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Smith 1!

Henry Smith
Prof. Curtin
HUA 165
26 May 2016
Ive decided to focus my attention on a work entitled Fragmentary Colossal Marble Head of a
Youth, from the Greek Hellenistic period of Pergamon. The choice seems very easy and straightforward to
me for two reasons: first, it is iconic and; second, along with taking this course, I am taking Western Civ
and the exhibit at the Met seemed to coalesce with everything going on in my life.
The dismembered statue was found in 1879 by German archeologists and accordingly, is usually
housed in Berlin. It is tentatively dated to the 2nd century BC. Furthermore, in its damaged state, reads
the placard, the head exemplifies the combination of sensitivity and presence characteristic of the finest
Pergamene sculpture. Ah, I love it!
The sculpture was found on the upper terrace of a gymnasium. It is very apparent that he is a
youth. The sculpture is so fine, yet so sharpnot to say sharp as in its edgesbut sharp in its execution.
Its marble looks like porcelain to the touch.
If I may, Pergamon was something of a center of Near Eastern and Greek norms. It became an
admixture of Persian, Greek, Celtic and Roman customs throughout time (Violatti).
With a look to its past.
Maybe this statue can help us tear apart the feelings we have about the West and unpack
some concepts we have about beauty and negation.
First of all, if you havent seen the statue, go see it. Google it.
While starting from the lips would be ideal, I will start from the figures hair. He has long
flowing locks, of what Id imagine to perhaps be brownish or blond hair, but the statue is in
Fragmentary Colossal
Marble Head of a
Youth, 2nd century BC
(?), marble

all white (well get to that).


His pouty lips offset the entire statue, buttressed atop an elegant cleft chin.
There is not a single pockmark, blemish or scar on this man. He is ideal beauty.
He is youth.
It would be very hard to hate on him. He is too gorgeous of a specimen. And what does

Smith 2!
gorgeous equal in the ancient world?beauty?divinity?goodliness?
Moving along, the fellow seems to have a perfect nose, contrasted against his supple
lips, andjust where it would behoove us to see his eyeswe dont.
Now.
Are we not seeing his eyes because of the philistines who would grind statues, like
this one, down throughout the ages or because of the artists intent? We can safely assume the
former. Can we therefore chalk up this find to a sort of readymade, implied in its symbolism
of intent and invention? Im not so sure. But it does impact the work.

right side

Honestly, I find it disrespectful when art is destroyed in any fashion.


But there will be those who say some art is not destruction but collaboration.
Im willing to concede the latter, although clearly the bandits who hacked away at this
masterpiece didnt consider themselves to be collaborating much in the way of art.
Finally is the figures neck. Offset by natural shadow, the Pergamene locks and a snarl on par
with Elvis and Fabolous, is a long, sturdy trunk, with a dimple adams apple, lining up like a spinal
column with his face.
The work is utterly dividable.
And because the head is huge, the body would proportionately be so.
But this is a Classical piece, at least in the retro sense for its artisans.
It is not the giant head of Constantine, that seems to suggest modernity on the horizonbut it
anticipates such developments.
Now Id like to tackle the concept of the flesh tone of our subject.
Sculptures in ancient times were often painted (yes, thats correctthis reminds me of a student
who said, Oh, thats what they called themselves, when the teacher explained, Gothic invaders adopted
Arianismtotal misconfluence of dangerous ideas).
But like the concept of the sculptures proximal damage, is the notion of an antique statue, in
white-on-white. To be objective as possible, we can say that this is a statue of a man that we would
probably identify as European. But even so, his likenesswhich is to say his idealwould not be marble
white. Anymore than it would be its negationbronze black.

Limestone of a Bearded Man with Votive


Offerings, ca. 475450, limestone
Smith 3!
Now off moments can
be good
for the

Jay-Z, Magna Carter Holy


Grail, 2013, album cover

creative
mind.
But that
is not
really
what I
am
positing. I am saying in
creating one of the most
awesome ideals, Greek
minds have confused
people throughout the ages
as to: What is beauty?; How
can I attain it and; Do I fit
the bill?
A lot of time has been spent not only debating this, but reacting to it. In everyday parlance.
All throughout the last two or three years, probably longer, Ive seen on Soundcloud, Tumblr,
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (while I had these time-wasters), allusions to Greco-Roman art and
Illumanti (which I dont believe in). Then I saw the kind of subversive kid on Soundcloud, using Classical
sculpture as a sort of critique for the basic, boring world we live in. A very sort of sullen, pessimistic style
and mind frame had seemed to emerge. (Consider net art, e.g., vaporwave.)
My opinion is not that these Greek ideals ever lost currency of their own. First, they are
sometimes being misunderstood. Second, mediaI dont care if its AM radiotends to transmit

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information that is unverifiable and therefore, unquantifiable. If theres a dialectic to be seen otherwise,
Im interested, because theres something.
Lastly, Id like to show another very charming statue I found at the Met. I found him, not at the
Pergamon exhibit but at one of Cypriot art.
The Statue of a Bearded Man is of limestone and tentatively dated between 475 and 450 BC.
He is the exact opposite of the Alexsander-esque head!
His movement is rigid but he bears an archaic smile and big eyes, reminiscent of Mesopotamia.
His hands are holding votive offerings, his left foot slightly advanced in a pose that gives a subtle sense
of movement. This is in opposition to the Youth, whomwithout even a bodywe infer movement from
the mere contortion of his neck. Although attempting to mimic the Archaic, the placard describes it as
stiff and artificial. In this respect it fails in the same way that Youth doesin its ascension as ideal.
So if there is anything to be gained, it is that Greek sculpture is not perfect. Perhaps they were
never intended to be.

Smith 5!
Works Cited
Fragmentary Colossal Marble Head of a Youth. 2nd century BC (?). Marble sculpture. Metropolitan
Museum of Art, New York.
Jay-Z. Magna Carter Holy Grail. Universal, 2013. JPEG file.
Limestone Statue of a Bearded Man with Votive Offerings. 475450 BC. Limestone sculpture.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Violatti, Cristian. Pergamon. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 14 June 2015. Web. 25 May 2016.