CULTURE

Where to see some of the most beautiful statues of antiquity

Some statues are true masterpieces, historical testimonies to the past of the European continent where classical civilisations flourished. 

These statues are admired all over the world for their beauty, for the faithful reproduction of real details and for their grandeur: many of them, in fact, are more than two metres high precisely to confer greater majesty. 

Here is where you can admire some of the most beautiful classical statues of antiquity, from the Greek to the Roman world.

Wikimedia Commons, Getty Images
Where to admire these magnificent statues of antiquity
Some statues are true masterpieces, historical testimonies to the past of the European continent where classical civilisations flourished. These statues are admired all over the world for their beauty, for the faithful reproduction of real details and for their grandeur: many of them, in fact, are more than two metres high precisely to confer greater majesty. Here is where you can admire some of the most beautiful classical statues of antiquity, from the Greek to the Roman world.
Getty Images
Venus de Milo (130 B.C.): Louvre museum, Paris
The Venus de Milo is a 202 cm high marble sculpture. Based on an inscription on the base, which has since been lost, it is believed to be the work of Alexander of Antioch. The statue was found broken in two parts in a farmer's land on the Greek island of Milos in 1820. Some scholars believe that the person portrayed is not Aphrodite (Venus for the Romans), because she would not display characteristic features that would allow a sure correspondence with the Goddess of love.
Merulana, Wikimedia Commons
Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (176-180 AD): Capitoline museums, Rome
This impressive bronze sculpture depicts the Roman emperor, philosopher and writer Marcus Aurelius. The author of the work is unknown. The historical-artistic value of the statue is very high, as almost all bronze statues in antiquity were cast after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire to obtain metal for other purposes. It is believed that the sculpture was made immediately after the death of Marcus Aurelius and its location has changed numerous times over the centuries.
Xp8888, Wikimedia Commons
Dancing Satyr (4th-2nd century BC): Dancing Satyr museum, Mazara del Vallo (Sicily)
The author of this bronze work depicting a satyr - a mythological figure likened to the Greek deity Dionysus - is unknown. The story of the statue's recovery is incredible: in July 1997, a fishing boat accidentally fished a leg of a bronze sculpture from the bottom of the Sicilian Channel. On the night of 4-5 March 1998, the same fishing boat brought back the rest of the sculpture, which is still preserved in Sicily today, from 500 metres below sea level.
Wikimedia Commons
Chronides of Cape Artemisius (480-470 B.C.): National Archaeological museum, Athens
The statue represents a male figure probably outstretched in the throwing of a thunderbolt or trident, so it should depict Zeus or Poseidon. The work was found in the seabed of the Greek island of Euboea, near the wreck of a ship, presumably a Roman one.
Livioandronico2013, Wikimedia Commons
Nike of Samothrace (2nd century B.C.): Louvre Museum, Paris
Nike was presumably sculpted in Rhodes in the Hellenistic period and the author is unknown, but some scholars attribute the statue's authorship to Pythocritus of Rhodes. The structure depicts Nike, the young winged goddess symbolising victory in sport and war.
AlMare, Wikimedia Commons
Riace Bronzes (5th century B.C.): National Museum of Magna Graecia, Reggio Calabria
The world-famous Riace Bronzes are considered to be among the most significant sculptural masterpieces of the classical age, although we have no details to attribute them with certainty to a specific sculptor. The statues were found on 16 August 1972 by an amateur diver at a depth of eight metres: the diver noticed the left arm of one of the two statues, the only detail emerging from the sand.
Getty Images
Capitoline wolf (490-480 B.C.): Capitoline Museums, Rome
Initially, the sculpture depicted only the legendary wolf who would feed Romulus and Remus: the twins were added only later, in the 15th century AD. This work symbolises the historical myth of the foundation of Rome and is the image par excellence of the city, becoming the emblem of the glorious history of the ancient Romans.
Naples National Archaeological Museum, Wikimedia Commons
Doriphoros of Polyclitus (5th century B.C.): National Archaeological Museum, Naples
The original Doriphoros by Polyclitus has been lost, but the best known and most admired version is the one preserved in Naples, which, according to scholars, faithfully depicts the original version. The statue represents a Doriphoros, i.e. a spear bearer, and was found during archaeological excavations in Vesuvius in 1797.
Lalupa, Wikimedia Commons
Farnese Atlas (2nd century AD): National Archaeological Museum, Naples
The sculpture depicts the titan Atlas fatigued while holding the celestial globe on his shoulders. The peculiarity of this work is that the celestial sphere is ideally seen from the outside, i.e. with the constellations reversed, compared to the usual depictions, seen from the Earth's point of view. On the sphere one recognises the equator, the tropics and the two circles boreal and austral. It is therefore clear why the Farnese Atlas is a fundamental work, as it represents the oldest and one of the most complete depictions of the constellations according to the notions of the classical era.
After Epigonus of Pergamum, Wikimedia Commons
Dying Galata (230-220 B.C.): Capitoline Museums, Rome
The original work was a bronze sculpture attributed to the Hellenistic sculptor Epigonus. The best known version is the one preserved in Rome and depicts with extreme realism a dying Gaul warrior, half lying down and with his face turned downwards. The subject presents the typical details of the Celtic soldier, from the moustache to the long, thick hair and the 'torque', a necklace typical of the Celtic peoples.
After Myron, Wikimedia Commons
Discobolus of Myron (455 B.C.): Roman National Museum, Palazzo Massimo, Rome
The original statue, created by Myron, was made of bronze, but several marble copies were later reproduced in Roman times: among these, the best is the one called 'Lancellotti', preserved in Rome. The original work was probably made for the city of Sparta and depicted an athlete in the act of hurling a discus: this sculpture is universally acclaimed for its faithful reproduction of anatomical details and the perfection of the description of the moment before the throw, almost as if it were a photographic shot.
Emanuele Liali, Wikimedia Commons
Laocoon Group (1st century B.C.-Ind. century A.D.): Vatican Museums, Vatican City
This colossal sculptural work describes a famous episode mentioned in the Aeneid, namely the death of the Trojan seer and priest Laocoon. This is the story quoted in the Aeneid: when the Greeks brought the famous horse to Troy, the priest realised the deception and warned his fellow citizens, but the Goddess Athena, who sided with the Achaeans, punished Laocoon by sending two enormous sea serpents to crush the seer along with his children. The statue is appreciated for the dramatic intensity it conveys through Laocoon's expression, which shows all his physical and mental suffering. His body is depicted twisting as he tries to free himself from the serpents' grasp.
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