Power and Pathos

April 23rd, 2015 10:00 AMtoJune 21st, 2015 6:00 PM

By Martina Innocenti (University of Florence)

Power and Pathos, an incredible exhibition of Hellenistic bronzes, will be on display at Palazzo Strozzi until June 21st. The 4th – 1st century B.C. statues radiate a sense of raw power to all admirers, and their grace and history leave viewers in awe.

For the first time, these great masterpieces of the ancient world are compiled in a single exhibit thanks to the support and generosity of several of the most important Italian and international archeological museums. The opportunity to see all these pieces side by side is very rare, and through this unusual juxtaposition, viewers witness the development of artistic techniques over time. In particular, viewers can trace the innovation in searching for realism and idealistic beauty in sculptural figures.

Most enchanting is Sleeping Eros, an example of absolute grace and precision of detail. While observing the piece up close, one can see the very thin stripes on her wings or her partially opened mouth, which is characteristic of someone who is peacefully sleeping.

The exhibit also displays statues of ancient valiant warlords, both Greek and Roman, which underline an impressive sense of individualism. The bronze medium allowed artists to nimbly shape the tiniest features, allowing for extremely lifelike portraits. The works are full of characteristic details in their eyes, noses, and even beards.

Placed among the well-known gods and warriors is a curious statue of an artisan. At this time, it was very unusual for common people to have their portraits done. One possible explanation by some scholars is that this piece represents Hephaestus, as the figure appears to be crippled. In the last room stands a herm, a sculpture with a head above a plain that generated prosperity.

This marvelous exhibition is curated with dedication and passion. Next to each sculpture is a map that highlights the area where the sculpture was originally discovered. These maps are important because they remind us that many of these fabulous bronzes are still lost. To emphasize this idea, at the beginning of the exhibit stands a base with the signature of the famous Greek sculptor Lysippos. Where the statue should stand, there are only holes indicating where his feet should be. It is a reminder to us all that this masterpiece sculpture is no more.

Leave a Reply