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Who Freed The Slaves

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Andrew Corcoran
Art History 6A
TA: Kevin Murphy
Section: W 10-10:50

Lansdowne Hermes Analysis

     Sculpture is a medium that artists in ancient Greek commonly used to express spoken truths in an unspoken form. Every piece of ancient Greek sculpture has more than what the eye sees to explain the story behind the [in this case] marble.
     Viewing the Lansdowne Hermes with a naked eye and what you will see is a larger than life-size statue depicting a man with an ideal body leaning with the majority of his weight on his right foot. His right arm is resting on his right buttock in an almost effortless pose. The left side of his body tells a different story. His left foot has barely any weight on it, and his left arm is supporting a pretty large portion of cloth wrapped so it perfectly wraps around the shoulder and rests just above the wrist. It appears that he was at one time holding some sort of sword or stick. To the naked eye that is what this sculpture seems to be, accepting a sculpture as a piece of art. Glancing at the Lansdowne Hermes you can appreciate beauty of art for beauty of art. However the sculptor had much more in mind when he created this figure from a large unscathed piece of marble.
Looking deeper into the statue a trained (or imaginative) eye can see more than what is just given at a glance. The pose given by Hermes is the classical pose of contraposto. Contraposto is a pose developed where the majority of the weight is placed on one leg and the other leg in a relaxed with relatively no weight on it in a position that can both be relaxed and ready to jump to action in the same resting position. The virtually unnoticed half palm tree that Hermes is resting against gives a divine character an almost mortal because of the necessity of support on an earthly object. In the pose where the presence of strength and anticipation of a move, there is also the presence of a mortal presence. The balance of the counter limb activity is present in the contraposto stance expressing a certain diagonal symmetry. In the Lansdowne Hermes both the right arm and the left leg are in the resting position awaiting the next motion. The right arm is resting on the right buttock anticipating some sort of motion or action to be carried out by the seemingly dormant arm. The left leg is bent at the knee with a raised ankle to readily mobilize the leg by balancing on the ball of the foot permitting change of direction at a moments notice. The right leg and the left arm are diagonally symmetric involving an activity to make the muscles tighten on the already ideal male body. The right leg is taught in stance supporting the weight of the body while relaxing the left leg. The left arm is supporting the drapery that is used to bring attention to what Hermes was at one time [possibly] holding. Held in Hermes left hand is aeHHHHhhelkjads;lkjhadi caduceus to guarantee the safety of any messenger or provide fertility to those who pass.
The body (with exeption to what has happened with process of aging) of Hermes is the definition of what the idealism of the male body states. Hermes is shown with the muscle tone of a divine creature. The absence of any bodily imperfections or scars of any kind could only suggest the godly like presentation of this body. The detail to which this is shown is shown in the little details such as the way the abdominal muscles slightly protrude over the right pelvis bone as result of the shift of body weight from the contraposto pose. Another detail normally over looked would be the increace in muscle tone on the right shoulder muscle because of the raised right arm to rest on the hip. The muscle is not being flexed, but does increase in size because of the muscle being put into a position where there is less room for it to strech out. The same can be said for the left bicept. The left bicept is nocibly increased in muscle tone, because it is supporting a pretty large drapery, but it is also holding the weight of the caduceus.
The size of the Lansdowne Hermes alone suggest the extraordinary presence of such a piece of art. The statue stands at a height of approximately seven feet tall. Today the world still celebrates people of unhumanly height, not just professional athletes, but anyone who is seven feet tall will get noticed walking down the street will receive looks as if possesing some godly like powers or command of respect.
Even though it is not obvoius in the condition that the sculpture is in presently, the focus of the sculpture is the left arm. Althought the focus is not there (the cadceus) is the focus of the statue. The Drapery is the device that is used to get the attention of the viewer. It is the one thing in the piece that is not natural and flowing is the commotion that the drapery provides. The body that Hermes is presenting is as perfect as a human figure can get. The one thing in the piece that creates tension is the way that the drapery is presented. It is not flowing as other great greek pieces have shown. For example the Nike of Samothrace is shown to have the clothes that she is wearing to be wind tossed to the contours of her body. Creating a sensous cloth draped over the stomach and breast of the goddess creating a sense of peace and comfort. In the case of Lansdowne Hermes the drapery that is on Hermes is hardly a sign of comfort or peace. The Drapery does not flow well at all. It unevenly starts over the left shoulder of Hermes, drapes down his back to be carelessly wrapped around the left arm to end up right above the left wrist as disheveled as it was started over the shoulder. At the end of the drapery is the conclusion to all the visual chaos the drapery creates; the caduceus. The caduceus is the symbol of Hermes powers and responsibilities. “The caduceus is shaped like a wand which sometimes bears wings with two snakes on the ends, a symbol of safety for travelers. The symbol of the two snakes is used for modern day medical sybol.
          The drapery also creates a dull area to look at, with the use of shadows. The drapery creates a shadow over portions of the left side of the body from the shoulder to the forearm. creating voids of attention to help bring more attention to the caduceus.


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