LLR Books

Ancient Roman statue that inspired Mark Twain and Lord Byron leaves Europe for the first time in historic loan to Washington DC

 
 Dying Gaul to go in display in National Gallery of Art
Loan is first time marble sculpture has left Rome in nearly 200 years
An ancient Roman statue that inspired Mark Twain and Lord Byron to comment on its beauty is to go on display in Washington DC.
The Dying Gaul, a marble statue that was unearthed in Rome in the 1620s, is being loaned to the National Gallery of Art until March next year.
Believed by early historians and writers to be a gladiator, the statue had been a popular tourist attraction for centuries.
When Twain visited it in 1867 he wrote: 'We saw the Dying Gladiator at the Capitol, and I think that even we appreciated that wonder of art.'
And Romantic poet Lord Byron included the statue in his 1818 work From Canto IV of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.
'I see before me the Gladiator lie: / He leans upon his hand -- his manly brow / Consents to death, but conquers agony'. The statue, which was renamed the Dying Gaul by 18th Century scholars, is said to have been based on a 3rd Century BC bronze sculpted to mark a victory over the Gauls, McClatchy DC reported.
It is lauded for the expressions on the statue's face, as the Gaul is seen contorted with pain as he dies from a chest wound.
'A universally acknowledged masterpiece, the Dying Gaul is a deeply moving tribute to the human spirit,' Earl A. Powell III, director of the gallery, said.
'An image of a conquered enemy, the sculpture represents courage in defeat, composure in the face of death and dignity,' he added.
Its appearance at the Washington gallery - the first time it has left Italy in more than 200 years - is part of the Dream of Rome program, in which 'the Eternal Masterpieces' are exhibited in the U.S.
'We are very pleased to bring to Washington a stunning masterpiece that has not left Italian soil since its return to Rome from Paris in 1816,' Claudio Parisi Presicce, director of Capitoline Museums, where the statue is usually displayed, said.
'In 1797, Napoleonic forces had taken the sculpture to France with the intention of keeping it there.
'Its journey across the Atlantic today is further proof of the strong and fruitful collaboration between our countries.'
The statue, believed to have been created in the first or second century AD, was found in the gardens of Villa Ludovisi.
The earliest record of it comes from a 1623 description calling it a dying gladiator, but its fame spread thanks to an engraving by French artist François Perrier in 1638.
Soon royalty in Spain and France were commissioning bronze replicas, and Thomas Jefferson also listed the statue as a list of antiquities he hoped to acquire for a planned museum.
The statue will be on display until March 16. The first artifact to make its way across the Atlantic under the art exchange was Michelangelo's David Apollo, followed by Leonardo da Vinci's Codex on the Flight of Birds.


MUSE FOR THE ROMANTICS
Lord Byron was inspired by the statue, writing:
'I see before me the Gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand - his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his droop'd head sinks gradually low -
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now
The arena swims around him - he is gone,

Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hail'd the wretch who won.'