Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Narcissus in Berlin
I am no expert on Greco-Roman sculpture but regular readers will know I do have a bit of a thing for a finely carved piece of white marble. Berlin, where R and I have been on a break recently, is full of stunning statuary and nowhere more so than in the Altes Museum which houses the national collection of antiquities. The photos in this blog are of two statues that stand together in the museum, both interpreted as images of Narcissus. The top three photos are of the first statue, the bottom three of the second.
Precisely because I am no expert, one of the things it took me a long time to appreciate was how a single image, particularly of a divine or mythical subject would be portrayed using near identical iconography and an early masterpiece copied for centuries. Hence these two statues, though they both derive from Rome in the second century AD, are actually copies of works whose original would have been first carved in about 400BC - for six hundred years, this is how Narcissus looked. It it something of a challenge to our modern notions of creativity. So similar did these iterations become that there are in fact three statues here: the bottom three photos show a statue in which the body and the head have been 'married' from two separate versions (a marriage done in Berlin in the 20th century) and looking all the more seamless for the similarity of all versions of this image.