Thursday, 14 January 2021

laocoön group

Likely the same statuary ensemble praised by Pliny the Elder as the pinnacle of aesthetics (see previously) nearly a millennium and a half prior to its rediscovery, the figures twisted in agony depicting Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus attacked by sea serpents was excavated on this day in Rome in 1506. Commissioned for Emperor Titus, the work by sculptures from the Island of Rhodes, Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus, the iconic grouping is considered to be the baldest, immediate expression of suffering without redemption or reward, and there is no single definite myth or backstory behind this portrayal recorded in marble. There’s no honour in death and their gods will not save them—as contrasted with the bulk of the art in the Vatican’s holdings, of passion (suffering) and martyrdom—where Laocoön is also on display. It was unearthed in a vineyard, prompting Pope Julius II to immediately dispatch Michelangelo to the site of the excavation to ensure the art was properly conserved, immediately acquiring it for his patron and put on public display that same year.