The Riace Bronzes: Warriors Rescued From the Sea

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On 21 and August 22, 1972 near the Ionian coast of Marina di Riace, the police and the men of the Archaeological Superintendence of Reggio Calabria made a spectacular recovery of two large bronze statues, buried for centuries under the sand of the sea bottom: from then on they were known as the Riace bronzes. The statues had been sighted six days before by Stefano Mariottini, a Roman chemist doing underwater fishing.

It was the first great mass phenomenon related to underwater archeology: ancient beauty seems to have an almost immediate impact in our time. The need for beauty is still connected to Greek culture, Greek beauty is still the most understandable; it was founded on nature with a strong intellectual foundation, the artists were also men expert in geometry and theoretical calculation.

The soil inside the statues was analyzed and it became clear that the so-called Bronze A - the younger one with the "nasty" air, teeth coated in silver, a peremptory look, a position turning to his right - had been cast in the city of Argos,The other statue, Bronze B (the older one) would instead be Amphiaraus, a warrior prophet who foresaw his own death beneath the walls of Thebes. Both in fact participated in the legendary expedition of the city of Argos against Thebes, which had a disastrous ending.

The bronzes have considerable muscle elasticity being in a position defined as "chiasmus" (from the Greek letter "chi"). More specifically, bronze A (the Young man) appears more nervous and vital, while bronze B (the Old man) seems more relaxed. The statues convey a remarkable sense of power, mainly due to the arms being strongly distanced from the body. The bent arm was certainly holding a shield, the other hand a weapon. Bronze B's head is oddly shaped and appears small because it allowed the placement of a Corinthian helmet. The right arm and the left arm of the B underwent a second welding, probably for a restoration in antiquity.
The study of the materials and casting technique reveals a certain difference between the two statues, which might be attributed to different artists or, if made by the same artist, to distinct periods or different places.

The first civilization capable of realism had used exaggeration to go further, and it's that instinct which still dominates our world today. The ancient Greeks cared about physical perfection, and so did Michael Angelo: he too created unrealistic bodies that were more than human, what artists chose to exaggerate was to express more than realism could."

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