Page images

to insult the body, an outrage in return for which he was slain by Achilles.

The whole of the contents of the lower part of this case are said to have been found together at Praeneste in 1786 in a crypt near the Temple of Fortune. The cisti (No. 743) has two subjects connected with Neoptolemos, son of Achilles. (1) Preparations for the sacrifice of Polyxena (?) A nude maiden is held by one of a group of three heroes. (2) Neoptolemos slain by Orestes at the altar at Delphi, in the presence of the three Delphic deities - Apollo, Artemis and Leto.




The bronzes exhibited in this room (and in the Italic Room and Room of Greek and Roman Life) are in part derived from tombs, in which, like the pottery and gold ornaments, they had been buried as appurtenances of the dead. In part they are relies of the religious and ordinary life of the Greeks and Romans, found wherever by chance it might happen that they had been hidden and preserved. Those that have been obtained from tombs are usually in the form of armour, weapons, vases, mirrors, with or without cases, cistae (caskets), and personal ornaments, such as fibulae (brooches) and armlets. It is noticeable that the bronze of some of the vases is so thin that they can do little more than stand and support their own weight (cf. above, p. 174). They must have been produced expressly for purposes connected with the tomb.

The Greek temples were rich museums of bronze work, whether in the form of statues on a large scale or of small votive offerings and inscribed tablets. Large deposits of the kind were found, for example, at Olympia and on the Athenian Acropolis. For the most part we only have the record of the bronze dedications in the temples, since the metal was too valuable to be neglected, and the temple treasures were only spared if they were buried. Three votive helmets, however, originally dedicated in temples, are now in the Museum collection (pp. 153, 169), and some of the inscribed tablets were originally intended to form a part of a temple's archives.

The original statues made by the great Greek sculptors were

* Described in the Catalogue of Bronzes (1899), by H. B. Walters (30s.). A copy can be borrowed for use in the room. See also A. S. Murray's Greek Bronzes, London (Seeley), 1898.

in many cases in bronze, but, for the reason just mentioned, the value attached to the metal in the dark ages, the surviving examples of fine sculpture in bronze are rare. The Museum possesses a few fine fragments from very various localities, but no complete life-size bronze statue of the first rank.

A considerable part of the collection in this room consists of small statuettes. Some of these are made to perform a decorative purpose, as the handles of mirrors and dishes, while others stand as ornaments on candelabra. The free-standing statuettes, performing no such office, are comparatively rare from Greece. From Rome and the Roman Empire they abound, having been much used in Roman houses to place in small domestic shrines (lararia).

The vases, lamps and other domestic objects, which are numerously represented, are interesting as illustrations of the fine sense of decoration and form which enabled the ancients to impress on many objects (e.g. a vase handle) the shapes which they have retained to the present day.

Work in bronze relief was actively practised in Greece, as also in Etruria, before and during the fifth century B.C. The best examples, however, of Greek reliefs (in which the Museum is particularly rich) belong to the beginning of the fourth century B.C., and consist of mirror-cases and pieces of armour, portions of metal vases, etc. These reliefs, which are sometimes cast from moulds, but more often beaten up from the back (repoussé), reach a high degree of perfection (see below).

As we have seen, the Etruscans practised largely the use of an incised line on bronze for their mirrors and caskets. Examples of similar line engravings on Greek works of the fine period are comparatively rare, although the Greeks used the incised line to a large extent on their pottery, and in the earlier periods of bronze work. Thus large numbers of early incised bronzes have been found on the Athenian Acropolis, at Olympia, and at Dodona ; but subsequently the art does not appear to have been practised, and few examples survive such as the mirror, No. 289, in Case E. So far as is known, the Greeks did not use bronze cistae.

Circular Case l. 558. Caldron, or lebes. On the cover is an archaic female figure; on the rim are four youths performing exercises on horseback, alternating with figures of Sirens. On the body is an incised lotus pattern.

587. A tripod support for a caldron, richly decorated with subjects in relief. From Vulci.

Pedestal 2. Select Greek statuettes, mostly of the archaic period. They illustrate admirably the careful and refined precision of artists working in the archaic manner.

The following are specially worthy of notice :

188. A figure of Eileithyia (the goddess who helped women in childbirth), or perhaps of Aphrodité. An inscription incised on it tells that it was a votive offering to Eleuthia (Eileithyia), made by a woman, one Aristomachè.

192. Female statuette, very daintily worked, inlaid with silver, and with small diamonds in the pupils of the eyes.

Table-case A. Above the case are a set of bronze cups, of refined outline, from Galaxidi, the port of Delphi.

At one end of the case, see some interesting reliefs in silver and silver-gilt, which were part of the adornment of a chariot found at Perugia in 1812. The remainder of the extant reliefs is at Perugia and Munich. One of the reliefs is of a decorative character, with a seated Gryphon, and two lions attacking a boar. The other appears to represent a racing scene, with two horsemen riding over a fallen competitor. The details have been carefully expressed with gilding, or finely incised lines.

The remainder of the case contains select bronzes. Some are cast solid, and finished with a tool on the surface, but the majority

[graphic][merged small]

are reliefs, produced by the process of repoussé-work. The thin plate of bronze is bedded with its face on a yielding material, such as pitch, and is then beaten out from the back with suitable punches. The front of the plate is then cleared, while the back in turn is supported, and the work is finished by punching, chiselling or engraving the face.

285. The Bronzes of Siris are famous examples of the process just described. They are two groups in high relief which were originally attached to a cuirass, and served as enriched shoulder-bands. In fig. 75 they are shown, for the sake of illustration, in connexion with the back plate of a cuirass formerly in the Dodwell collection. The lions' heads probably held rings, which would be tied to the plate below. Each group represents a Greek victorious over an Amazon, whom he drags by the hair. The details are varied throughout, but the lines of the groups are symmetrical in relation to the central line of the cuirass. These bronzes are said to have been found near the River Siris, in Magna Graecia, whence their name. They were purchased by public subscription, organised by the Society of Dilettanti, and presented to the British Museum, in 1833.

286. Youthful heroic figure, seated. This relief, which is cast nearly solid, was riveted to some surface. The figure is in excellent preservation, and very finely treated. It has been assigned to the time of Lysippos, that is, the second half of the fourth century B.C.

311. Relief, with Dionysos and Ariadne standing. They wear thin transparent draperies, expressed with extraordinary skill, in repoussé-work. This relief, which was found in the island of Chalkè, near Rhodes, was originally affixed to the base of the handle of a pitcher. Other portions of the same vase, and also complete examples of the same kind, are shown in Case 8.

A relief on a mirror-case: Victory driving a two-horse chariot, shown in bold perspective.

On the opposite side of the case are other examples of bronze reliefs, etc.

310. Relief, derived, like No. 311, from a vase, with Boreas carrying off the Athenian maiden, Oreithyia. The story is discussed by Socrates at the beginning of Plato's Phaedrus. Found in a tomb in Calymnos.

308. A choice relief, with a figure of Eros playing with a goose. From Naples.

[For a further series of fine repoussé and incised reliefs see also Table-case E.]

The large Case B contains select bronzes of a larger size, all of which are deserving of study.

447. An archaic female figure, perhaps Aphroditè, made of bronze cast upon an iron core. The swelling of the iron has split one side of the bronze. The forearms were separately cast, and are riveted on. Fine patterns are incised on the drapery. An excellent example of primitive casting where no attempt is made to economise weight and material. From Sessa, on the Volturno.

679. An Etruscan statuette of a male figure, from the Lake of Falterona.

A remarkable equestrian figure of an early date. From Grumentum in Lucania. Previously in the Forman collection.

265. Right leg of a colossal male figure wearing a greave. This splendid fragment, which was found in that part of Southern Italy called Magna Graecia, belongs to the middle of the fifth century B.('. The archaic head of the Gorgon on the greave illustrates the survival of an archaic type, when it performs a purely decorative office. The pose of the original figure is uncertain. Sir E. Poynter, after comparing the fragment with the nude model, has argued that the right leg was advanced, but only supported a part of the weight of the body, as in a figure running, with both feet touching the ground.

284. Silenus, carrying a basket. The whole forms a base for a candelabrum, which sprang from the calyx of leaves above the basket. From Aegion in Achaia.

282. Aphrodité, lifting her left foot, and bending over as if to unloose her sandal, which, however, is not represented. This figure is of the type known as Aphroditè Euploia, Aphrodite who grants good passages to sailors. In the complete composition she usually supports herself with a steering paddle, under her left hand.

818. Seated philosopher, in an attitude of thoughtful repose. Said to have been found in dredying the harbour at Brindisi.

1327. Dionysos (or Bacchus) as a young boy, ivy-wreatheil. From Pompeii. Bequeathed by Sir William Temple.

826. Figure of a boy playing at the Italian game of Morra. In this game the players simultaneously throw out their hands, with some of the fingers extended, and guess the total number of fingers exhibited by the two players together. In this case the box is about to throw forward his left hand with the thumb and two fingers extended. From Foggia.

2513. A fine lamp, with four nozzles, in the form of lions and Satyric heads. From the Roman Baths of Paris.

Table-case C. Etruscan mirrors. On one side the surface of the metal was highly polished, but it is rare for the mirrors to retain any reflecting power to-day. On the other side was an incised design, in many instances representing subjects derived from Greek art, mythology and legend, but usually accompanied by Etruscan inscriptions, giving in Etruscan form the names of the persons represented. The mirrors are sometimes circular disks, enclosed in mirror-cases, of which there are several examples (compare the figure of Seianti in the Terracotta Room), and sometimes they have long handles. These may be either completely finished in bronze, or may have been inserted in handles of wooni or bone, now for the most part lost.

The older examples (speaking generally) are exhibited in Case C, nearest the door of the room, and the later in Case C, nearest the middle of the room. Those that belong to the archaic period are comparatively few. The greater part may be assigned to the fourth and latter half of the fifth centuries B.C. In the older examples the drawing is more careful and restrained, the field is more completely filled, and the inscriptions are more numerous than in the later mirrors, where the drawings are slighter and freer.

Above this case are examples of mirror handles; also select vases, inlaid with silver, niello, etc. A mirror, mounted on a wooden back, and bronze stand, and bordered with bronze peacocks and grapes in pierced work, was found in Bulgaria. It appears to belong to the late Roman Empire, or early Byzantine period.

Pedestal 3. Select bronzes. 666. A gracefully composed figure

« PreviousContinue »