Bronze Head of a Boy

Friday, May 2, 2008 6:34 PM

· A bronze head of a boy, cast by Roman artists about 20 A.D., survives in the Glyptothek collection in Munich. Eyeless and dark green, it represents our classic vision of classical art -- and one that's largely wrong. A bronze reconstruction shows it with the polished surface it once would have had; ancient texts refer to athletes' skin as glowing like "a well-mixed bronze," and to how sculptors labored to achieve lifelike colors in their metals. The reconstruction also re-creates the kind of inlaid eyes the sculpture had when it was found in the 1790s -- they were lost early on -- and the golden lips and eyebrows that still show traces on the Munich head. (Other ancient bronzes used polished copper inlays to represent red lips and nipples and even bloody wounds.) The dark hair is just a guess, but it evokes the broad range of finishes that ancient sculptors would have used for realist effects.

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