Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The male nude in art exhibitions : Masculin Masculin (2) and the Faune Barberini

Another male nude sculpture, very sensual, that was displayed at the 'Masculin Masculin' exhibition held in Paris earlier this year is the Barberini faun. It is a life-size marble statue also called the Drunken Satyr, sculpted during the 3rd century BC. This statue can be seen in Munich, Germany, at the Glyptothek (from Greek, it means a coffer of engraved works) Museum, which gathers 1000 years of Roman and Greek sculpture.

Barberini Faun, Glyptothek Munich, Germany. 
This sculpture was found in the 1620s below the Castel San Angelo in Rome, which in Antiquity had been Hadrian's Mausoleum. Work on the fortification was undertaken by the Barberini Pope Urban VIII in 1624. The sculpture made its first documented appearance in a receipt for its restoration, 6 June 1628, when it already belonged to the Pope's nephew, Cardinal Francesco Barberini.

The statue was quite damaged when it was discovered, so lots of restoration works took place. The final result gives a strong sexual feeling, showing at first a naked muscular young man, sleeping or more precisely recovering like after a party and the statue is now considered an example of erotic art. Some says that Bernini, who took part in the restoration process, reinforced that aspect!

It is actually a 'faun' : the Roman equivalent of a Greek satyr. In Greek mythology, satyrs were human-like male woodland spirits with several animal features, often a goat-like tail, hooves, ears, or horns. Indeed, on his back, there is a little animal tail, and on his head an ivy crown.

Detail showing the 'tail'
Nudity in Greek art was very common. And this faun was reproduced on a Nymphenburg palace porcelain service in the 1830s. And also housed in the Palazzo Barberini in Rome.

Later on it was sold (in 1799), to the sculptor and restorer Vincenzo Pacetti, who tried to sell it to English and French collectors such as Lucien Bonaparte. But the Barberini succeeded to cancel the sale. Eventually it was sold to Ludwig, Prince of Bavaria, who had planned a special room in the Glyptothek, before the purchase was even finalized! The Glyptothek opened in 1830 to house Ludwig's sculpture collection.

A marble copy was sculpted by Edmé Bouchardon at the French academy in Rome in 1726.  And in 1775 the Duc de Chartres bought it for his elaborate garden plan at Parc Monceau. Then it went to the Parc de St Cloud, later to the Jardins du Luxembourg. Currently the sculpture is displayed at the Louvre Museum.
Marble copy by Edmé Bouchardon - 1726 - Louvre Museum, Paris
Another copy by sculptor Eugène-Louis Lequesne was given to France in 1846. It is now located in the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA).

A video showing and explaining the original sculpture can be seen here.

Sources : Wikipédia, Louvre Museum, Glyptothek, Orsay Museum.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Ephebus (or Alexander) from Agde, France

Having just spent a few days in that area in the South of France, to attend a sculpture master class, followed by some relaxing time riding bicycle alongside the Herault river, I passed in front of the Archeological Museum of Agde displaying the famous Ephebus. So I wanted to share this unique sculpture story, which was discovered just 50 years ago.

This large antique bronze was found on September 13, 1964 in the Herault River, in front of Agde cathedral, by Jacky Fanjaud, together with other divers having a strong passion for submarine archeology. The left leg was discovered 6 months later, not too far away in the river.

The statue was seriously damaged, so it was sent to the Louvre museum in Paris to be restored by the specialists teams and laboratories there, where it stayed for years. Indeed the sculpture is exceptional : it is the only Greek bronze statue discovered in France, probably casted 4 centuries before JC.

Almost 20 years after that discovery, the statue was eventually given back to Agde city, and the condition was the building of a submarine archeological museum, who could display not only this sculpture, but also the numerous collections of items discovered in that area.

The statue represents a beautiful Greek teenager, in the classical nude heroic pose. His left shoulder carry a folded chlamys, also rolled around his left forearm. Which is usually a sign of a Macedonian soldier.

It looks like an athlete, but many experts say it is actually a portrait of Alexander the Great, as many traits have been similarly sculpted by Lysippe of Sicyone, the official portrait sculptor for the royal family in Macedonia, who did many bronze sculptures and liked the beauty of young athletes.

The body with slim torso shows thin muscles, fitting the adolescent youth. The head is slightly turned towards the shoulder. The face shows a youth profile, thin lips, high cheekbones. The head diadem is similar to the one in golden silver on the grave of Phillip II from Macedonia.

- Cap d'Agde Museum (see their website here)
- Tourism Office of Herault

To see a video about the sculpture discovery, in French, click here).

The underwater archaeology collections of the Musée de l'Ephèbe (Ephebus Museum) are displayed in 4 large departments:
- The Royal Navy: canons and cargoes from wrecks from the 17th to the 19th century, architectural items for ships and those used to fit them out...
- Ancient Navigation: naval architecture (anchors) and cargoes (amphorae, crockery, etc.)
- Ancient Bronzes: outstanding collections of bronze works of art, the most famous of which are the statues of Caesarion and Ephebus, portrait of Alexander the Great.
- Protohistory: more than 1,400 objects that are evidence of the life of the first inhabitants, before the Greeks arrived.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The nude man in art exhibitions (1) : 'Masculin Masculin' with 'Mercury inventing the caduceus'

We thought it would be interesting to show a few sculptures from exhibitions focussing on the male nude in art. Todays' sculpture was displayed during the 'Masculin Masculin' exhibition held recently in Paris (Sep 2013 - Feb 2014) at the Orsay Museum. Approximately 20 male nude sculptures were selected by the curator/director Guy Cogeval and his team (together with 180 other art pièces mainly paintings and photographs). The period ranged from 1800 until today.

Among them, for today, I selected 'Mercury Inventing the Caduceus' done by Jean-Antoine-Marie Idrac in 1878.  This French sculptor is born in Toulouse in 1849 and died early, in 1884 of typhus. He studied under Alexandre Falguière and also Pierre-Jules Cavelier. He won the famous Prix de Rome in 1873. He also exhibited at the Salon from 1877, and got a first class medal two years later for our selected marble sculpture.

This large marble piece was sculpted in Rome, Italy, in 1878. Several years later, in 1886, a copy in bronze was casted, which was displayed at the Exposition Universelle (World Fair) of 1900 in Paris(and today in Toulouse, at the Musée des Augustins).


One of the other curators of the 'Masculin Masculin' exhibition, Xavier Rey, stated that male nude anatomy and study was extremely important for every artist training. With some humour trait, Guy Cogeval added that this sculpture shows probably the cutest buttocks of the museum!
Indeed, several of this exhibition's sculptures and paintings contain a clear homoerotic aspect. And part of the exhibition is specially focussed on the male as an object of desire.
Why ' inventing the Caduceus ' ? The mythology has many stories about this! One reports that Mercury wanted to find a symbol for his role as the god of healing and messenger of the gods. He received a gold stick from Apollon. Later on, seeing two snakes fighting, he throw his gold stick towards them, the snakes curled around the stick and stopped fighting.
The serpent-coiled staff, or caduceus, is sometimes illustrated with wings at the top end to match Mercury’s winged helmet.


Some sources, videos and links:

Video about 'Masculin Masculin' exhibition (in French with English subtitles)
Other video about this exhibition showing some master pièces.
Orsay Museum website
Article in French in the 'Tribune de l'Art' website