In Bronze Age sculptures and artwork, Greek mythological scenes are commonly seen decorating a particular art piece. Each piece of work tells a different story of the heroes, gods, and goddesses; stories of love and death, battles and betrayal. Much of Greek mythology is recorded in some form of art. Scene’s from Homer’s The Iliad are clearly depicted through Bronze Age artwork on display at The Getty Villa in Malibu, California.
The Bronze Age is a period that lasted roughly two thousand years, approximately 3200 BC-1200 BC. It was a highly prosperous and competitive period in which pottery was significant, along with the use of metal and bronze for tool making and weaponry. This was a time of flourishing economic, social, and cultural organizations. There are many scenes from Homer’s epic poem The Iliad that were depicted on specific pieces of Bronze Age artwork such as: pottery, coins, and tools.
A sculpture, although not constructed during the Bronze Age, reflects similarities of artwork created during that time. This sculpture by Giovanni Francesco Susini made of bronze, and positioned on a gilt bronze base represents the moment when the Trojan prince Paris abducted Helen, the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, and carried her off to Troy. The Greeks then responded by mounting an attack on the city, thus beginning the Trojan war. The grouping of the figures in this sculpture displays the influence of the Italian Mannerist sculpture of the 1600s. The artist Giovanni welded the three bronze figures together in an intensely dramatic composition, almost as if they were on a stage. Paris is grabbing Helen as she is struggling to free herself from his grasp. Beneath Paris lies a women servant who is protesting the capturing of Helen. Although the scene of the sculpture isn’t clearly shown in The Iliad, it is the basis for the plot of the poem, and the beginning of the Trojan War. Homer repeatedly speaks of Helen as being one of the core initiators of the war, “All you Argives flying home to your fatherland, tumbling into your oar-swept ships? Leaving Priam and all the men of Troy a trophy to glory over, Helen of Argos, Helen for whom so many Argives lost their lives in Troy, far from native land!”(2, 105, 203-7) Throughout much of the poem it discusses the fight Menelaus went through to try and retrieve Helen and the struggles of war he put his men through.
A Roman Intaglio gem set in a gold ring displays the image of a chariot rushing past the walls of a city. The image that is being depicted is the one in which the Greek hero Achilles drags the corpse of his Trojan opponent Hector behind his chariot around the city walls of Troy. The artist left out a crucial element in the carving- Hector’s dead body. Perhaps this is to symbolize the protection he received...