13 September 2012

Dancing Satyr - a poetic tribute

In 2003 the recently-restored bronze statue of a dancing satyr was displayed in Rome. It had been discovered a few years earlier in the sea off the coast of Sicily. There were stories that the local fishermen had been aware of the statue for years, repeatedly discovering it in their nets and then discarding it in the sea, until someone realised its value. The statue was probably one of a group which would have decorated an extravagant garden - it may have been one of the lesser pieces -  and was presumably lost in a shipwreck.

After queueing to see the statue, one of my visitors was so impressed that he went away and wrote a sonnet. The statue has now come to the UK and it can be seen until December in the Royal Academy exhibition Bronze.

Satiro Danzante

by A.R. Hammond

So here it is: "a green-bronze naked figure
Roman or Greek, life-size, from off the coast
Of Italy". A Satyr, lacking most
Of arm or leg, alas. But still some vigour
Survives of that wild revelry or dance -
Arched torso, twisted head and windblown hair -
While from that lustrous face two white eyes stare
As if they wake from Dionysian trance

To see those other forms, in glass and paint
And plaster, which through after-ages stood
For art: tormented sinner, martyred saint,
Starved prophet - all our suffering for the loss
Of innocence. And ever - for our Good -
That broken, blooded, body on the cross.

The statue can normally be seen in its own museum in Mazara del Vallo in western Sicily.

11 September 2012

Mozia Charioteer

The statue at the British Museum
Last week I popped into the British Museum to see an old acquaintance visiting from Sicily: the Mozia Charioteer. Normally this statue resides in a small and quaint museum on a marshy island along the western coast of Sicily. The Youth, or Charioteer as he has been labelled, has been honoured this summer with a placing in the Parthenon gallery of the British Museum. Although he usually lives in obscurity, the Charioteer is an important survival from the ancient world. Previous theories suggested this was the work of a leading Greek sculptor commissioned by the Phoenicians who lived in the island city of Mozia/Motya. Now it is thought the statue could be a thoroughly Greek work looted by the Phoenicians. Their downfall left the statue on the abandoned island site. Later the island was bought by a British exporter of Marsala wine, Joseph Whitaker, who began archaeological excavations.  The little museum is named after him.

The statue will leave the British Museum later this week. If you want to visit the Charioteer in his ancient home, the island makes an atmospheric day trip from nearby Marsala or Trapani (the nearest airports are Trapani and Palermo).

> More about Mozia
> The Charioteer at the British Museum
> British Museum blog