Riace Bronzes

Reflection On The Riace Bronzes

Sometimes I think that this famous pair of bronze statues must be tired, on their feet all day in that fixed warrior position. The Riace Bronzes are like models in an art studio, except no one’s drawing. 

Everyone is snapping pictures, at least for six months now since photos without flash have been allowed in the museum. Before that, tourists would sneak pictures with their cell phones, brazenly ignoring the guards’ admonitions in pursuit of the perfect selfie.

I’d like to sit down and have a cup of tea with one of the ancient Greek statues. I think that they could use the break, although maybe they’re content. Having rested on the bottom of the sea for 2,000 years, they might be happy with their pedestals and all of the attention they’ve gotten since their uncovering over 40 years ago. To me, they seem like the types that might prefer a beer, though, at least Statue A. Despite the fact that he was sculpted earlier than his companion, he’s a considerably younger man. He’s also most people’s favorite.

ancient Greek bronze

Statue A, Riace Bronzes

Not one to go along with the crowd, I prefer Statue B. He’s more mature and has a softer look. He’s still in outstanding physical shape, mind you, although he unfortunately lost one of his eyes, presumably in the same incident that swallowed his spear and shield. It’s nothing that a nice patch couldn’t cover up. Even with that bit of a vacant look due to the empty eye socket, he is unquestionably a very nice looking man, so the eye patch or maybe even a large pair of designer sunglasses would do wonders for him.

ancient bronze sculpture

Detail of Statue B, Riace Bronzes

Statue A looks a bit angry to me. Of course, that’s exactly what you want in a warrior, and that is apparently how these two made their livings. “A” appears as though he could get back into it at any time. Sure, 2,000 years would be considered a rather long hiatus in any field, but he looks buffed and ready to go. Perhaps that’s due to the recent restoration. Come to think of it, they’ve only been back up on their feet for about a year and a half now after four years on their backs. That couldn’t have been comfortable for them. The support structures just didn’t cradle them in the same way that the nice soft sand on the seafloor would have. Plus, they didn’t have any privacy, constantly prodded and probed by a string of scientists, not to mention the public ogling on the other side of the glass partition. It must have been stressful being in limbo for so much time, just waiting for the completion of their home renovations.

Riace Bronzes

Detail of Statue A, Riace Bronzes

After their return to the museum, getting used to their new surroundings as well as the revived public and media attention had to have been mentally taxing, if nothing else. Television crews, photographers, politicians and other public figures, not to mention that weird guy who threw a boa around their necks and tried to dress them up in strange undergarments. It’s no wonder that “A” is still baring his silver teeth.

When I sit down with “B,” I’d like to ask him how their new anti-seismic platforms feel underfoot. I hope that there’s some comfort in the additional stability, even if the Carrara marble looks a little hard to me. The previous platforms at least imitated a sandy surface visually. In their line of work, I don’t think a decent pair of gel insoles would be out of line.

Riace Bronzes

Statue B, Riace Bronzes

I do worry, though, that as flexible as his skin appears, “B” might suffer from a stiffness in his joints that could impede his sitting down for a chat. We might have to forgo the tea for a wine bar where we could stand and perhaps lean a bit. At the very least, he’d be more familiar with the beverages. In his day, Calabrian wines were renowned throughout the Mediterranean.

I mustn’t forget to inquire as to their exercise regime, although posing all day must be some sort of isometric workout for them. I hope they can relax and have some time to themselves after the visitors have all gone home. They put in extremely long days on the job. I’d also like to know how they feel about spending all their time on the raised platforms. Already with the heights of professional basketball players, I suppose they’ve long gotten used to looking down on everyone. As I mentioned, “A” seems a bit arrogant, but I suppose that’s to be expected with such a fine musculature and beautiful set of locks. “B” appears to have mellowed with age—like the wine, as they say.

ancient sculpture

Detail of Statue B, Riace Bronzes

The Bronzes certainly have seen a great deal in their time on this earth, even “B” with his limited vision. They may have had 300-400 good years before their disappearance, most likely in Roman times according to most sources. There’s a lot of discussion regarding just who they are and where they’ve been. When we sit down or lean on a counter for a drink, I won’t burden “B” with a bunch of questions about his past—the glories on the battlefield or perhaps in an Olympic boxing ring. I don’t imagine any role he may have performed in an ancient mythological setting would mean much so long after the fact. “B,” the person, would interest me more.

So tell me, “B,” how are you holding up? Do your feet hurt?


CoverReducedRead more about these beautiful statues in my book Calabria: The Other Italy, on my blog post Contemporary Interpretations of the Riace Bronzes and on my guest post on Italy ChroniclesSee the Spectacular Riace Bronzes. Or join my Calabria Tour and see the stunning Riace Bronzes in person!

While at the museum don’t miss the rest of the wonderful collection: Archeological Museum in Reggio Calabria – Much More Than the Famous Bronzes and The Head of Basilea: Discovery, Theft and Restoration.

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Comments 5

  1. Love your humor, AND, that you appreciate the ‘older’ man! Don’t think any of us (male OR female), will survive THAT long! I’ll bet his feet DO hurt! Mine do!

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