Monday, December 10, 2007

Most incredible thing I saw last week

Bronze head of a sacred Bull.
Roman, ca 1st Century A.D.
from Octodurus, in Switzerland.

This monumental bronze head is nearly two feet tall at least, and is displayed on a very tall pedestal giving it real majesty. On loan to the Metropolitan Museum from the Gallo-Roman Museum in Martigne Switzerland, this is apparently the finest Roman bronze found in Switzerland. What strikes me about it is that it looks Near Eastern and hardly looks Roman, the treatment of the hair on the forehead is so spiky, each lock is a pyramid, almost flame like, in a stylized non naturalistic manner more akin to Persian or early archaic Greek sculpture than Roman. It apparently had a third horn in the center of the forehead, as a marker of its sacred nature, as if the sheer energy of the piece did not already make that plain. It really is a beautiful and arresting sculpture and wonderful to see.

What strikes one about this head is the sense of the sacred found in nature, which the Romans never lost. They may have created one of human kinds greatest civilizations, with immense cities and huge public works, but they never lost their connection and reverence for the natural. This bull is very much an animal, but also a god, a being to be worshiped. We often forget this about Classical civilization instead focusing on their buildings and complex social structures and fascinating history; but they never ceased to be nature worshipers. Of course all that ended with Christianity, the enemy of nature.

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