Any time we travel, we always make sure that, apart from seeing the sights and trying out the local food, we also get to visit a few museums that will enrich us culturally. I consider myself lucky that I have seen all these famous sculptures in person. Although beauty is always in the eyes of the beholder, I think that you will all agree that the sculptures I will be sharing with you are formidable works of art that have ensured that their creators will remain immortalised forever.
David by Michelangelo at the Galleria dell' Accademia (Florence)
David was created between 1501 and 1504 by a young Michelangelo. It depicts the Biblical hero David and was intended to be positioned along the roof-line of Florence's world-famous duomo the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. However, once the statue was finished, the city authorities realised that raising the 6-ton sculpture to the roof of the cathedral was going to be a close-to-impossible feat. Instead, David was placed in Piazza della Signoria next to the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio - the town-hall. David remained there until 1873 when the sculpture was removed to the Galleria dell'Accademia to protect it from the elements. A replica now stands in its place. Michelangelo seems to have captured David right at the moment when he has taken his decision to face Goliath and what we see depicted here is not bravery as much as a steely determination to see this thing through. Here is a sculpture that embodies youth, vigour and invincibility.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace (sculptor unknown) at the Louvre (Paris)
This Greek statue from the 2nd century BC depicts the goddess Nike (the Greek goddess of Victory) and was probably created to honour a sea battle. Despite the fact that parts of it, including its head, are missing, it is still a sculpture of mesmerising beauty. The flow of the goddess's robes, the triumphant stance, the overall feeling of fluidity and movement create the impression that what we have before our eyes is not a marble statue but a living being that is somehow frozen in time. I think that if I had to choose an absolute favourite from this list it would be this ethereal creation from antiquity.
The Dying Gaul (sculptor unknown) at the Capitoline Museum (Rome)
This statue is thought to be a Roman copy of a Greek original and, as the title suggests, depicts a dying man. There is no sense of movement or any type of urgency in this sculpture. On the contrary, I got the feeling that there is a poignant pause: that we are catching a glimpse of the everlasting moment between life and death. The man depicted there before you knows that his time is nigh. You can almost sense his resignation, his acceptance of his fate: the winner takes it all; the loser … well he gets to darken the earth with his life's blood.
Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova at the Louvre (Paris)
This masterpiece of Neo-Classical sculpture was created by Antonio Canova in 1787. It shows Cupid waking his beloved Psyche from her death-like sleep by gently pricking her with one of his arrows and kissing her. Canova expertly captures the sensuous moment between the lovers, imbuing the marble figures with life.
The Colossus of Constantine (sculptor unknown) at the Capitoline Museum (Rome)
This massive statue that was sculpted some time between the 3rd and 4th century AD depicts the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. Judging by the size of the still-intact pieces (the head, legs and arms) this colossal, seated statue was probably around 12 metres high. This sculpture screams power and haughtiness, both reflected in the unyielding eyes of the emperor. Here is a man whose word was law and who held the power of life or death over hundreds of thousands. It's no wonder that even in it's fragmented form I felt intimidated by the unwavering stare of the first Christian emperor.
The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna in Piazza della Signoria (Florence)
The three figures that make up this dynamic sculpture are carved out of a single block of marble. They give the impression of writhing movement that starts by the woman's outstretched arms, continues in the body of the young Roman from whom she is desperately trying to flee, and ends in the raised arm of the dominated male figure at the base of the sculpture. The twisted, intertwined bodies draw the eyes upwards, creating a composition that seems to change depending on the angle it is viewed from. The sinuous nature of this sculpture creates the impression that the three figures are locked in a strange, morbid dance from which they cannot escape. The Rape of the Sabine Women is truly a remarkable sculpture from the late Renaissance and its creator, Giambologna, is considered to be amongst the greatest sculptors the world has ever known. Somehow, just by looking at this masterpiece, I was able to feel the woman's fear and torment, the harshness of her abductor and the desperation of the husband or father who is overpowered and unable to aid the horrified woman. I could sense their struggle but I could do nothing to help.
Venus de Milo by Alexandros of Antioch at the Louvre (Paris)
This is one of the most famous sculptures from ancient Greece that was created some time between 130-100 BC. It is thought to depict Aphrodite, or Venus, goddess of love and beauty and, although the statue is incomplete, there is no denying the grace and beauty of the female form. The missing arms and the covered lower limbs create a stream-lined silhouette that is, strangely, more visually and aesthetically pleasing. It now almost seems as if the arms were an afterthought and that, with them, the sculpture would look cumbersome and, perhaps, just a little bit ungainly. It is imperfectly perfect, an enigma that continues to allure us thousands of years after is creation.
The Pieta' by Michelangelo at St Peter's Basilica (Vatican City)
This sculpture is the only work of art that Michelangelo ever signed. It was created some time between 1498 and 1499. It depicts the dead Christ on his mother's lap. It seems to be the final moment between Mother and Son before He is taken away for burial. I am sure that thousands, probably millions, have gazed at this sculpture and I am sure that every person has taken away something different with them. While I could detect the Mother's sorrow and felt her heart-breaking agony as she gazed on the lifeless body of her Son, I also got the impression that Mary's outstretched arm and the almost altar-like shape of the lower part of her body are presenting the dead body of Jesus as a sacrifice. It is almost as if she is telling us that she is giving him to the world with no conditions or strings attached.
I hope you have enjoyed my take on some of the most beautiful sculptures that exist. There are other famous sculptures that I love but I decided to focus only on those that I have experienced for myself. Naturally I am curious to know whether there are any that I have mentioned that you also count amongst your favourites. Please do tell and include any others that I have failed to mention.