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  • BY JOAN R. M\ERTENS

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    Bulletin

    a Fall 1985

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    The Metropolitan Museum of Artis collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve, and extend access to

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletinwww.jstor.org

  • FRONT covE: Herakles (no. 14), last quarter of the sixth century B.C. INSIDE FRONT COVER: Head of a griffin (no. 9), third quarter of the seventh century B.C. BACK COVER: Hermes (no. 43), first century B.C. to first century A.D.

    The translations are based upon those of the Loeb Classical Library.

    Reprinted from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (Fall 1985). ? 1985 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photography by Walter J. F. Yee, Metropolitan Museum Photograph Studio. Design: Peter Oldenburg

    The Metropolitan Museum of Artis collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve, and extend access to

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  • S ince antiquity the Age of Bronze has been customarily characterized as a rude sequel to the glorious ages of gold and silver. This third generation of mortals created by the gods on Mount Olympos was, according to Hesiod, "a brazen race, sprung from ash-trees; ... in no way equal to [the preceding] silver age, but was terrible and strong." Lovers of violence, they developed unconquerable strength. Their armor was of bronze, their houses of bronze, and they used bronze implements. Their brutality was such that they destroyed themselves. Given Hesiod's description, one might expect that from this early time Greek bronze workers devoted themselves to the production of weapons and armor. The Museum's collection of Greek bronzes provides striking evidence to the contrary. Out of the durable medium of bronze skilled Greek craftsmen created some ofthe most beautiful and mem- orable works in the history of Western art. Graceful figures, charming animals, luxurious utensils, and handsomely decorated armor were all fashioned with great sensitivity from bronze.

    While ancient literary sources tell us that many bronzes were melted down-as were objects of gold and silver-a far greater number of works survive than those made of more precious metals. It takes a sharp eye, perseverance, an innate sense of quality, and careful scholarship to form a first-rank collec- tion of bronzes. The Metropolitan has been fortunate to have had the support of knowledgeable donors as well as an inspired curatorial staff in assembling a group of Greek bronzes that is one of the finest and richest anywhere.

    There was no question of presenting the collection here in its entirety; indeed, in order to allow for plentiful illustrations, only forty-four pieces were selected for inclusion in this Bulletin. Chosen for their exceptional quality and their historic or iconographic interest, these bronzes span the history of Greek art from the eighth century B.C. to Roman times. Most of them are small objects, and here, reproduced in several views, they can be fully appreciated as impressive sculptures. For example, the little centaur (no. 26) hurls his rock with all the force of his larger counterparts, despite the fact that he is only one and three-quarters inches high.

    As distinguished as the works themselves are many of the collectors who at one time or another owned these objects. Foremost among them is the late Walter C. Baker, whose bequest in 1971 brought a bounty of masterpieces, the best known being the veiled dancer (no. 32); ten works from his collection are included in this publication. Other distinguished connoisseurs of bronzes represented by works reproduced on these pages are Count Michael Tyszkiewicz and Vladimir Simkhovitch. An accomplished museum curator ranks with these discerning private collectors. Under Dietrich von Bothmer, Chairman of the Department of Greek and Roman Art, significant objects have been added to our holdings, including the majestic rams (no. 17) and the poignant artisan (no. 41). Norbert Schimmel has been a true friend ofthe department-in this area as in many others-allowing us to exhibit his grand Dionysiac mask (no. 40) alongside the Museum's two masks (nos. 38,39) in the galleries.

    I wish to express my gratitude to the anonymous donor of the Classical Fund and to George Ortiz for enabling the Museum to publish this Bulletin in as full and generously illustrated fashion as it is. Written by Joan R. Mertens, Curator and Administrator of the Department of Greek and Roman Art, this issue is intended as an introduction to Greek bronzes-revealing their variety, their quality of execution, and the pleasure of viewing them. I hope that it will encourage readers to make a lei- surely visit to the galleries-or several visits-and to take the time to thoroughly study and enjoy these masterpieces. It is also my hope that in the near future their present installation in the Metro- politan, which has been provisional for all too long, will be changed to one that is worthy of these splendid bronzes.

    Philippe de Montebello Director

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  • INTRODUCTION

    "And your own images in Greece, how are they fashioned?... Your artists, then, like Phidias and like Praxiteles went up, I suppose, to heaven and made a model of the forms of the gods and then reproduced them by their art, or was there something else that attended upon them as they did their molding?"

    "There was," said Apollonius, "something else, full of wisdom [sophia]."

    "What was that," said the other, "for surely you would not say that it was some- thing other than imitation [mimesis]?"

    "Imagination [phantasia]," he said, "wrought these works, a wiser craftsman than imitation; for imitation crafts what it has seen, while imagination crafts what it has not seen; for it conceives according to the standard of what exists. Shock often deadens imitation, but nothing affects phantasy, which marches undaunted toward the goal that it has set itself"

    Flavius Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (6.19)

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  • K( een observation combined with seemingly inexhaustible creativity is a hallmark of Greek art in all of its forms. Nowhere does it impress us more imme- diately, however, than in the statuettes and utensils of bronze that were an integral part of Greek life. They survive from the ninth century B.C. through the period of assimilation to Roman styles that began during the second century B.C. Although the paintings on Greek vases offer pictures of contemporary men, women, and children-what they did and how they visualized their gods and heroes-bronze statuettes have the property of being three-dimensional, of being palpably real. While large-scale sculpture survives, much of it consists of copies after originals that no longer exist. The majority of bronze statuettes, by contrast, have the dis- tinction of being the original works that the ancient artists made.

    When these artists dealt with things that they saw around them-human beings, animals, utensils-our admiration is directed particularly to the way in which they captured and depicted the distinctive qualities of the subject. What we may not sufficiently consider today is the tangible form that the craftsmen gave to a wide range of subjects upon which no one had ever set eyes: the hero Herakles, the goddess Athena, Eros, the personification of love, griffins, centaurs, and satyrs, to mention only examples that occur here. While these inhabitants of the imagination acquired attributes by which to be recognized-the club and lion skin of Herakles, for instance-every artist contributed his own interpreta- tion. The resulting statuettes are often memorable because the form perfectly suits the subject and the articulation is so precise that, thanks to our eyes and fin- gertips, we have a real presence before us.

    The bronzes represent one of two kinds of object: either they were made to be freestanding, in which case they normally stand on their own base, or they were the decorative adjuncts to a utensil. Their beauty might suggest that in antiquity, as in modem times, they were collected and enjoyed for their own sake. In fact, they were intended to serve a purpose, their aesthetic qualities being secondary. Through the fifth century B.C., at least, freestanding figural bronzes were pro- duced as dedications, offerings to a god frequently placed in a sanctuary and inscribed with a text to that effect; the lyre player (no. 15), for instance, has inscribed on the back, "Dolichos dedicated me." The hydria, or water jar (no. 23), shows engraved around the top of the mouth, "one of the prizes from Argive Hera." Such utilitarian objects, actually made to be used, might ultimately also be dedicated as offerings.

    These two considerations-that the objects had a function to perform and that a figure of a human or an animal could be integrated naturally into a utensil-are absolutely basic to an understanding of Greek bronzes. The artist's hand in the service of his eye fashioned the upper body of a woman (opposite) that is immediately recognizable and remarkable for the articulation of her face, gar- ment, and hair. His hand working in the service of his imagination leaves us with no sense of discomfort or incongruity that she forms the transition between the mouth and handle of a water jar. The figure embellishes the utensil; the utensil gives purpose to the figure. Moreover, as the object is used, the mutually rein- for

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