The Barberini Faun

My ARCHAEO-Crush for February is my favourite Classical sculpture of all times.


Type: sculpture (marble)
Civilisation: Ancient Greece
Date: Hellenistic period, 323 -146 BCE (but could be a very high quality Roman copy)
ARCHAEO-Crush: I have always had a soft spot for marble statuary and this magnificent sculpture really amazed me when I first learned of it in art history class. Although partially restored during the 17th and 18th century (notably the legs, which were apparently not positioned quite as high), this is a masterpiece on several levels, including the execution. The position of the body is not only rather unusual, but also extremely challenging for a sculptor; the musculature is wonderful and remarkably detailed; the face is expressive; the sculpture is exquisite.
The blatant sexuality of the sculpture can be chocking to some, but in Greek art nudity was common-place and normal, part of the notions of Greek ideal. Despite the provocative pose, there is also a certain vulnerability to be found in this sculpture, a vulnerability that is just as enticing as the sleeping male, a vulnerability not often associated with men. I think that this vulnerability makes us forget that the youth sprawled on a panther skin on the rocks is not a man…
In fact, it is a faun or, more fitting for a Hellenistic statue, a satyr–a woodland creature from Greek mythology with equine features, notably horse tail and ears, and ithyphallic. (The faun of Roman mythology is half-man, half-goat with hairy legs and hooves, pointy ears and horns).  During Antiquity, the appearance of satyrs and fauns became more and more human-like and one must pay close attention to details to determine the identity of the subject. Here, the human legs of the youth belie its animal nature but a short tail is visible on the lower back and the pointy ears are hidden by the wreath of ivy. Yet the wreath is quite telling in and of itself… it is one of the symbols of Dionysos, the Greek god of wine, drunkenness, ritual madness, theatre and tragedy.  Satyrs are his randy, drinking companions.  The (terribly sexy) young satyr represented here is exhausted from excessive partying…
Bucket list status: I drop by the Glyptothek every time I am in Munich just to see this wonderful sculpture. And I’m usually not the only one spending long minutes staring at its wonderful physique.
Additional information:
The statue has the inventory number 218.  There is a post about the Barberini Faun on Khan Academy


Julius Caesar and the Leap Year

Did you know that Julius Caesar is generally acknowledged as the father of the leap year? Back in the day, the Roman calendar only had 355 days (!) and was evidently shorter than the solar year (the time it takes for the Earth to orbit around the sun—365 ¼ days). In order to keep the calendar aligned with the seasons, the Romans would add a month here and there (what a mess!)… until Caesar became dictator and sorted things out by consulting with astronomers in 46 BC. It was decided that a day should be added to the calendar every 4 years to make up for the discrepancy between the lunar and solar calendars. The Leap Year came into effect in 45 BC.

Julius also took the opportunity to rename one of the months in the calendar. He picked Quintilis, the fifth month of the year (which started in March back in those days, not January) and renamed it after himself… a month we all know today as July.

I have simplified things a bit, but that’s the upshot of it all!

Behind the Scenes: The Repatriation of Stolen Objects | American Research Center in Egypt

Have  you ever heard of Operation Mummy’s Curse?  Find out all about it in this interesting short article on the American Research Center in Egypt website.

Source: Behind the Scenes: The Repatriation of Stolen Objects | American Research Center in Egypt

Symposium on digital pedagogy and research

Today, I attended at Duke University’s Nasher Museum a symposium on Digital Pedagogy and Research in Art History, Archaeology & Visual Studies.  It was actually quite interesting (all the speakers were great) and there were presentations on mapping, apps for the study of ancient monuments (Hidden Florence) and works of art, 3D scanning of historic monuments, photogrammetry, the use of drones for imaging archaeological sites (notably at Aphrodisias) or the creation of algorithms for the removal of cradles on x-rays of paintings (a plugin called Platypus created by mathematicians and the conservators at the NCMA!) On top of that, we were well fed!

At the end of the day, I dropped by the Nasher’s galleries to take a look at their new interpretive app used to colour stone reliefs of four apostles–the colours were projected onto the reliefs.  It was actually quite fun to select portions of the figures and ‘paint’ them… and there were no restrictions about which colour to be used for the skin, hair, garments…  (The Met has something like this on the walls of the Temple of Dendur although I don’t know how interactive it is).

The NCMA is developing digital applications and 3D related distance learning opportunities.  I can’t talk about those right now, but just know that they involve my collections, so you’ll find out soon enough what we’re up to!  In the meantime, enjoy the pictures of today’s symposium.


Installing Oplontis

My spring is already crazy, but I hope to have time to go see this exhibition….  I got the invitation in the mail a little while ago.

The Kelsey Blog

BY CAROLINE ROBERTS, Conservator, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

For the past four weeks it has been all hands on deck at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. Indeed, it has taken the entire Kelsey village – curators, registrars, conservators, educators, and exhibit coordinators – to bring Oplontis to life.

The first step in installing Oplontis was to receive the objects. Over 30 crates of artifacts arrived from Italy nearly five weeks ago. Kelsey collections managers were at the Museum (very) early in the morning to oversee the movement of the crates from truck to loading dock to gallery. The crates were allowed to adjust to the climate of the Kelsey galleries for about a day before being opened.

Oplontis 3 The Nike sculpture travels from the first to the second floor galleries

Our next step was to unpack and install the artifacts. We did this with the help of two couriers, Giuseppe…

View original post 251 more words

Rome’s lonely pyramid gets a new lease of life

Yes, there is a pyramid in Rome.  A Roman pyramid, but a pyramid nonetheless.  Actually, it is the only surviving Egyptian-style pyramid of Antiquity still standing in Rome (once there were four). It belonged to a man named Caius Cestius…

As featured in The Guardian article. Photograph: Domenico Stinellis/AP

As featured in The Guardian article. Photograph: Domenico Stinellis/AP

It received a much needed conservation treatment last year… and it is now opened to the public.  I have seen the exterior of this little monument many years ago, but never the inside. (It’s was so long ago that I don’t even have a digital picture of it.) I should visit it again the next time I am in Rome; it’s not on my bucket list, but every Egyptologist should go see it and not just from the outside!

You can read this article in The Guardian about the conservation treatment, Rome’s lonely Pyramid of Cestius gets a new lease of life.