In this essay I will compare and contrast two ancient three-dimensional sculptures.
The first is The Laocoon Group; it is a masterpiece of the Hellenistic Age in Greece. This sculpture dates back to the 1st Century BC. This sculpture now resides in the Vatican in Rome. The second sculpture is Augustus of Primaporta, a life-size Roman sculpture from the Pax Roman time period, circa 20 b.c.e. The artist of both sculptures are unknown. Both sculptures contain concepts of life and power. Both sculptures can be viewed in our textbook, A World of Art by Henry M. Sayre on pages 431 and 433.Order now
According to Walter E. Requadt (2005) The Laocoon Group is a depiction of the death of Laocoon and his sons as punishment for Laocoon’s advice to the Trojans not to bring the Trojan horse within the walls of their city. The serpents unite the three figures, drawing you from one figure to the next. Every inch of Laocoon’s face depicts his pain: From his wrinkled forehead to half shut eyes and parted lips, the figure cries out in pain. Both father and sons are portrayed in a haunting state of agony. It seems that every inch of the sculpture depicts pain and torment, from basic human emotions while Augustus of Primaporta provides a visible testament to Augustus’s claim to authority. He stands proudly dressed in his military garb pointing to something unknown. The Laocoon Group’s subject matter is mythological, while Augustus is heroic.
The Laocoon Group is naked figures, whereas Augustus of Primaporta is clothed except for the small cupid at his feet. Augustus is shown wearing the cuirass, or breastplate of a military general. According to the University of Michigan, Augustus’s breastplate tells the story of his “pay-back” victory over the Parthians only it does so by means of a symbolic allegory, filled with gods and goddesses. This manifests Augustus’s role as imperator, or head of Rome’s military forces and the small cupid hints at Augustus’s divine descent from Venus. They are both marble with smooth texture and alabaster in color. Both are human figures, but differ greatly in style.
The Laocoon exhibits a combination of many stylistic elements; it is naturalistic and organic in areas of the body; exhibits muscular physics, tight stomachs, the pubic triangles, and strong legs. Augustus exhibits a heroic stylistic element exhibiting authority and strength in the face and body features.
Augustus of Primaporta is realistic and serves as a life-like replica standing 6′ 8″ high. The Laocoon Group, also realistic, stands 7 feet high and contains precise detail in the face’s features and in the serpent entwined around the group.
To conclude, both sculptures reflect the ancient cultures by which they were made and focus on the cycle of life. One concentrates on a group, the other on an individual. Stylistically, they both show elements of realism, naturalism and idealism. The Laocoon Group utilizes more lines and shapes, while Augustus of Primaporta is more rigid.