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Attacking warrior, once attached to a cauldron

Unknown-510/-500

Altes Museum, National Museums in Berlin

Altes Museum, National Museums in Berlin

In the large sanctuaries of Greece that were rich in votive offerings, it was apparently customary to dismantle old bronze votive objects and, wherever possible and appropriate, to smelt them down again. For this reason, the objects that have survived are mostly only in fragments, even in places where we know particularly high numbers of objects made in bronze were devoted, as here for example: parts from a large Geometric or Archaic cauldron. We have no clear picture of what some types of cauldron – whose shoulders, necks or rims must have been luxuriously adorned with figures – looked like, as no example has survived, either completely intact or even in larger sections. This especially holds true for those cauldrons whose figures stood above the rim and were largely free-standing, as ‘acting’ figures. Dodona, a much-visited sanctuary of Zeus in the highlands of Epirus, is famous for its particularly well preserved bronzes. A warrior, standing in an expansive pose, is clearly fighting with a lance (that has not survived). He has the wonderfully even patina that protects all the finer surface details, for which the Dodona bronzes are well known. The base he stands on has a slight curve, which means it could only have been attached to a round object, some 50 cm in diameter: perhaps a wide, open, bulbous cauldron. By walking around the cauldron, people would have been able to view the warrior from the front and see his shield raised in the direction of the attack, recognisable as Boeotian by its shape, with two indents on the side and patterned with scales. They would also have been able to see the Corinthian helmet, the well-covered face with its fine mouth and large eyes. The left side of the warrior, however, was not intended for viewing: hair and clothing are only summarily rendered on that side and many of the engravings that ran along the edges and contours on the front are omitted. Undoubtedly, the attacking warrior had an opponent, perhaps what was depicted here was one of the heroic duels known from ancient legends. The breastplate swells under exaggerated strain as the warrior draws breath, preparing to thrust the lance. This pose and the manner in which the warrior stands with his right foot positioned far back, turned and slightly raised at the heel, are even greater clues than the careful folds of the material as to the date of the bronze: it was created in the last decade of the 6th century BCE. At the time, the Corinthian helmet with the curved crest and the shin guards with the natural outline of the knee were thoroughly modern forms of armour. If we had more of the remaining figures and the cauldron itself that they once adorned, the attribution of the work to a particular workshop would not be as uncertain as it is, even now, more than a hundred years after the piece’s acquisition. Cauldrons of the appropriate size were transported far over land and sea, the statuette continues, however, to be associated with a bronze workshop in the Corinthian coastal town of Ambracia, near Dodona.

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Details

  • Title: Attacking warrior, once attached to a cauldron
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: -510/-500
  • Physical Dimensions: h12.8 cm
  • Type: Statue
  • Medium: Bronze
  • Inv.-No.: Misc. 7470
  • External link: Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Verlag Schnell & Steiner / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer Photo: © b p k - Photo Agency / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Johannes Laurentius
  • Collection: Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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