Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Trojan Treasure - 500th Anniversary Looms Over Laocoon
Zenit News Agency ^ | January 12, 2006 | Elizabeth Lev

Posted on 01/12/2006 5:34:43 PM PST by NYer

ROME, JAN. 12, 2006 ( The year 2006 represents a great Jubilee of sorts for art historians. This Saturday marks the 500th anniversary of the rediscovery of the Laocoon group, one of the most renowned sculptures of the ancient world.

Virgil immortalized Laocoon in the "Aeneid." The Trojan priest of Neptune, Laocoon, when faced with the great wooden horse left by the Greeks outside the walls of Troy, issued one of the most famous warnings in the history of literature. "Men of Troy, trust not the horse! Whatever it be, I fear the Greeks, even when bringing gifts," later shortened to the popular dictum: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Laocoon paid dearly for his acumen. As he performed the ritual sacrifice at the altars accompanied by his two young sons, a pair of huge sea serpents "with blazing eyes suffused with blood and fire" rose out of the water and attacked the family. Before the eyes of the horrified Trojans, they all died as Laocoon "strains his hands to burst the knots" and "lifts to heaven hideous cries."

His sculptural representation, as well as his literary personage, amassed great fame. Pliny the Elder, Roman statesman and scholar, wrote about the work in Book XXXVI of the "Natural Histories." He described a statue of Laocoon from the first century A.D., carved by three Greek sculptors, Hagesander, Polydorus and Athenodorus, in the house of Titus in Rome. He lauded the work as "superior to any painting and any bronze."

Renaissance artists were familiar with Pliny's book and knew the names and descriptions of some of the most important works of the ancient world. The statue itself had been lost long centuries past and only Pliny's encomium kept its memory alive.

Until 1506. Francesco da Sangallo, son of Michelangelo's close friend Giuliano da Sangallo, was eyewitness to the events of Jan. 14. Francesco recounts that Pope Julius II sent his father to look over some recently unearthed statues and "since Michelangelo Buonarroti was always to be found at our house, my father wanted him to come along, too."

When they arrived at the hole in the ground where the work lay semi-buried in leaves, roots and dirt, Giuliano exclaimed, "That is the Laocoon, which Pliny mentions."

Hailed throughout Europe as the most exciting find of the era, the statue attracted many potential buyers. Pope Julius succeeded in purchasing the work and then made an unusual but momentous decision. Instead of bestowing the work on his own family, the Della Rovere, he gave Laocoon to the Vatican so as to enrich the patrimony of the Church. For most of 500 years now, it has graced the octagonal courtyard of the Vatican Museums.

For Michelangelo, the rediscovery of Laocoon was earth-shattering. Fresh from his groundbreaking work on the "Pietà" and the "David," the 31-year-old Florentine sculptor was in Rome for the most promising commission of his career. He was to build a tomb for Julius II: a free-standing, three-story monument, covered with 40 sculptures by Michelangelo's hand.

Michelangelo, sculptural prodigy, was profoundly moved by the sight of Laocoon. He called it "a singular miracle of art in which we should grasp the divine genius of the craftsman rather than try to make an imitation of it."

Although he would never complete the papal tomb, Michelangelo used that revolutionary triumph of sculpture as inspiration for his greatest painting, the vault of the Sistine Chapel, begun two years after the finding of Laocoon.

Close observers can see the form of Laocoon represented several times in the ceiling, seen from different perspectives. One more reminder of the Greeks' deep impact on Rome.

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; General Discusssion; History; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: godsgravesglyphs

Laocoön and His Sons
Athanadoros, Hagesandros, and Polydoros of Rhodes
early 1st century

One of the major discoveries of the Italian Renaissance, this sculptural grouping was found in Rome in 1506 in the ruins of Titus' palace. It depicts an event in Vergil's Aeneid (Book 2). The Trojan priest Laocoön was strangled by sea snakes, sent by the gods who favored the Greeks, while he was sacrificing at the altar of Neptune. Because Laocoön had tried to warn the Trojan citizens of the danger of bringing in the wooden horse, he incurred the wrath of the gods.

1 posted on 01/12/2006 5:34:44 PM PST by NYer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: NYer
Trojan Treasure............

2 posted on 01/12/2006 5:36:16 PM PST by hole_n_one
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: american colleen; Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; ...

The furrowed brow and open-mouthed pain would be copied by Bernini and Caravaggio in the seventeenth century.

3 posted on 01/12/2006 5:36:58 PM PST by NYer (Discover the beauty of the Eastern Catholic Churches - freepmail me for more information.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: hole_n_one

Fight on.

4 posted on 01/12/2006 5:41:42 PM PST by Theophane
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: NYer


5 posted on 01/12/2006 5:58:12 PM PST by gobucks (Blissful Marriage: A result of a worldly husband's transformation into the Word's wife.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer
Thanks NYer.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

6 posted on 01/12/2006 11:07:18 PM PST by SunkenCiv (FReep this URL --
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer


Laocoön and His Son
Vatican Museums | circa 2000 | Mary Ann Sullivan
Posted on 08/28/2004 4:07:50 PM PDT by SunkenCiv

7 posted on 01/12/2006 11:07:32 PM PST by SunkenCiv (FReep this URL --
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

It always looked to me like it should be named “Taxpayers vs the State”.

8 posted on 12/15/2013 6:44:36 AM PST by skepsel
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson