Both marble and bronze statues filled the cities and sanctuaries of the Graeco-Roman world, but bronzes often seem to have been held in special esteem. The modern visitor to a classical site will frequently find the stone bases for lost bronze portrait- statues. They have left their &lsquofoot-prints&rsquo behind &ndash the cavities where the bronze feet were attached to the pedestal &ndash as if they have just stepped off and walked away.

It is impossible to quantify the scale of what we have lost, but we can get hints. When the 2nd-century travel writer Pausanias visited the great sanctuary of Olympia he noted 69 ancient bronze statues of victors in the Olympic games from the 5th century BC. These would have been high-quality monuments by master- sculptors. Although 13 of their bases have been found, no other traces of the sculptures exist. The Roman encyclopaedist Pliny the Elder, who devoted Book 34 of his Natural History to bronze, reports the claim that there were 3,000 Greek bronzes at Rhodes, and as many at Athens, Olympia and Delphi.

Limestone statue base &lsquosigned&rsquo by Lysippos, second half of 4th century BC. Archaeolgical site, Corinth

Another telling fact is that our knowledge of celebrated Greek bronze-sculptors, which is mainly derived from later authors such as Pliny, does not correlate with the evidence of archaeology. We are told much about these classical masters: Pheidias who was famous for his colossal gold- and ivory-clad cult-images but also cast bronzes Polykleitos who theorised about ideal proportions in his treatise called the Canon Myron who was particularly eulogised for his life-like statues of athletes and the prolific Lysippos, who worked for Alexander the Great and accomplished a wide range of subjects that included the Apoxyomenos (an athlete scraping oil from his skin) and the intriguingly named &lsquoIntoxicated Flute-Girl&rsquo (temulenta tibicina). Not a single one of their masterpieces exists today and the closest we get is through tantalising inscriptions on bases. In total, fewer than 30 substantially intact, large-scale bronze statues survive from classical and Hellenistic Greece.

So the classical art historian trying to apprehend the lost inheritance of bronze sculpture has often had to look for proxies. Since the latter half of the 19th century these have been found in marble statues of the Roman period, some of which appear to imitate or even replicate lost bronzes from a much earlier age. It was Adolf Furtwängler (1853&ndash1907) who did most to promote the value of Roman, classicising sculptures in marble as copies of lost works. In his Meisterwerke der griechischen Plastik (1893), Furtwängler advanced a method of Kopienkritik (copy- criticism), which has prevailed in classical art history until recently. Copy-criticism recognised that many Roman sculptures closely and consistently adhered to styles that were first developed in classical Greece centuries before. Moreover, multiple examples of particular figures often existed, reinforcing the impression that a lost prototype lay behind them. Given the Romans&rsquo admiration for the sculptors of classical Greece, it was reasonable to assume that these replicas were copies of antique masterpieces made for the adornment of wealthy houses or public spaces. Some of the most famous classical bronzes such as the Doryphoros (&lsquoSpear Bearer&rsquo) by Polykleitos and the Diskobolos (&lsquoDiscus Thrower&rsquo) by Myron were identified in Roman copies.

Herm of the Doryphoros, late 1st century BC, Apollonios. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples

Research in the last 20 or 30 years has started to expose a more complex reality behind this traditional picture of Roman copies and lost Greek masterpieces. The Doryphoros of Polykleitos is a good example. The renowned naked bronze, originally designed around the time of the Parthenon (c. 440 BC), became even in antiquity a byword for bodily perfection, and one of its marble copies found in Pompeii has been illustrated in most of the handbooks of Greek art ever written. Another copy, however, from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum &ndash itself a rare bronze survival &ndash takes the form of a bust. Why represent the most famous body in art with a copy of its head? And why does the inscription carved on the front record the name of the copyist (&lsquoApollonios son of Archias, the Athenian&rsquo) with no mention of the great Polykleitos? An accumulating body of evidence of this kind suggests that the Roman copyists and their customers may have had altogether different motives than mere emulation. Moreover Vincenzo Franciosi has recently argued, persuasively, that the Doryphoros &lsquocopies&rsquo have been misidentified all along.

The scarcity of Greek bronze discoveries and a century&rsquos forced reliance on presumed replicas in marble have given the extant bronzes an allure and mystique that has propelled a few of them into popular culture. None are more famous than the two Riace Bronzes, pulled out of the sea off Calabria in 1972. These naked, bearded warriors were made around the middle of the 5th century BC and represent the highest craftsmanship of the period, but their original context is unknown and there has been little consensus about their origin and use. In the desperate pursuit of lost master-sculptors the Riace Bronzes have been inconclusively attributed to the hand of Pheidias, Polykleitos, Alkamenes, Onatas, and Myron&hellip In the 42 years since their emergence these ideal models of Greek masculinity have appeared on Italian stamps, inspired modern artists such as Elisabeth Frink, served as touristic poster-boys, and featured on the cover of a pornographic magazine. In 2014 they were the focus of outrage when images by the photo-grapher Gerald Bruneau emerged in which they were draped with a leopard-skin thong, pink boa, and wedding veil.

The Riace Bronzes are only the most famous of a succession of classical statues or fragments to have been pulled out of the Mediterranean, which suggests that bronze sculpture was often on the move, most probably in cargoes of booty, tradeable antiques, or indeed scrap metal in the Roman period or afterwards. A discovery off the coast can be a godsend to the tourist industry of a small Greek or Italian community, as was the case with the surfacing of the Mazara del Vallo dancing satyr, a powerful, over- lifesize image of Dionysiac revelry, which was found near that Sicilian town in 1998. Here too the aura of the &lsquobronze original&rsquo took hold of the imagination of scholars as well as journalists, and the satyr was immediately declared an original masterpiece from the hand of Praxiteles, the famous 4th-century-BC creator of the Aphrodite of Knidos. According to one eminent archaeologist the form of the penis pinned down the authorship conclusively. Others have remained more sceptical.

Dancing Satyr, c. 4th century BC&ndash2nd century AD. Museo del Satiro, Church of Sant&rsquoEgidio, Mazara del Vallo

Praxiteles&rsquos skill in bronze made popular headlines again in 2004, when the Cleveland Museum in Ohio controversially purchased a bronze statue of a naked youth standing poised to kill a lizard on a tree or column. The figure-type is well recognised as stemming from the Sauroktonos (&lsquoLizard Killer&rsquo) made by Praxiteles in the mid 4th century BC. It is known from several large-scale Roman copies and numerous representations in other media. Among the copies is a famous bronze from the Albani collection which in the 18th century J.J. Winckelmann hesitantly came to consider the original. The allure of the bronze original proved a stronger temptation when the Cleveland statue was first announced, with the museum itself and several leading academics optimistically claiming that this was no late copy but the Praxitelean prototype itself.

Spinario, c. 50BC, Graeco-Roman. Musei Capitolini, Rome

None of these controversial statues appears in a major touring exhibition that opened at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence this spring, and now travels to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., but the exhibition still has several dozen of the best and most interesting survivals of ancient bronze sculpture. While the ramifications of copying and replication are among its principal themes, &lsquoPower and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World&rsquo distances itself deliberately from the preoccupation with finding classical originals. The inclusion of a &lsquosigned&rsquo statue-base for a sculpture at Corinth made by Lysippos himself is a tantalising reminder of what we are missing and can never fully retrieve. By focusing on the Hellenistic world (4th&ndash1st century BC) the exhibition turns a spotlight on to a somewhat neglected period in the history of classical bronze sculpture. It offers star works such as the extraordinary sensitive study in late Hellenistic realism known as &lsquoThe Worried Man&rsquo from Delos, or the famous Spinario, the thorn-pulling boy from Rome, which is one of a handful of classical bronzes never to have been buried or submerged since antiquity. But much of the excitement lies in the less well- known exhibits. Among them is the arresting bronze head of a man in a distinctive Macedonia felt hat, a kausia, which is one of several bronzes fished out of the waters around the island of Kalymnos over the last 20 years. It is probably a fragment from a portrait-statue set up to honour a Greek king. Nothing else remains of the monument. We do not know who the sitter is. Yet with its parted lips and intense stare the Kalymnos head provides the most eloquent testimony to the expressive capacities of an art tradition that appears only in glimpses through the archaeology.

Peter Stewart is director of the Classical Art Research Centre, University of Oxford.

&lsquoPower and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World&rsquo is at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, from 28 July to 1 November.

The Riace bronzes- The bronze warriors that emerged from the sea, 43 years ago!

The Riace bronzes also called the Riace Warriors, are two famous full-size Greek bronzes of naked bearded warriors, cast about 460–450 BC and found in the sea near Riace in 1972. The bronzes are currently located at the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria, Italy.

The bronzes are on display inside a microclimate room on top of an anti-seismic Carrara marbled platform. Along with the bronzes, the room also contains two head sculptures: “la Testa del Filosofo” and “la Testa di Basilea” which are also from the 5 th century BC.

Although the bronzes were rediscovered in 1972, they did not emerge from conservation until 1981. Their public display in Florence and Rome was the cultural event of that year in Italy, providing the cover story for numerous magazines. Now considered one of the symbols of Calabria, the bronzes were commemorated by a pair of Italian postage stamps and have also been widely reproduced.

The “athlete from Croatia” when it was found in the sea, in front of the port of Lussino. The Riace bronzes were discovered August 16, 1972

The two bronze sculptures are simply known as “Statue A”, referring to the one portraying a younger warrior, and “Statue B”, indicating the more mature-looking of the two. Statue A is 203 centimeters tall while Statue B stands 196.5 centimeters tall

Stefano Mariottini, then a chemist from Rome, chanced upon the bronzes while snorkeling near the end of a vacation atMonasterace. While diving some 200 metres from the coast of Riace, at a depth of six to eight metres, Mariottini noticed the left arm of statue A emerging from the sand. At first he thought he had found a dead human body, but on touching the arm he realized it was a bronze arm. Mariottini began to push the sand away from the rest of statue A. Later, he noticed the presence of another bronze nearby and decided to call the police. One week later, on August 21, statue B was taken out of the water, and two days after that it was the turn of statue A. No associated wreck site has been identified, but in the immediate locality, which is a subsiding coast, architectural remains have also been found.

The most popular theory is that two separate Greek artists created the bronzes about 30 years apart around the 5 th century BC. “Statue A” was probably created between the years 460 and 450 BC, and “Statue B” between 430 and 420 BC. Some believe that “Statue A” was the work of Myron, and that a pupil of Phidias, called Alkamenes, created “Statue B”. Statue A portrays a young warrior hero or god with a glorious look, conscious of his own beauty and power. Statue B, on the other hand, portrays an older more mature warrior hero with a relaxed pose and a kind and gentle gaze.

The Riace bronzes are major additions to the surviving examples of ancient Greek sculpture. They belong to a transitional period from archaic Greek sculpture to the early Classical style, disguising their idealized geometry and impossible anatomy under a distracting and alluring “realistic” surface. They are fine examples of contrapposto – their weight is on the back legs, making them much more realistic than with many other Archaic stances. Their musculature is clear, yet not incised, and looks soft enough to be visible and realistic. The bronzes’ turned heads not only confer movement, but also add life to the figures. The asymmetrical layout of their arms and legs adds realism to them. Archeologists believed that Statue A’s eyes were made of ivory, but researchers have found no organic material present in the eyes during a recent restoration analysis. Instead, the statues’ eyeballs are formed of calcite, while their teeth are made with silver. Their lips and nipples are made of copper. At one time, they held spears and shields, but those have not been found. Additionally, Warrior B once wore a helmet pushed up over his head, and it is thought that Warrior A may have worn a wreath over his.

The bronzes and the story of their discovery were featured in the first episode of the 2005 BBC television documentary series How Art Made the World, which included an interview with Stefano Mariottini.

In December 2009, the Riace Bronzes were transported to the Palazzo Campanella before restoration work began on the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia. Early 2010, expert art restorers Cosimo Schepis (also known as Nuccio Schepis) and Paola Donati began restoration work on the Riace bronzes. Restoration work on the two bronze sculptures was completed in 2011

Reflection On The Riace Bronzes

Sometimes I think that this famous pair of bronze statues must be tired, on their feet all day in that fixed warrior position. The Riace Bronzes are like models in an art studio, except no one’s drawing.

Everyone is snapping pictures, at least for six months now since photos without flash have been allowed in the museum. Before that, tourists would sneak pictures with their cell phones, brazenly ignoring the guards’ admonitions in pursuit of the perfect selfie.

I’d like to sit down and have a cup of tea with one of the ancient Greek statues. I think that they could use the break, although maybe they’re content. Having rested on the bottom of the sea for 2,000 years, they might be happy with their pedestals and all of the attention they’ve gotten since their uncovering over 40 years ago. To me, they seem like the types that might prefer a beer, though, at least Statue A. Despite the fact that he was sculpted earlier than his companion, he’s a considerably younger man. He’s also most people’s favorite.

Not one to go along with the crowd, I prefer Statue B. He’s more mature and has a softer look. He’s still in outstanding physical shape, mind you, although he unfortunately lost one of his eyes, presumably in the same incident that swallowed his spear and shield. It’s nothing that a nice patch couldn’t cover up. Even with that bit of a vacant look due to the empty eye socket, he is unquestionably a very nice looking man, so the eye patch or maybe even a large pair of designer sunglasses would do wonders for him.

Detail of Statue B, Riace Bronzes

Statue A looks a bit angry to me. Of course, that’s exactly what you want in a warrior, and that is apparently how these two made their livings. “A” appears as though he could get back into it at any time. Sure, 2,000 years would be considered a rather long hiatus in any field, but he looks buffed and ready to go. Perhaps that’s due to the recent restoration. Come to think of it, they’ve only been back up on their feet for about a year and a half now after four years on their backs. That couldn’t have been comfortable for them. The support structures just didn’t cradle them in the same way that the nice soft sand on the seafloor would have. Plus, they didn’t have any privacy, constantly prodded and probed by a string of scientists, not to mention the public ogling on the other side of the glass partition. It must have been stressful being in limbo for so much time, just waiting for the completion of their home renovations.

Detail of Statue A, Riace Bronzes

After their return to the museum, getting used to their new surroundings as well as the revived public and media attention had to have been mentally taxing, if nothing else. Television crews, photographers, politicians and other public figures, not to mention that weird guy who threw a boa around their necks and tried to dress them up in strange undergarments. It’s no wonder that “A” is still baring his silver teeth.

When I sit down with “B,” I’d like to ask him how their new anti-seismic platforms feel underfoot. I hope that there’s some comfort in the additional stability, even if the Carrara marble looks a little hard to me. The previous platforms at least imitated a sandy surface visually. In their line of work, I don’t think a decent pair of gel insoles would be out of line.

I do worry, though, that as flexible as his skin appears, “B” might suffer from a stiffness in his joints that could impede his sitting down for a chat. We might have to forgo the tea for a wine bar where we could stand and perhaps lean a bit. At the very least, he’d be more familiar with the beverages. In his day, Calabrian wines were renowned throughout the Mediterranean.

I mustn’t forget to inquire as to their exercise regime, although posing all day must be some sort of isometric workout for them. I hope they can relax and have some time to themselves after the visitors have all gone home. They put in extremely long days on the job. I’d also like to know how they feel about spending all their time on the raised platforms. Already with the heights of professional basketball players, I suppose they’ve long gotten used to looking down on everyone. As I mentioned, “A” seems a bit arrogant, but I suppose that’s to be expected with such a fine musculature and beautiful set of locks. “B” appears to have mellowed with age—like the wine, as they say.

Detail of Statue B, Riace Bronzes

The Bronzes certainly have seen a great deal in their time on this earth, even “B” with his limited vision. They may have had 300-400 good years before their disappearance, most likely in Roman times according to most sources. There’s a lot of discussion regarding just who they are and where they’ve been. When we sit down or lean on a counter for a drink, I won’t burden “B” with a bunch of questions about his past—the glories on the battlefield or perhaps in an Olympic boxing ring. I don’t imagine any role he may have performed in an ancient mythological setting would mean much so long after the fact. “B,” the person, would interest me more.

So tell me, “B,” how are you holding up? Do your feet hurt?

Read more about these beautiful statues in my book Calabria: The Other Italy , on my blog post Contemporary Interpretations of the Riace Bronzes and on my guest post on Italy Chronicles : See the Spectacular Riace Bronzes. Or join my Calabria Tour and see the stunning Riace Bronzes in person!

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Riace Bronzes

The Riace Warriors were discovered by Stefano Mariottini on August 16, 1972, on the bottom of the Ionic Sea near Riace Marina in Calabria in Italy. The statues have been dated to roughly 450BC. The statues' eyes are inlaid with bone and glass, the lips and nipples are made from copper while the teeth are silver. Both statues at one point held spears and shields however, those have not been recovered. Both statues stand firmly on the right foot, with the left foot forward and left knee relaxed. The right hip is thrust out with the right hand lowered at the side. The left forearm is raised to hold a shield and the head is angled to the right (Mattusch 1996).

The dating of both statues has been made difficult due to their unique location. Hundreds of years under the salt water have aided in the deteriorating of the statues. Scientists have rather had to rely on the style in which both statues were created to properly determine the time in which they were created. Both of the statues exhibit typical features of a 5th century statue. Beginning in the 5th century the ideals for a perfect statue moved from realistic to a more idyllic form. The statues were created in a symmetrical form with unnatural enhancements. The continuation of the iliac crest to the back of the statue creating a divide along the rear as emphatically as the front was added to be aesthetically pleasing, as was the dimple added on the descent of the spinal cord (Spivey 1996). It is at this same time that Greek scientists and doctors were delving more deeply into the human body, investigating the human form from the inside out to better understand how a person moved and functioned. This newfound knowledge is most certainly applied to the statues which show an advanced understanding of movement (Pedley 2007).

Many possibilities exist as to the origin and creator(s) of both of the Riace Bronzes, however the one thing that scientists agree.

Watch the video: Greek Art Part 4 (December 2022).

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