They are only with us now because once they were thought to have been lost forever.
While marble statues are most popularly associated with the Classical Age, in the Hellenistic Period — between Alexander the Great’s death in 323 B.C. and the rise of Rome in 31 B.C. — bronze was the premiere sculptural form.
Yet because of the nature of the medium — an alloy comprising copper, tin, aluminum and other metals — most of those works were melted down through the ages to produce helmets, shields, hinges and a host of other objects needed at the time.
“The ones that we don’t have and we haven’t found are gone forever because they were melted down. And that’s the vast majority, thousands and thousands,” said Kenneth Lapatin, co-creator of the exhibit “Power and Pathos,” which originated at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
It’s now at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, showcasing some 50 bronzes once lost in fires, shipwrecks, volcanoes and earthquakes, and includes the statue base of one of the greatest bronze sculptors, Lysippos, the favorite of Alexander the Great.
“He was the Michelangelo of the period. We know from ancient writers that he made 1,500 statues. Not a single one survives, and that stone base is the closest we can get to his work,” Lapatin said.
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