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|Chimera of Arezzo|
|Year||c. 400 BC|
|Location||Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence|
The Chimera of Arezzo is regarded as the best example of Ancient Etruscan artwork. British art historian David Ekserdjian, said the sculpture "is one of the most arresting of all animal sculptures and the supreme masterpiece of Etruscan bronze-casting." Made entirely of bronze and measuring in at a height of 78.5 cm, and a length of 129 cm, it was found alongside a small collection of other bronze statues in Arezzo, an ancient Etruscan and Roman city in Tuscany. The statue was originally part of a larger sculptural group representing a fight between a Chimera and Greek hero Bellerophon. This sculpture was likely created as a votive offering to the Greek god Tinia.
According to Greek Mythology The Chimera or "she-goat" was a monstrous, fire-breathing hybrid creature of Lycia in Asia Minor, created by the binding of multiple animal parts to create a singular unnatural creature. The offspring of Typhon and Echidna, the Chimera ravaged the lands of Lycia at a disastrous pace. Distressed by the destruction of his lands, The king of Lycia, Iobates, ordered a young warrior named Bellerophon to slay the dreaded chimera as a favor to a neighboring king, Proetus. For unknown reasons, Proteus wanted Bellerophon dead, so he agreed, assuming the warrior would perish in the attempt. Bellerophon set out on his winged horse, Pegasus, and instead emerged victorious from his battle with the beast, winning not only the hand of Iobates' daughter but also his kingdom. It is this story that lead art historians to believe that the Chimera of Arezzo was originally part of a group sculpture that included Bellerophon and Pegasus. Votive offerings often depicted mythological stories for the Gods, and there is even a round hole on the left rear of the Chimera which might suggest the spot where Bellerophon would have struck with a now-missing spear. The first known literary reference was seen in Homer's Illiad and the epic poetry of Hesiod in the 700s B.C
In response to questions of the statue's true meaning, Vasari's wrote in his Reasonings Over the Inventions He Painted in Florence in the Palace of Their Serene Highnesses, saying:
Yes, sir, because there are the medals of the Duke my lord who came from Rome with a goat's head stuck in the neck of this lion, who as he sees VE, also has the serpent's belly, and we found the queue that was broken between those bronze fragments with many metal figurines that you've seen all, and the wounds that she has touched on show it, and yet the pain that is known in the readiness of the head of this animal ...
The tail was not restored until 1785, when the Pistoiese sculptor Francesco Carradori (or his teacher, Innocenzo Spinazzi) fashioned a replacement, incorrectly positioning the serpent to bite the goat's horn. The snake had to strike out against Bellerophon, not bite the horn of the goat's head. Biting the head of the goat was biting himself. Inscribed on its right foreleg is an inscription in the ancient Etruscan language. It has been variously read, but most recently is agreed to be TINSCVIL, meaning: "Offering belonging to Tinia”  showing that the bronze was a votive object dedicated to the supreme Etruscan god of day, Tin or Tinia. The original statue is estimated to have been created around 400 BCE
In 1718, the sculpture was then transported to the Uffizi Gallery and later, along with the remaining collection Cosimo had seized, taken to the Palazzo della Crocetta. Court intellectuals of the time considered the Chimera of Arezzo to be a symbol of the Medici domination of the grand duchy. The Chimera is still conserved in Florence, now; its permanent residence is in the National Archaeological Museum in Florence where it was placed on brief loan to the Getty Villa for an exhibition in 2010.
The sculpture was probably commissioned by an aristocratic clan or a prosperous community and erected in a religious sanctuary near the ancient Etruscan town of Arezzo, about 50 miles southeast of Florence. The Chimera was one of a hoard of bronzes that had been carefully buried for safety some time in antiquity. A bronze replica now stands near the spot of its original discovery.
The Etruscan civilization was a wealthy civilization during ancient Italy. From the city of Etruia—now a part of modern Tuscany, western Umbria , and northern Lazio—during the early eighth century BC. Later becoming a part of the Roman Republic after the Roman-Etruscan Wars.
Heavily influenced by Ancient Greek culture, Etruscan art is characterized by the use of terracotta, metalworking—especially in bronze—as well as jewelry and engraved gems. Rapidly, these metal and bronze trinkets from the Mediterranean began to appear around Etruia. It is not clear to historians exactly when trading with the Eastern Mediterranean began, however it was clear that both Phoenicians and Greeks must have been interested in the metal ores of Etruia, causing a rise in popularity of the art trade in these regions. They were well known for their art across the Orientalizing Period 700-600 BC, The Archaic Period 600-480 BC, and the Hellenistic Period 300- 1'st Century BC.
Discovered on November 15, 1553 by constructions workers near the San Lorentio gate in Arezzo (ancient Arretium), it was quickly claimed for the collection of the Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I, who placed it publicly in the Palazzo Vecchio in the hall of Leo X. Cosimo also placed the smaller bronzes from the trove in his own studiolo at Palazzo Pitti, where "the Duke took great pleasure in cleaning them by himself, with some goldsmith's tools," as Benvenuto Cellini reported in his autobiography. On discovery, the statue was missing the snake and it's left front and rear paws. Due to its fragmented state upon discovery, the statue was originally regarded as a lion. Italian painter Giorgio Vasari tracked the statue down and through the use of collected Ancient Greek and Roman coins, such as a silver stater featuring an image of Chimera, thus accurately identifying it. Eventually, it was officially identified as being a part of a larger piece meant to illustrate a fight between the Chimera and Greek figure Bellerophon. The sculpture was found among other small sculptures that served as votive offerings to the God Tinia. This sculpture may also have served as an Etruscan religious dedication. After discovery, it began its permanent residence in Florence where it remained until its transportation in 1718 to Uffizi Palace. Since 1870, the Chimaera of Arezzo has made its home at the National Archaeological Museum in Florence. As the sculpture made its way to the Florence Museum, it attracted even more attention of both artists and historians.
Typical iconography of the Chimera myth depicts the warrior Bellerophon as he confronts the Chimera, rides atop, or alongside the chimera. This iconography began to appear upon Greek vessels in early 600 BC. The Chimera of Arezzo presents a very detailed and complex composition that most likely was meant for great display and viewing in the round. The Chimeras is clearly expressing pain throughout its body. Its form is contorted, its face and mouth open in outrage as it is struck but Bellerophon. Similar to Hellenistic sculpture, the Chimera's form and body language evoke a feeling of deep emotional pain, tension, and interest from the viewer. Its form illustrates movement, and the contemplation of that movement, as well as clear tension and power of the beast's musculature.
Clearly influenced by the Mediterranean myth culture, this bronze work represents the mastery that Etruscans sculptors had not only over the medium but of mythological lore. Art historian A. Maggiani, gives details of a clear Italiote context by pointing out iconographic comparisons from sites in Magna Graecia such as Metaponto and Kaulonia. Italiote refers to a type of pre-Roman empire Grecian speaking group of people within South Italy. Magna Graecia refers to the specific Greek colonies which were established within Southern Italy from 8th century B.C.E and onwards. The Italiote context in mind, these trends are a clear indication of the increasing popularity of Attic or Athens inspired architecture and sculptures. Ancient Athenians regarded themselves among the highest of society. Their art, religion, and culture was seen as the epitome of Greek high society. While the Ancient Athenians had long since parished by this time, their work and way of life was still regarded with great fascination and a desire to emulate. Historians have generally come to a consensus that the Chimera of Arezzo was produced by Italiote craftsmen in the last decades of the fifth century B.C.E. or in the beginning of the fourth century B.C.E. The fact that this sculpture was a votive offering to Tinia is a reminder of the wealth and sophistication of Etruscan elites.
It was third millennium B.C. ancient foundry workers who discovered through various episodes of trial and error that bronze had distinct advantages over pure copper for making artistic statuary. Bronze will stay liquid longer when filling a mold due to its lower melting point. Bronze is a superior metal than copper for sculpture casting due to its better tensile strength. The island of Cyprus supplied the largest portions of bronze which were used in the artistic process across the ancient Mediterranean.
The earliest forms of Greek bronze sculptures were simple, hand worked sheets of bronze known as sphyrelaton (literally, “hammer-driven”). Like modern clay sculpture, these metal sheets could be embellished by hammering the metal over various wooden made shapes and textures to create a desired look or depth. This was later adapted to become the technique known today as tracing. By the late Archaic period (ca. 500–480 B.C.) sphyrelaton lost popularity as lost-wax casting becomes the primary form of bronze sculpting. Lost-wax casting of bronze was achieved in three different ways, all with their own desired after effects. The first and earliest method was called solid casting. It required a model of the sculpture to be fasioned in solid wax and then carved. The second was called hollow lost-wax casting, which was created by a direct process. Finally, the third was called hollow lost-wax casting by the indirect process. The model is then surrounded with clay, and heated in a what today would be similar to a kiln meant to remove wax and hardens the clay. Then, the mold is inverted and metal poured inside to create a cast. Once cooled, bronze-smith cracks open the clay model to reveal a solid bronze replica.
For smaller details, sculptors often made eyes out of glass and painted on things like body hair, clothing details, and skin color. Lost in antiquity, the majority of historical knowledge of what certain bronze statues would have looked like come from marble Roman copies that survive today.
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