One of the most famous works of ancient art is the sculpture known by the name Laoco�n. And the reason this statue is so celebrated is simple - it is a masterpiece of technical skill and artistic bravado. The piece also captures and effectively conveys the intense emotion of a dramatic episode from Classical mythology. In essence, the Laoco�n is simultaneously a timeless work of art and a grand example of the Hellenistic style.
This marble sculpture is a copy, probably of a bronze original. The Laoco�n features three main figures. Laoco�n is the mature bearded man in the center, and he is the focal point of the statue. He is flanked by his two young sons. The trio of figures is united by the form of a sinuous serpent. And as with many works of ancient art, there is a story behind this statue, and this tale is derived from mythology.
The myth of Laoco�n appears in Virgil's Aeneid. According to this epic, Laoco�n was a Trojan priest who warned the men of Troy not to accept the Wooden Horse that stood outside the gates of the walled city. The priest gave a rousing speech in the Aeneid about the folly of taking gifts from the Greeks, and in order to make a point, he hurled his spear into the massive Wooden Horse. However, he was later punished for his actions, and this sculpture immortalizes the scene of divine punishment. And so the writhing pose and grimace of agony on the face of Laoco�n has become an icon in the history of art.
Learn more about Laoco�n at Mythography.
Art in the Hellenistic Age
Professor J.J. Pollitt brings the drama and dynamism of the Hellenistic period vividly to life in this excellent book. With chapters covering such diverse topics as "Hellenistic baroque" and "Rococo, realism, and the exotic", the reader is introduced to the many changes that took place during this era of artistic innovation.
This beautifully illustrated book (from the Phaidon Art and Ideas series and written by Nigel Spivey) covers the subject of ancient Greek art brilliantly.