Friday, October 12, 2012

Size Matters, the new Statue of Juno in Boston

This magnificent statue of Juno was recently rediscovered in the Boston area, and is now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It is on display oddly enough in the large arched ceilinged hall where the Egyptian Old Kingdom sculptures are.  While incongruous now, the wall label informs us that the statue will remain where she is, "as the star of our future gallery dedicated to the gods, goddesses and heroes of ancient Greece and Rome."  It seems that the Egyptian collection is going to go into the new ground level galleries where already a good portion have been put, and this will become a gallery for classical sculptures.  Given the great effort made to install this sculpture here, they had to create a steel frame around the statue, and with a crane, lift it up and drop it through the skylight in order to put it in the gallery, I'm not surprised that here Juno will remain.

The museum label proudly proclaims that this is the largest Classical sculpture in any museum in the US, standing 13 feet tall (I would guess with the head but they don't say, it currently has been taken off for conservation, and is displayed next to the body) and weighs 13,000 pounds. In fact the museum's label states that this is one of the largest sculptures found in Rome, which I found a little unbelievable.  So I did a little research, looking up the Hercules Farnese, and the Flora Farnese, two of the largest Roman sculptures I know of.  And indeed, the newly rediscovered Juno is larger than both of them.  In person, all of this means little, the effect of this sculpture is monumental; Juno here is awesome, in the true meaning of the word.  And it is as beautifully carved a Roman sculpture as exists, the quality of this sculpture is very high.  The drapery is wonderfully carved with even the creases left where the robes had been folded for storage indicated. The forms of the body are quite evident under the garments, and Juno is here matronly, of large and impressive proportions, but not at all overweight, and gives the impression of great strength and substantiality.  Given the history of this statue, it has been the ornament of gardens for centuries, it is remarkably well preserved.

The history of the sculpture is interesting, as it was recorded as being in the Villa Ludovisi in 1633, and somewhere around 1900 it was purchased by a wealthy Bostonian woman, Mary Pratt Sprague, and brought to her estate in Brooklyn known as Faulkner Farm, where it was featured in the garden. Despite being exposed to the elements for centuries, the sculpture is crisp and relatively well preserved.  I am glad however that Juno is now safely inside a great museum where she can be seen by the public. 
 Here you see the statue of Juno in what is currently the Old Kingdom Egyptian Hall.  You get a sense of her scale in relation to the other sculptures and how she dominates the hall.

 Another view showing the beautifully carved drapery and the way it molds to the form of the body underneath.
 The statue with its head displayed separately.  The head is pretty good as well, although it seems more weathered than the body.

View of the back, which while not as well carved as the front as in antiquity it was intended to be seen from the front, it is still finished.

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