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Artemision Bronze

Artemision Bronze - National Archaeological Museum, Athens by Joy of Museum - 2

Artemision Bronze

The Artemision Bronze represents either Zeus, the ancient Greek king of the gods of Mount Olympus or possibly Poseidon, the God of the Sea. This sculpture is a rare, ancient Greek bronze sculpture that was recovered from the sea off Cape Artemision, Greece. Created in the early Geek Classical Period of 460 BC, this masterpiece is the embodiment of beauty, control, and strength.

Shown in full heroic nudity with his left arm and foot thrust dynamically forward in the direction of his foes, while his right leg and arm are raised and slightly bent, representing movement. Most of his weight shifted to left foot while the other lightly touches the ground. The figure appears to be paused ready for action. The head is sculptured in considerable detail with his hair and beard intricately carved. His eyebrows were originally made of silver, his lips of copper, and his eyes of some other material, which are now entirely missing.

The right hand formerly held either a thunderbolt if it represented Zeus or a trident if it represented Poseidon. Because of its majesty and similarity to other statues of Zeus, it is assumed to represent the mightiest of the Olympian gods, Zeus.

The “Artemision Bronze” sculpture was found in two pieces at the bottom of the sea. It was presumably part of a sunken Roman ship’s cargo, as many Greek masterpieces were repatriated to Rome as the thirst for Greek Art consumed the Romans in 1st and 2nd centuries BC. Many such shipwrecks with Greek scriptures are from an Ancient Roman date and were of vessels looting Greek art. The statue was found in 1926 and then excavated in 1928. Greek fishermen first discovered the left arm in their nets. The rest of the figure was recovered in 1928. This sculpture was made in the lost-wax method of bronze casting, with each section cast separately and then welded together.

Artemision Bronze - National Archaeological Museum, Athens by Joy of Museum

Most ancient Greek bronzes were melted down for their raw materials as the cyclical fortunes of Ancient Greece, and Rome demanded. Fortunately, this bronze was saved from destruction when it was lost in a shipwreck in antiquity and discovered in an age when ancient treasures were worth more than the value of the bronze or gold raw material, with which they were constructed.

The Greek word agalma (αγαλμα) means “object of worship” and is derived from the Greek word for “delight”. This sculpture was created for the delight of not only the Greek but also their gods. This statue was probably designed as an offering or votive for a temple dedicated to Zeus. In committing such works of art as offerings, the Greeks attempted to appease their gods and earn divine favour.

Exploring Ancient Greek Masterpieces

Reflections

  • Which Ancient Greek God does this masterpiece represents, Zeus or Poseidon?
  • How many more shipwrecks remain yet undiscovered with other ancient masterpieces?
  • The Greek word for statue derives from the word “delight”. Why was this statue created?
  • Was this sculpture created to delight the Greek Gods?

Artemision Bronze

 

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“Let him that would move the world, first move themselves.”
– Socrates

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Photo Credit: 1) JOM