Navigation – Plan du site
« Bronzes grecs et romains, recherches récentes » — Hommage à Claude Rolley - Martine Denoyelle, Sophie Descamps-Lequime, Benoît Mille et Stéphane Verger (dir.)
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”

After a painting by A.-R. Mengs, engraving by M. Blot, 1815. Winckelmann holds a copy in Greek of Homer’s Iliad. The book Porticilower rigg by A3e own work and g by .opee to the titl ?pag:. Hhistory of theArnt of theAanciens.y”

e tweIn 158; and 167,e JhmannJroacim. Winckelmann made fourstrpes from Rome to Naple,k and g wasagmainPortic"bac gruand of th earcaecolgsical dicmoveries and ofA3e own dijectexpverience of the nw fminds from Herculanuem and Pompeii thatthewrotee the irnPoeful-fledeged History of theArnt ofAantiquityd, . That publicatioy hsr evir ienceafflectef the study of the history of ancient#rot, particulalmy of sculpturs.

History of theArnt ofAantiquit . T3e publicatioyp recdled that of theteaum of Bourbon scholars and was tuse the irnPo scholalmy publicatioy of themasteral>. The sculptures in particular became pary of , cnion that surviled largaly itfact fie nEarly twohuanuted year>. Through the srlengty of Winckelmanr’s scholalmyreputnation,T3e wrinings were ivotcal both fie provivingau formatfFor thier atalsis, and istep rtnatios and fid isroducving thshe antiquities tonourthen Eur.ophanaudriencns.

  • 2006t, 160.
  • bid.t,2349. NaplesAarcaecolgsical Museu,minv. 5608,g found in the Villa dei Papiri tm Herculanuemi (...)
  • Sre: Mattusch2005>,236–422.

Whenhef descrbted t bronze luss from Herculanuem simply as one of theholresy#heasd in all antiquits,” g wasounernPooed that g wasaf Greek work(fig. 2)w. Tits isfacunallya Roae earcaizving lusy of a Apfolln orkBouosr typw.

  • Rdgwaey 1670.
  • Mattusch1996t, 39–40;: Mattusch2008,g141–432.

Womw as the artis? Ttodat we know that thePiombino Apfollt loos, like a Aarcaicf GreekkBouosr lts that g wasaacunally madein Roae etimsw.>In 977,d t bronze verymuch, like g wasddicmoveted inarstrclindium of the housy ofGaliusJueliusPolyblius at Pompei), and tant statuy#holr k wodpee rary, which waspveChas oused to holrfooed orwline(fig. 4)>. T3e raiused new questiots aboutneditiosm of bronzse beingproducled likeneditiosm of prinsw.

. The new bronzse in theaarcaicf or classical"stylei thatthave been found iencetheen in Greckearef descrbted as Greek Originas,” and uhnique works,”no questiots sk ed.Buat3e tA3e onlybys chenc,f the esulnt of there beingyof new surviving bronzs?. And, in thewlake of the rtaliantion that thePPompeiiApfollt andpveChas alyof thePiombino Apfollt were illent lteler,d t newlbook Portic Mtrahong Bo,g found in1925e, walt uirely suggesy to Rome scholars thattheoence#holr k rard in Rom"bodr’s"home(fig. 36).H3e datem of poducntionreomain elluivrs.

. The morecopties the artistcordr0s, thelcesssthe ays,oencethee founary hsgproducled the mlnds fromA3e er hee modls.

By the 880r,d t new scholars had mentionedtwhat ancient bronzes werecaesd by the los-waxe proces. Subsr quntlyd, they were ibstracved from tis, lone of tinkving byKuaryKlugld, e p actcring sculp orwWom"applhed his knoledege of modern"stylei and Techniques to ancient founary p actcuef. In , writted in1927,dthe agunedtwhatwtherhsr lalmy Greek bronze statutten, were made by the los-waxe proces,r lalmy large bronze statues weres an-caesd fromcaerdek wodpee modls>. The tick un evenwtally of Arcaicf bronzes suggested an-caestingtoyKlugld,rfather thanae morecnumbescome diject

Early bronzes didnNottlakeadivanmage of the lexibmiltny and srlengty of the medius.

  • 15 162,> 1682.


  • >2 Sre: 1840.
  •   1840.

becousy ancient bronze statestarefnformally foundonce ata etim,e nw fmindsthave beengGretted asuhniquy, whichlmost othen they were proarbydnNoe. When the twoRilaceBbronzes were foun,y scholars didnNotddicuses thesimplications of hwy uch, alike theyaer,d ltsainPread renates them es fn they wereuhnique and had onlybys chence beenijemoveted in th came alac>. Thyt lootedfFordifefeienctsbe tweIn the two bronze,y and a number of i. The recnts thtorytwhat theRilaceBbronzesaref diject los-waxecaestinsd,rfather than i>2 The question of weather thshe rers bronzes ren Greek r Sbouhf Itarian hsgalyof beeniaiused, ineffports to laimf themfFor th scuaturalpastrmonye of either GreckefidIttaly.GiveIn thenNatuts of the bronzesn lustyd, they could eventhave been made tydifefeieteetims, and indifefeietepalac,l as thedifefeienctsbe tweIn theircorhemasteralst mightsn dicapw.Nonc thlces,r theyaerl both uirelybasled upon tisinghe/basie modl,n upon which i

  • >5 1762,>350.
  • 107, 550.

Antichità di Ercolano>5 TherhAfte,y scholarscPomvaled theyboing Hemesnwwith famous marbls, like tie Fanhshe Heakple,k tieBelveider Apfoll,g and the Medcif Veut.. Ans the acts that g ias made of bronzrmldneopoapls sk, of g was the Greek bronzr Origina,” of tisr typ?. Ina> 107 gusid book to the Musto Nztionace in Naple,k the"statue wasecalted the mnPochlcberaned bronzr of antiquits,” and g was widelytbouted asan workbyn Lysippow.

  • 82 Aph oditme fromRtion Tterrs at Pzzuoli:e MustoAarcecolgsizo dei Camp F"letre, Bai (...)

todatad bronzr founary r qirses fromion to tGre:mfonhsd toproduclyan bronz8, which icludtnsmlkving the mlnds from the artisr’s modls Mlkving the Origina.. mlnds undsausving the irnPo bronztuiunallycpost, ppioximastrly tnicewas uch, snadniationalcaestinso. And fm the artistcordr0nadniational exaaples of thewwor,d bronzesocao beproducdek in wom to fourwreesn.>

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

92Doues that suggesy k randitioh beginnind in the ffrth century B,twthin the"statuew as irnPoproducde?.

.A, lyhee mightgot to oneshopd fieat:smalt lusy ofEpticruse fie the rrble in thelibruary,aned to aoathershopd fieateful- inz drunkeensatyae fie thegaorden.>

Esem of poducntionhelpsg onexpal in thevausy numbest of bronze statues in Greekcuitiee and anacuneries an,e latry n,nin Roae vVillee andgaordes.. y lalmylee158y B,t Romr’sForuemw asyofcrowdled(with bronze statuary tant altprivastrly ijecleddedlications were remove,k andoonehuanuted years latr,l 3,000 statues were outupdpon thesnmage of ntmepouarn thlatryin Roe. Buat Plinysaysg that Roae poducntion was ofpofiequalcty:. todat g ias unclea, which s wose—t hewworoaeship fie the bronzebgself;k and g by surprisind tha,nahoough therprcsespaiesfFor thuse works of rot have icerhsged NH 34.0, (NH 345)>. In fac,dttodat g cpost, significacllylcess to havean workproducdek in bronzr than to have oneoroducdek in marbld, undsconsideving the poducntionetime alone, th came waseeorainrly tuedueving antiquitm.

,an wo-tbon sculpture byHenoryMooutc woith£ 3 amiltion($ 4.6 amiltio)y was soleen froma paork inLeedsf. atw asmelcledd own and slesfFor 1,500pfounsn($ 2,300),efidhalfd of1tpve cend of tstvalued asan sculpturs. Thatie,k thevalued of the"sculpturew as$ 1,150tpve0pfound, and thevalued of the"sculpturewas scNa

embted ypms=apmplicatio/x-ehnckwhav-"clah"g src= oi/ pps/slvidehno/ehno.swf?v=10961n5 aolloFfulSceren=" tue5 "clahvear="offisit= tue&ulag=fr-fr&?pag_"hno_url=%2Fpho ts%2F73632227%40N02%2Fsets%2F72157630221051888%2Fshno%2F&?pag_"hno_"bac_url=%2Fpho ts%2F73632227%40N02%2Fsets%2F72157630221051888%2F&set_ id72157630221051888&jump_to="ewsith="400g" migh="300;"H /oubjecv>

.g src=/imags/butaon-go-tbp.gif>
BibltigcNahhie <

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.


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.
Fichier image/jpeg, 24k
Titre 2. Archaizing bust
Légende Naples, Archaeological Museum inv. 5608.
Crédits © Photo Henry Lie.
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Titre 3. Piombino Apollo
Légende Discovered in 1812 or 1832. Paris, Louvre Br. 2.
Crédits © Photo RMN.
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.
Fichier image/jpeg, 8,0k
Titre 5. Acropolis Youth
Légende Discovered in 1866. Athens, National Archaeological Museum no. 6590.
Crédits © Photo author.
Fichier image/jpeg, 8,0k
Titre 6. Marathon Boy
Légende Discovered in 1925. Athens, National Archaeological Museum Br. 15118.
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Titre 7. Seated Hermes
Légende Discovered in 1758. Naples, Archaeological Museum inv. 5625.
Crédits © Photo author.
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Titre 8. Herm-head of the Doryphoros
Légende Found in 1753. Naples, Archaeological Museum inv. 4885.
Crédits © Photo Henry Lie.
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 :

Droits d’auteur

Tous droits réservés