The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in Art & History

Statue of Asklepios

The Legion of Honor - Joy of Museums 5

The “Statue of Asklepios” depicts Asklepios the son of Apollo, the Greek god of medicine and patron of physicians. During the Hellenistic period there was increased realism in sculpture, which is exemplified in this statue. He was sculptured standing with his weight on his right leg and leaning on his staff.

Asklepios’ right hand rests on his weight-bearing hip, which is raised in an exaggerated posture over the folds of his draped cloak. The contrasting directions, called the contrapposto pose, representing the planes of the body and the strong folds of the himation produce a spiral twist and convey a sense of movement.

Asclepius (Greek: Ἀσκληπιός) was a hero and god of medicine in ancient Greek religion and mythology. Although Asklepios was the son of the god Apollo, his appeal lasted well into the Christian era. His daughters were:

  • Hygieia, whose name serves as the root of the word “Hygiene”, the goddess/personification of health, cleanliness, and sanitation.
  • Panacea, the goddess of universal remedy.
  • Iaso, the goddess of recuperation from illness.
  • Aceso, the goddess of the healing process.
  • Aglæa/Ægle, the goddess of beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment.

The undamaged Asklepios statue had him leaning on his staff, with a serpent wound around it. You can see the remnants of the snake and staff on the lower right parts of his clothing. The serpent was sacred to Asklepios, and his staff, the caduceus. The rod of Asclepius, a snake-entwined staff, remains a symbol of medicine today. Below

Asklepios - Epidauros

An example of Asclepius with his serpent-entwined staff from the Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus

The Masterpieces of The Legion of Honor include:

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Essential Facts:

  • Title:                     Statue of Asklepios
  • Date:                     2th century BC
  • Period:                 Hellenistic Period
  • Media:                  Pentelic Marble
  • Dimensions:        36 x 14 1/2 x 9 (91.4 x 36.8 x 22.9 cm)
  • Country:               Greece
  • Museums:            Legion of Honor

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“To you, the clever and crafty, bitter beyond all bitterness, who has sinned against the gods in bestowing honors upon creatures of a day–to you, thief of fire, I speak.” (Hermes addresses Prometheus) Aeschylus

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Photo Credit:1) By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By original file by Michael F. Mehnert [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons