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Work Leg of a statue

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Leg of a statue

© RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

There are a number of technical similarities between this bronze leg and the Chatsworth head of Apollo in the British Museum in London. The Chatsworth head probably comes from a monumental statue discovered in 1836 near Tamassos, on the island of Cyprus. The similarities between the head and leg could mean that they were part of the same work. The date of the statue has for many years been a subject of controversy, but it is now generally agreed that it is from the fifth century BCE.

Fragment of a Cypriot statue

This bronze leg was very probably part of a monumental statue discovered in 1836 on the island of Cyprus, in the temple of Apollo near Tamassos. The work, complete when found, measured some 2.10 meters in height and depicted a naked male figure, generally identified as an image of the god Apollo. Today all that remains of this statue is a fragment - the head, known as the Chatsworth Apollo after Chatsworth Castle, where it was housed for many years before entering the collections of the British Museum in London.

Technical similarities with the Chatsworth Apollo

There are certain technical similarities between this leg and the Chatsworth head. In each case the alloy ingredients are identical and their proportions very similar: the bronze consists essentially of copper (approximately 90%), pewter (9.5%), lead (between 0.5 and 1%) and minute quantities of gold, an element that is fairly unusual in this type of alloy. In addition, both the leg and the head were hollow-cast using the lost-wax method. This similarity suggests that both fragments belonged to the same work, or at the very least to two statues created at the same period in the same Cypriot workshop.

Factors in the dating of the work

The dating of this statue has divided professional opinion. Some experts have placed it in the fifth century, c.460-450 BCE (on the cusp of the Early Classical and Classical periods). Others have dated it to the early first century CE. The leg fragment alone is not decisive in enabling us to favor of one or the other. As for the Chatsworth head, its overall appearance is rather confusing. The facial features are reminiscent of the work by artists of the Early Classical generation. The volumes are massive, the lower jaw broad and the mouth small. A number of anomalies in the treatment of certain details (the arrangement of the strands of hair, the lips and the eyebrows) suggest, however, that this could be a Neoclassical work that makes deliberate reference both to the Early Classical style and to Classical works of the fifth century BCE. At the same time, we should be wary of invariably basing our reasoning on the defining criteria of Greek bronze production. If we concede that this statue was created by a Cypriot workshop - which stylistic comparisons tend to confirm - then these anomalies could be viewed as the mark of a bronzesmith who, working in isolation from the major centers of production, sought to imitate the creations of his contemporaries using his own techniques.

Bibliography

Craddock P.-T., "The Composition of the Copper Alloys used by the Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Civilisations ", Journal of American Studies 4, 1977, pp. 111-12, p. 123.
Langlotz E., "Der Apollon Klarios", Studien zur nordostgriechischen kunst, Mainz, 1975, pp. 157-62.
Mattusch C.-C., Greek Bronze Statuary: From the Beginnings through the Fifth Century B.C., London, 1988, pp. 154-6.
Rolley Cl., La Sculpture grecque, II. La période classique, Paris, 1999, p. 396.

Technical description

  • Leg of a statue

    First half of 5th century BC

    Provenance: near Tamassos? (Cyprus)

    Manufacture: Cyprus

  • Hollow-cast bronze

    H. 1.07 m

  • Mattei gift, 1884
    , 1884

    Br 69

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

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