The Poseidon of Artemision is an ancient Greek bronze statue. The statue was made around 460 BC, possibly by the famous sculptor Calamis, although this is far from certain and there are more candidates.
The statue is on display in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens (inv. no. 15161).
History of the Artemision Bronze statue
The statue was found in a Roman shipwreck in the sea near Cape of Artemision, in northern Euboea. In 1926, the first part of the statue, an arm, was found. In 1928, the rest of the body was discovered. Because the ship in which the statue was transported had been shipwrecked in ancient times, the statue was spared destruction.
Indeed, many bronze statues were melted down at the end of antiquity. The statue was thoroughly restored and displayed in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. It is one of the few ancient bronze statues still on display today.
Sculpture style of Artemision Bronze
The statue was made at the beginning of the classical period (500 BC-300 BC) and belongs to the "severe style" (500 BC-450 BC) of Ancient Greek sculpture. In the severe style, many of the features of the archaic period disappear. However, the sculptures in this style still remain frontal and with few details. They appear more natural.
A gradual transition to more movement is already noticeable. This movement is particularly noticeable in the freer position of the legs and the disappearance of symmetry in the shoulders and flanks. In the classical period, the contrapost gets its development. This posture also provides additional movement in the image.
The arms are also no longer tightly positioned next to the body and the hands are more open. The archaic smile that occurs in the archaic period has completely disappeared in the classical period. In this period, athletes, heroes or gods were the main subjects. Humans were represented in the sculptures with ideal proportions.
The statue of Artemision Bronze
The statue is about 2.09 m high and 2.10 m wide and probably represents a naked god or athlete. One is not sure who is being represented. It is thought to be the Greek sea god Poseidon, who is about to throw his trident into his right hand. A second theory is that the Greek supreme god Zeus is depicted throwing his thunderbolt.
A third theory is that it is a Greek athlete, throwing his spear. This last theory finds little support. In particular, the first and second theories are the most widely used. Art historians support their theory by referring to the writings and by comparing other images. Poseidon and Zeus have many similarities in this regard. They both have a broad chest, long drooping locks and brilliant eyes.
The only difference is that Poseidon has more angular facial features and a slightly more confused head of hair. In ancient representations, Poseidon did not hold his trident horizontally unlike Zeus who held a lightning bolt horizontally in his arm. Some art historians are therefore also convinced that the statue represents the god Zeus. Archaeologists and art historians are still debating this.
The statue is in the same style as the Wagenmenner of Delphi. However, there is already a big difference between the Wagenmenner of Delphi and the Poseidon of Artemision. The statue of Poseidon represents the ultimate strength of man. The whole body is tense and is a fine example of the perfect ideal.
The legs and arms are more open and are in complete balance with the shoulders. The sculpture rests on the heel of the bent left leg and the right leg is also slightly bent. The sculpture exudes both tranquility and dynamism. The curls and the hair tied in a braid on the head show a fine and beautiful detailing.
The material from which the (vanished) eyes consisted is uncertain, probably iron, stone or some kind of bones. The eyebrows were made of silver and the lips and nipples of red copper.
The statue was cast according to the bronze casting technique of ancient Greece. To manufacture the statue, a three-dimensional impression was made of the various parts of the statue in a casting mold. The parts were joined together by mechanical techniques such as riveting and welding.