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HOME : Decorative Arts : Sculptures : Bronze Sculpture of the Laocoon Group
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Bronze Sculpture of the Laocoon Group - PF.4547
Origin: Europe
Circa: 18 th Century AD
Dimensions: 22.5" (57.2cm) high x 17.875" (45.4cm) wide
Collection: Decorative
Medium: Bronze


Location: United States
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Description
This impressive bronze sculpture represents the death of Laocoon and his sons. It is an Enlightenment reworking of an ancient sculpture dating to the 1st century BC, and which classes as one of the supreme masterworks of the ancient world. The sculpture is notable for its clever juxtaposition of the powerful and mature musculature of the lead figure, compared with the slimmer, athletic figures of his sons. The sinuous and powerful forms of the snakes move effortlessly around the struggling bodies and perfectly frame them.

Laocoon was Poseidon’s priest, whose most famous utterance is the classic: Equo ne credite, Teucri / Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes (Trojans, do not trust this horse/ whatever it may be the Greeks are to be feared, even when they come bearing gifts). He knew there was something suspicious about the vast wooden horse that had been delivered to the gates of Troy – and, indeed, it contained numerous Greek soldiers who planned to take the city by night once it was taken inside the gates.

Unfortunately, Laocoon underlined his objections by throwing his spear at the horse, and at this moment two serpents, sent by Minerva, surfaced from the sea and strangled Laocoon and his two sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus. The lines from Virgil’s Aeneid describe the scene:

With both his hands he labors at the knots

His holy fillets the blue venom blots

His roaring fills the flitting air around.

Thus, when an ox receives a glancing wound

He breaks his bands, the fatal altar flies

And with loud bellowings breaks the yielding skies.

The Trojans mistakenly believed that this was punishment for striking the horse, wheeled it into the city and thus sealed their fate. In fact, Laocoon was being punished by Minerva for having sex within sight of a holy icon, or perhaps for raising sons. In any case, this unfortunate coincidence led to the fall of Troy, and the agonised demise of these three figures in the coils of deadly serpents has been seen as an allegory for the event.

The complex scenario was famously executed in marble by Agesander, Polydorus and Athenodoros. This original, which currently sits in the Vatican, was the inspiration for a host of enlightenment sculptors who, inspired by finds brought back from the grand tours of the 18th century, wrought copies and related works in traditional materials. Notable exponents include Bandinelli and Lord Leighton.

This Italian bronze sculpture of Lacoon dates to the late 18th/ early 19th Century The original marble Lacoon is arguably the most renowned sculpture ever created (Michelangelo 1506) The Lacoon marble sculpture after which this remarkable bronze was modeled unquestionably influenced the lives and works of countless artists, authors, Popes, kings and emperors since it was first discovered in the early 16th century. Incredibly important to the history of art, this extraordinary work and its handful of replicas are prominently displayed in the most prestigious museums around the world, from the Vatican to the J. Paul Jetty. Beautifully crafted, the present bronze displays all of the dynamic artistry and poignant expression of which the original is so celebrated. A dynamic and impressive piece of art.

- (PF.4547)

 

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