Home Open Arts Object: The Laocoon Group, Vatican Museums

Open Arts Object: The Laocoon Group, Vatican Museums

In this film, Dr Kathleen Christian discusses the Renaissance history of the ancient marble sculpture of Laocoön and his sons in the Vatican Museums. The group was made by Greek sculptors and displayed in the palace of the emperors in Rome in the first century AD.  After the fall of the Roman Empire, the statue lay buried underground for centuries, until 1506, when a farmer accidentally discovered it. News of the discovery spread through Rome and artists, including Michelangelo, were brought to witness its excavation. The film quotes from a key primary source: a letter which describes the moment when the artists saw the statue pulled from the ground. The only part of the group that was missing when it was excavated in 1506 was its right arm; remarkably, however, the arm was discovered in the twentieth century near the spot of its excavation, and is now reattached to the statue.

Transcript of film

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