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Arts & Literature => Art History => Topic started by: Krystal Coenen on July 14, 2007, 08:00:40 pm

Title: Laoco÷n and his Sons
Post by: Krystal Coenen on July 14, 2007, 08:00:40 pm

Laoco÷n and His Sons
Between 160 BC and 20 BC
White marble
Vatican City, Vatican Museums

Title: Re: Laoco÷n and his Sons
Post by: Krystal Coenen on July 14, 2007, 08:01:34 pm
Laoco÷n and his Sons

Laoco÷n and his SonsThe statue of Laoco÷n and His Sons, also called the Laoco÷n Group, is a monumental marble sculpture, now in the Vatican Museums, Rome. The statue is attributed by the Roman author Pliny the Elder to three sculptors from the island of Rhodes: Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus. It shows the Trojan priest Laoco÷n and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus being strangled by sea serpents.

The story of Laoco÷n had been the subject of a now lost play by Sophocles, and was mentioned by other Greek writers. Laoco÷n was killed while attempting to expose the ruse of the Trojan Horse by striking it with a spear. The snakes were sent either by Apollo or Poseidon, and were interpreted by the Trojans as proof that the horse was a sacred object. The most famous account of these events is in Virgil's Aeneid (See the Aeneid quotation at the entry Laoco÷n), but this very probably dates from after the sculpture was made.

Various dates have been suggested for the statue, ranging from about 160 to about 20 BC. Inscriptions found at Lindos in Rhodes date Agesander and Athenedoros to a period after 42, making the years 42 to 20 the most likely date for the Laoco÷n statue's creation.

The statue, which was probably originally commissioned for the home of a wealthy Roman, was unearthed in 1506 near the site of the Golden House of the Emperor Nero (who reigned from 54 to 68 AD), and it is possible that the statue belonged to Nero himself. It was acquired by Pope Julius II, an enthusiastic classicist, soon after its discovery and was placed in the Belvedere Garden at the Vatican, now part of the Vatican Museums.

Title: Re: Laoco÷n and his Sons
Post by: Krystal Coenen on July 14, 2007, 08:02:27 pm

When the statue was discovered, Laoco÷n's right arm was missing, along with part of the hand of one child and the right arm of the other. Artists and connoisseurs debated how the missing parts should be interpreted. Michelangelo suggested that the missing right arms were originally bent back over the shoulder. Others, however, believed it was more appropriate to show the right arms extended outwards in a heroic gesture. The Pope held an informal contest among sculptors to make replacement right arms, which was judged by Raphael. The winner, in the outstretched position, was attached to the statue.

In 1957, however, the original right arm of Laoco÷n himself, with a snake coil about his wrist, was found by L. Pollack in a builder's yard in Rome, and was in the position which had been suggested by Michelangelo. The arm has now been rejoined to the statue. The restored portions of childrens' arm and hand were removed. In the course of disassembly breaks and cuttings and metal tenons and dowel holes have suggested that a more compact, three-dimensional pyramidal grouping of the three figures was contemplated or used in Antiquity before subsequent ancient and Renaissance restorations were made; the more open, planographic composition along a plane, familiar in the Laoco÷n group as restored, has been interpreted as "apparently the result of serial reworkings by Roman Imperial as well as Renaissance and modern craftsmen"[1]

There are many copies of the statue, including a well-known one in the Grand Palace of the Knights of St. John in Rhodes. Many still show the arm in the outstretched position. The copy in Rhodes has been corrected

Title: Re: Laoco÷n and his Sons
Post by: Krystal Coenen on July 14, 2007, 08:04:16 pm

A frontal view of the sculpture with a pre-20th century restoration. Compare Blake's print below


The discovery of the Laoco÷n made a great impression on Italian sculptors and significantly influenced the course of Italian Renaissance art. The sculptor Michelangelo is known to have been particularly impressed by the massive scale of the work and its sensuous Hellenistic aesthetic of the statue, particularly its depiction of the male figures.

The influence of the Laoco÷n is evidenced in Michelangelo's Battle of Cascina: cartoons for this work show that he used several variants of the poses in the Laoco÷n group. Many of Michelangelo's later works, such as the Rebellious Slave and the Dying Slave, were also influenced by the Laoco÷n. The tragic nobility of this statue is one of the themes in Gotthold Lessing's essay on literature and aesthetics, Laoko÷n, one of the early classics of art criticism.

The Florentine sculptor Baccio Bandinelli was commissioned to make a copy by Pope Leo X de' Medici. Bandinelli's version, which was often copied and distributed in small bronzes, is at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence (see here). A bronze casting, made for Franšois I at Fontainebleau from a mold taken from the original under the supervision of Primaticcio, is at the MusÚe du Louvre.

A woodcut, possibly after a drawing by Titian, parodied the sculpture by portraying three apes instead of humans. It has often been interpreted as a satire on the clumsiness of Bandinelli's copy, but it has also been suggested that it was a commentary on debates of the time about human anatomy.[2]

The original was seized and taken to Paris by NapolÚon Bonaparte after his conquest of Italy in 1799, and installed in a place of honour in the MusÚe NapolÚon at the Louvre, where it was one of the inspirations of neoclassicism in French art. Following the fall of NapolÚon, it was returned by the British to the Vatican in 1816.

Title: Re: Laoco÷n and his Sons
Post by: Krystal Coenen on July 14, 2007, 08:05:39 pm

Modern frontal view

Title: Re: Laoco÷n and his Sons
Post by: Krystal Coenen on July 14, 2007, 08:07:32 pm

Titian's parody of the Laoco÷n as a group of apes

Laoco÷n as an ideal of art

Pliny's description of Laoco÷n as "a work to be preferred to all that the arts of painting and sculpture have produced"[3] has led to a tradition which debates this claim that the sculpture is the greatest of all artworks. Johann Joachim Winkelmann wrote about the paradox of admiring beauty while seeing a scene of death and failure. The most influential contribution to the debate in Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's essay Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry, which examines the differences between visual and literary art by comparing the sculpture with Virgil's verse. He argues that the artists could not realistically depict the physical suffering of the victims, as this would be too painful. Instead, they had to express suffering while retaining beauty.

The most unusual intervention in the debate is William Blake's annotated print Laoco÷n, which surrounds the image with graffiti-like commentary in several languages, written in multiple directions. Blake presents the sculpture as a mediocre copy of a lost Israelite original, describing it as "Jehovah & his two Sons Satan & Adam as they were copied from the Cherubim Of Solomons Temple by three Rhodians & applied to Natural Fact or History of Ilium".[4] This reflects Blake's theory that the imitation of ancient Greek and Roman art was destructive to the creative imagination, and that Classical sculpture represented a banal naturalism in contrast to Judeo-Christian spiritual art.

In 1940 Clement Greenberg wrote an essay entitled Towards a Newer Laoco÷n in which he argued that abstract art now provided an ideal for artists to measure their work against, and this title was copied by a 2007 exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute.

Title: Re: Laoco÷n and his Sons
Post by: Krystal Coenen on July 14, 2007, 08:08:24 pm

Blake's Laoco÷n print, c. 1820