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Techniques des bronzes antiques

Changing Approaches to Classical Bronze Statuary

Carol C. Mattusch

Texte intégral

  • 1  Rolley 1994, 349.

Claude Rolley’s regular reports about new publications of ancient bronzes were unparalleled. We read them avidly and, of course, with trepidation when it came to his critiques of what we had written. His familiarity with current bibliography was staggeringly thorough. Many years ago, Rolley referred in print to one of my ideas. I was thrilled that the preeminent scholar in the field of classical bronzes had mentioned my work! In my mind that fact outweighed his characterization of what I had proposed as “bizarre.”1 His question, however, prompted me to look very carefully at each problem before suggesting its resolution.

  • 2  1601 translation by Philemon Holland. For the history of the reception of Pliny’s Natural History, (...)

In the spirit of careful examination, I shall consider here the modern beginnings of the study of large classical bronzes from the Mediterranean region, and follow the process that led to the privileged status accorded them in the minds of scholars today. Greek bronzes became familiar to us through Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, which was widely read and either admired or criticized from late antiquity onwards in the monasteries and schools of the Middle Ages. An early seventeenth-century translation into English further broadened the sphere of influence of Pliny’s encyclopedic work.2

  • 3  K. Jex-Blake uses 73,000: The Elder Pliny’s Chapters on the History of Art, ed. E. Sellers (1896; (...)

Book 34 of the Natural History provides a glimpse of ancient bronze artists and of their works of public statuary, which have been entirely lost to the modern world. We know well from Book 34 that Lysippos made 1,500 statues during his career in the fourth century BC (NH 34.37); that in Athens there were 360 statues of Demetrios of Phaleron (c. 350–282 BC) (NH 34.27); and that even as late as Pliny’s own lifetime there were still 3,000 bronze statues in Athens, and in Olympia, Delphi, and Rhodes (NH 34.36). Or was it 73,000?3 The number in the manuscripts is unclear. Not surprisingly, many scholars have been tempted to attach the names of the famous artists mentioned by Pliny to surviving bronze statues that seem to fit Pliny’s brief descriptions.

  • 4 Lassels 1670.
  • 5 Richardson 1722.

Early travelers to Italy, like Richard Lassels in 1653, were more likely to comment upon what ancient statues represented than upon whom the artist might have been or even upon the medium.4 Fewer than twenty bronzes that were considered to be ancient could be seen in Italy. In Rome, there were the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Campidoglio and the colossal Hercules in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, both gilded, as well as the Spinario, the Camillus, Brutus, and the Capitoline Wolf. In Florence there were the Chimaera from Arezzo, the Boar, and the Idolino. And in Venice one could see the four huge gilded horses above the entrance to the Basilica of San Marco, the Praying Boy from Rhodes (with modern arms), and the Lion of Venice. When the Jonathan Richardsons, father and son, visited Italy in 1722, they too were more interested in subject than in medium: only occasionally did they mention that a statue was made of “brass,” and they did so simply to distinguish that particular work from all the marble sculptures that they saw.5

In 1738, when the Spanish Bourbons began their excavations in Portici at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, so many bronze statues were dug up that the medium of bronze took on new significance. Over the next twenty years, more than sixty ancient bronzes were removed from the Villa dei Papiri alone, almost all of them in excellent condition. After 1748, bronzes were being found in Pompeii as well. Charles VII, the Bourbon King of Naples and Sicily, capitalized upon his rapidly growing collection of antiquities, hiring scholars to publish them and artists to illustrate them.

By the 1760s, the Bourbon collection of ancient bronze statuary had become a focal point of the antiquities displayed in their Museum Herculanense, which was housed in their summer palace at Portici. Many of the bronzes were published by the Spanish Bourbons’ Royal Academy of scholars in two volumes of the Antichità di Ercolano: 1767 (volume 5: busts); and 1771 (volume 6: statues). Pliny’s Book 34 was, of course, often cited in the scholars’ lengthy footnotes.

1. “Winckelmann illuminated, in the middle of Rome, the torch of the rational study of works of antiquity”

1. “Winckelmann illuminated, in the middle of Rome, the torch of the rational study of works of antiquity”

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  • 15 162,> 1682.

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  • >2 Sre: 1840.
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  • 92 NaplesAarcaecolgsical Museuiinv. 4885:> Mattusc; 2005>,276–822.

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Cipriani et al 1984: N. Cipriani, G.A. Ferrari, D. Magaldi, «Contributo alla conoscenza dei materiali di riempimento dei bronzi di Riace», Due Bronzi da Riace, I. Bollettino d’Arte s.s. 3, 1984, 143–45.

Formigli 1984: E. Formigli, «La tecnica di costruzione delle statue di Riace», Due Bronzi da Riace I., Bollettino d’Arte s.s. 3, 1984, 107–42.

Haynes 1962: D.E.L. Haynes, “Some observations on early Greek bronze casting”, AA, 1962, 803 ff.

Haynes 1968: D.E.L. Haynes, “The Technique of the Chatsworth Head”, RA, 1968.

Healy 1991: J.F. Healy (ed.), Natural History: A Selection, trans. Pliny the Elder, London / New York, 1991.

Lassels 1670: R. Lassels, The Voyage of Italy, or A Compleat Journey through Italy: In Two Parts, Paris / London, 1670.

Mattusch 1996: C.C. Mattusch, Classical Bronzes. Ithaca, London / New York, 1996.

Mattusch and Lie 2005: C.C. Mattusch, H. Lie, The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum, Los Angeles, 2005.

Mattusch 2008 : C.C. Mattusch, Pompeii and the Roman Villa, Washington, 2008.

Monaco 1907: D. Monaco, Handbook of the Antiquities in the National Museum at Naples According to the New Arrangement, 13th ed., Naples, 1907 (1883).

Richardson 1722: J. Richardson Sr. and Jr., An Account of Some of the Statues, Bas-Reliefs, Drawings and Pictures in Italy, &c. with Remarks, London, 1722.

Ridgway 1967: B.S. Ridgway, “The Bronze Apollo from Piombino in the Louvre”, AntP 7, 43–75.

Rolley 1994: C. Rolley, La sculpture grecque 1. Des origines au milieu du ve siècle, Paris, 1994.

Valeri 2005: C. Valeri, Marmora Phlegraea. Sculture del «Rione Terra» di Pozzuoli, Rome, 2005.

Winckelmann 2006: J.J. Winckelmann, History of the Art of Antiquity, trans. Harry Francis Mallgrave, Los Angeles, 2006.

Winckelmann 1762: J.J. Winckelmann, Sendschreiben von den Herculanischen Entdeckunqen, Dresden, 1762.

Notes

1  Rolley 1994, 349.

2  1601 translation by Philemon Holland. For the history of the reception of Pliny’s Natural History, see Healy 1991, xxxvi–xl.

3  K. Jex-Blake uses 73,000: The Elder Pliny’s Chapters on the History of Art, ed. E. Sellers (1896; Chicago rpt. 1967), NH 34.36, 28–29.

4 Lassels 1670.

5 Richardson 1722.

6 Winckelmann 2006, 186.

7 Ibid., 249. Naples Archaeological Museum, inv. 5608, found in the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum in 1756.

8 See Mattusch 2005, 236–42.

9 Ridgway 1967.

10 Mattusch 1996, 139–40; Mattusch 2008, 141–43.

11 Haynes 1962, 1968.

12  See Formigli 1984.

13  Cipriani et al 1984.

14  See Mattusch and Lie 2005, 335–37, 268–70, 222–23: Naples Archaeological Museum inv. no. 5588; Naples no number.

15 Winckelmann 1762, 35.

16 Monaco 1907, 55.

17 Mattusch and Lie 2005, 216–22.

18  Aphrodite from Rione Terra at Pozzuoli: Museo Archeologico dei Campi Flegrei, Baia 292862; Valeri 2005, 85–98. I thank Harold C. Vogel for his observations on this statue, and Betsey Hurd for her comments on modern bronze production.

19  Naples Archaeological Museum inv. 4885: Mattusch and Lie 2005, 276–82.

Table des illustrations

Titre 1. “Winckelmann illuminated, in the middle of Rome, the torch of the rational study of works of antiquity”
Légende After a painting by A.-R. Mengs, engraving by M. Blot, 1815. Winckelmann holds a copy in Greek of Homer’s Iliad. The book at the lower right is his own work and it is open to the title page: “History of the Art of the Ancients.”
Crédits © Photo author.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/inha/docannexe/image/3960/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 24k
Titre 2. Archaizing bust
Légende Naples, Archaeological Museum inv. 5608.
Crédits © Photo Henry Lie.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/inha/docannexe/image/3960/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Titre 3. Piombino Apollo
Légende Discovered in 1812 or 1832. Paris, Louvre Br. 2.
Crédits © Photo RMN.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/inha/docannexe/image/3960/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 12k
Titre 4. Apollo from the house of C. Julius Polybius at Pompeii
Légende Excavated 1977. Pompeii inv. 22924.
Crédits © Photo “L’Erma” di Bretschneider.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/inha/docannexe/image/3960/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 8,0k
Titre 5. Acropolis Youth
Légende Discovered in 1866. Athens, National Archaeological Museum no. 6590.
Crédits © Photo author.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/inha/docannexe/image/3960/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 8,0k
Titre 6. Marathon Boy
Légende Discovered in 1925. Athens, National Archaeological Museum Br. 15118.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/inha/docannexe/image/3960/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Titre 7. Seated Hermes
Légende Discovered in 1758. Naples, Archaeological Museum inv. 5625.
Crédits © Photo author.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/inha/docannexe/image/3960/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Titre 8. Herm-head of the Doryphoros
Légende Found in 1753. Naples, Archaeological Museum inv. 4885.
Crédits © Photo Henry Lie.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/inha/docannexe/image/3960/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 17k

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Carol C. Mattusch, « Changing Approaches to Classical Bronze Statuary », in Martine Denoyelle, Sophie Descamps-Lequime, Benoît Mille et Stéphane Verger (dir.), « Bronzes grecs et romains, recherches récentes » — Hommage à Claude Rolley, INHA (« Actes de colloques »), 2012.

Référence électronique

Carol C. Mattusch, « Changing Approaches to Classical Bronze Statuary », in Martine Denoyelle, Sophie Descamps-Lequime, Benoît Mille et Stéphane Verger (dir.), « Bronzes grecs et romains, recherches récentes » — Hommage à Claude Rolley, INHA (« Actes de colloques »), 2012, [En ligne], mis en ligne le 28 mars 2017, consulté le 14 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/inha/3960

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