A Marble Nude

Sunday, May 4, 2008 12:00 AM

· A marble nude, presumed to represent the god Apollo, survives in a museum in Kassel, Germany. The glowing whiteness we now see probably has nothing to do with how the work originally looked. The marble is almost certainly a Roman copy of a Greek original made hundreds of years earlier, about 450 B.C., perhaps by the great innovator Phidias. It would have been cast in bronze, like perhaps two-thirds of all Greek statuary -- almost every single piece of which has long since been melted down.

It's almost certain that the sculptor would have polished his figure to some kind of brassy sheen and added suitable accessories to it. In a bronze reconstruction in Kassel, the metal has been buffed and varnished to the point of imitating solid gold -- which, we know, was the prestige material for making monumental sculptures in the ancient world.

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