What is your favorite?

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Favorite Sculpture

Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Fri Dec 20, 2002 6:08 pm

Since 1981 when I saw a picture of it in a college textbook, my favorite sculpture has been the Daughter of Niobe in the Museo Nazionale Romano. Unlike most of the Classical sculpture displayed in Rome, the work is a Greek original from 440-430 BCE. The sculptor is unknown, but the piece was found in the Horti Sallustiani in the Ludovisi Quarter of Rome.

I have tried in vain to find an image of the sculpture on the Internet. Perhaps when I get my textbook ("Greek Art" by John Boardman) out of storage I will scan a copy of the picture and post it.

The statue depicts one of the daughters of Niobe in the moment that she is struck in the back with an arrow as part of the god's retribution for her mother's hubris. Without trying to describe the work in detail, I will say that what I like best about the piece is its impression of movement. The daughter is caught just as she is reaching around her back to grab the arrow. There is no sense of pose; one imagines one is looking at a single frame of a movie that was in motion before and after this instance in time.

The technical perfection of the work combined with the sad myth of Niobe and the suffering of her children combine to make this my favorite sculpture.
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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Fri Dec 20, 2002 6:58 pm

Salvete!

My favourites would probably be:

(1) The work of Tacitus. With an extravagant style unparalelled in the ancient world, Tacitus combines everything into one: research, story-telling and opinions. He is dramatic without resorting to pathos and is sceptic without falling into senseless pessimism. I believe that Tacitus possessed a profound understanding of human behaviour and motivations, and although critics have tried depicting him as an old conservative crying over sour grapes, I rather think that Tacitus was merely a strongly morally motivated observer. I'm quite certain that had he lived in the republic, his comments wouldn't have been less sharp.

(2) Roman sculpture as a whole. Roman portraits are, in contrast to the more "platonic" Greek ones, usually naturalistic. Although they also reflect the serious, grave spirit of the Romans, their emotional expression is much deeper. You can count the number of battles fought in the wrinkles of an old general. You see the common origins of men like Traianus and Marius in the way they look at the beholder. Likewise, the observer can easily spot Sulla's authoritarian character in his tight jaw and thin lips, and see Hadrianus' philhellenism in his curly beard.

Valete!
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Postby Marcus Pomponius Lupus on Sun Dec 22, 2002 3:51 pm

Salvete,

Soooo hard to pick....but here goes,

(1) Trajan's Column, if only because it combines an incredible amount of detail with huge proportions. The entire idea of it is pure Roman as well, looking at it from below makes it impossible to see what's depicted on the higher parts of the column. That makes the Column more than just an advertisement for the man who has accomplished all that is shown, it's a true statement of "grandeur" to make something so detailed and then place it so high that only the gods, not mere mortals, can marvel at it.

(2) The Aeneis, the Roman answer to Homeros, though the comparison can't be made properly (there are hundreds and hundreds of years between Vergilius and Homeros), it's inevitable and Vergilius himself took both the Ilias and the Odusseia as his example. Again we find a huge accomplishment (it's the result of years of work) that is even more magnificent because of its detail, which can be found in the choice of words, the "homeric" comparisons and his all-round stilistic achievements.

(3) The work of Catullus, which I've only really started to like this year, after hours and hours of studying Carmen VIII during class. As an answer to all the grandeur before him, Catullus ("mega biblion, mega kakon" as a motto - "a big book is a big evil") amazes all by returning to small poems, but not just that, these are poems that have been worked on for months, where literally every single word has a reason to stand there, and that gives his oeuvre the same grandeur that the Aeneis and Trajan's Column have.

Valete bene
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