Hellenistic bronzes at the National Gallery of Art, through 3/20/16

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is hosting an exhibition of extraordinary survivors…bronze sculptures from antiquity. Seeing any bronzes from antiquity is rare — bronze pieces were stolen, confiscated, taken as plunder and converted into “useful” objects such as coins, cookware, arms for battle. Seeing this many exquisite works in one place is NOT TO BE MISSED!

 4 of 16 Full Screen Identified simply as “Portrait of a Man,” this bronze head is displayed in a room devoted to Alexander the Great, and his peers and successors. The hat, known as a kausia, was often found in images used on coins as an identifying mark of Macedonian general or king. Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Education, and Religious Affairs/Archaeological Museum of Kalymnos

Identified simply as “Portrait of a Man,” this bronze head is displayed in a room devoted to Alexander the Great, and his peers and successors. The hat, known as a kausia, was often found in images used on coins as an identifying mark of Macedonian general or king. Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Education, and Religious Affairs/Archaeological Museum of Kalymnos.

Here is a link to Philip Kennicott’s discussion of the exhibit in the Washington Post, December 17, 2015.

Included in the exhibit is this head of a horse once owned by Lorenzo de’ Medici. Donatello, Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo…and so many others once stood and admired this.

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This horse’s head was once part of a monumentally scaled statue of a horse and rider. Centuries after it was made, probably around 350 B.C., it belonged to Lorenzo the Magnificent, the Medici potentate, and was admired by Renaissance artists and sculptors. National Archaeological Museum of Florence.

Here is a link to the National Gallery’s web site for further information, including the audio tour and lots of images.

11 thoughts on “Hellenistic bronzes at the National Gallery of Art, through 3/20/16

  1. Lily Van Horn

    To stand and admire one of these pieces would be not only amazing and a once in a lifetime chance, but just the idea that those famous people once owned these metal works of art is incredible. It would almost be as if you were standing there with Leonardo da Vinci himself! These are valuable because they were not melted and molded into cannons and weapons.

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  2. Tess Burroughs

    I went and got the chance to see this exhibit a few months ago! It was truly beautiful. It’s amazing to see what has survived. The material they use, bronze, gives each statue an extremely unique and life-like quality, as if the reflection of the light on the statue’s surface mimics sweat or natural oils. Bronze has an amazing potential to capture every detail of the subject, such as seen above with the veins of the horse or each individual hair on a man’s chin.

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  3. Ilana Bleich

    There is something very romantic and mysterious about bronzes. It’s their rarity, the circumstances behind their impossible survival, and the humanity that the medium offers. I liked the quote “bronze, malleable and impermanent, was ideal for human form.” I’ve never thought about it that way before, but I think that is very true. Marble seems tough and imposing and permanent, perfect for gods and idealized figures, but bronze can be a wonderful medium to convey humanity. I think it is amazing that so many bronzes have been collected in one place so that we can also admire the broad range of what was created. My personal favorite of the images shown in the article was the Runner.

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  4. Austin Keller

    These are such beautiful and remarkable pieces of work. To be able to look at pieces of history that has a ton of value and importance is unbelievable. To look at these works that are representing the history and culture allows you to experience it yourself.

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  5. Lauren Cook

    As a big fan of Hellenistic art work, I was very excited to read this article. As said above, bronze statues were rare. The main reason why they survived till today was either they somehow made it underwater (probably fell of a ship), or got lost. They were likely to get shaped to create armor, just like they tried to do during the Iron Age by extracting iron from the Colosseum to weld weapons. These statues look detailed and they are just over all beautiful pieces.

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  6. Noah Dewey

    These pieces of art are particularly unique due to their rarity and that most bronze pieces like this were stolen and melted down or never seen again. Also due to the social class of the people who owned these pieces. The horse head for example, was owned by the powerful Medici family, Michelangelo, da Vinci etc. The fact that one piece of art has passed through the hands of so many monumental figures adds a lot of value to these exceptional pieces.

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  7. Ellie A

    I have always thought bronze sculptures were truly amazing. The detail and beauty of them just blows me away. I really like bronze sculptures because they usually remain completely intact and not fall apart like sculptures made out of stone.

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  8. Nicolette Vallee

    These sculptures are absolutely astonishing and to have the chance to see them in person would be amazing. They are not beautiful to the eye, but they are also such a rarity due to the fact that most bronze sculptures like these got melted down.

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  9. Lostinwonderland

    The detail on these works are amazing! It really shows how they knew how to manipulate the bronze, unlike today when we use machines or electrical equipment. One can only imagine how long these pieces took.

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  10. Sean Ingraham

    These two pieces are truly remarkable. The intense detail to the musculature of the horse is impressive and lifelike when looking at it. It is so cool that the artist thought to put a vein on the cheek of the horse, which gives it such a lifelike feel. You can really grasp and appreciation for the art during this time period based on the materials and time that it must have taken to manipulate the bronze into something so spectacular.

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  11. Aria Janello

    Having these two art pieces available in a museum that is not only so close to Fredericksburg but also free to go see is incredible. Bronze anything surviving this long is so rare and to have two busts that are still in good viewing condition is amazing. Not only is the art itself historic, the history of its travels is unbelievable. The horse head being own by so many iconic people in ancient history is just another reason to go see these pieces.

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