Crawford Art Gallerypermanent collection

Laocoon and His Sons
Laocoon and His Sons
c. 1816
Greek School
Plaster cast from the roman copy in the Vatican Museum
240 x 141 x 83 cm


Presented to the Cork Arts Society in 1819, hence transferred from the Royal Cork Institution c. 1849.
The Laocoon group depicts the Trojan priest of Apollo and his sons suffering the wrath of Poseidon for having warned the city of Troy against accepting the wooden horse of the Greeks, a warning that led Aeneas to flee the doomed city and go on to found Rome. In Pliny the Elder’s Natural History there is a description of such a sculpture, carved on the island of Rhodes around 40 B.C. by three artists, Hagesandros, Polydoros and Athenodoros.

According to Pliny, it was destined for the palace of Titus, and indeed on 14 January 1506 this sculpture was unearthed in the ruins of the so-called Baths of Titus, in the vineyard of one Felice de’ Freddi. However, this sculpture is now thought to be a Roman copy of the late Hellenistic original described by Pliny.

When discovered, the group was in pieces, with parts of the serpents’ coils and the three right arms of the figures missing. It was inaccurately restored by Giovanni da Montorsoli in the 16th century and these restorations are faithfully preserved in the Crawford cast, which was made around 1816 by Canova in the Vatican Museum. In 1905 a German archaeologist, Ludwig Pollock, discovered the missing arm of Laocoon in a Roman marble-cutter’s shop and the original has since been restored more correctly.

Plaster Casts by Antonio Canova
Italian School

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