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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Bronze Statue of a Youth (British Museum)

Bronze Statue of a Youth - British Museum - Joy of Museums

Bronze Statue of a Youth

This bronze statue of a young man is a Roman version of an earlier Greek figure made of polished bronze. The eyes are silvered, and the irises and pupils would have been of glass or semi-precious stones. The lips and nipples were inlaid with copper to give them a pinkish hue. Some of the locks of hair were added separately to provide them with their three-dimensional quality.

In ancient Greek and Roman towns, statues adorned public places or sanctuaries of the gods. Over the time most of the bronze statues were melted down for re-use during military emergencies. This statue is one of the few bronze statues to have survived and was discovered in Zifteh, near ancient Athribis (modern Tell Atrib) in the Nile Delta, northern Egypt.

The vast majority of Classical artworks produced in ancient Greece and Rome have not survived to the present day. Paintings and wooden art made with organic materials have crumbled or burned. Marble or stone statues were smashed in wars and acts of ignorance or perished in medieval lime-kilns. And sculpture in bronze, have suffered as a result of their material value, with statues melted down throughout the centuries to fuel the need for weapons and defences during periods of conflict and war. Thus copies in bronze or marble for the Roman market based on earlier Greek bronze originals provide witness to our heritage of ancient art loss.

Reflections

  • Why did the Roman value so highly Classical Greek art?
  • Why were bronzes held in particular esteem by the Graeco-Roman world?
  • What qualities do bronze statues communicate compared to stone statues?
  • In ancient Greek and Roman towns, statues such as these adorned the public places. How does this compare to the art that we have in our public spaces?

Explore

Bronze Statue of a Youth

  • Title:                 Bronze Statue of a Youth
  • Date:                1st Century BC
  • Culture:          Roman
  • Materials:      Bronze
  • Find site:        Zifteh, Egypt
  • Acquisition:  1840
  • Dimensions: H: 1.6 metres
  • Museum:       The British Museum

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“Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.”
– Demosthenes

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Photo Credit: 1) JOM

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