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Serpents & the Sea

November 15th, 2013 | posted by Deborah Choate

Bursting with the boundless power of Mother Nature, the ocean has been the subject of some of the most evocative pieces in art history.  In considering that economies and lives have been made and ended on the ocean it is easy to understand the fascination it holds, besides its purely aesthetic value.  This role of the ocean in our collective psyche has given birth to countless myths and legends.  Of course some of the most lasting and beloved myths in Western culture have been handed down to us from the Greeks and the Romans.  Poseidon to the Greeks and Neptune to the Romans, this God of the seas plays muse to several dynamic pieces here in the gallery.Sacred to Neptune Ewers

These amazing vessels are crafted in the famed “Sacred to Neptune” design created by renowned artist John Flaxman in 1775. Featuring finely modeled figures of tritons serving as the handles, as well as dolphin masks and swags of cattail plants, the treasures are laden with aquatic symbolism.  The acclaim of this design exemplifying the love of ancient Greco-Roman styles shared between England and France.   This exceptional design is most often found in pottery form, as the renowned maker Wedgwood produced it in both black basalt and jasperware. It was also beautifully realized in silver by the Royal goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell. However, bronze versions of this neoclassical masterpiece are exceptionally rare, with French examples being even rarer.

30-0977_1Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t share this fantastic work of art we recently acquired when discussing Neptune.  While the dark waters represented here are those off the shore of Hendaye Beach in France, this piece is a phenomenal reminder of the awe-inspiring powers of the sea.  Painted by Hippolyte Pradelles, tumultuous waves and a steel grey sky painted with bravura brushstrokes combine here to create a work with an incredible presence.

This sculpture is a replica of arguably the most famed sculpture ever created.  In fact, Michelangelo referred to the original as “The greatest piece of art in the world”.  This is the fantastic marble sculpture thatLaocoon tells of the death of Laocoön and his sons when the Goddess Minerva sends serpents from the sea to silence them forever.  Their deaths were byproducts of the famed Trojan War; it was Laocoön, a Trojan high priest, who was not swayed by the Greek’s offering of a large wooden horse. He started to warn the people of Troy with the famed statement “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”.  According to Virgil, the God Minerva, anxious to protect her Greeks, immediately sent two sea serpents to kill Laocoön and his twin sons before they could warn more Trojans of this deception.

The sea, its symbols, myths, and bounty figure prominently in all three of these pieces, to fabulous results.  Sinewy creatures and windswept seas are expertly executed in bronze, oil paint and marble.  If you find these items as captivating as I do, let’s talk soon to discuss how we can make them yours.