The trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art had a vast collection of artwork that intrigued me in finding art of the western tradition before the Renaissance. However, the Bronze Statue of the emperor Trebonianus Gallus was an extraordinary artwork that caught my eye immediately. This statue is located in Gallery 169 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has an Accession Number of 05.30. The bronze statue is dated back to the Imperial Period from around 251 to 253 A.D. It’s classified as being from the Roman culture and has a medium of bronze.
The bronze statue is impressively large towering over you. The artist who created this bronze statue remains unknown. The statue portrays Treboniaus Gallus, he was an emperor in A.D. 251-253. The statue had a great influence on many people of Rome during the 3rd century. This statue is one of the very few almost complete statues that remain standing today. The statue has preserved well with at least three-quarters of the statue being ancient.
The statue was kept in good condition and has received modern restoration such as the mantle draping over his left shoulder. However, cast edges beneath were visible and aided for a proper and accurate restoration of the statue. The statue was found near the church of San Giovanni, Laterano, Rome. “The statue was excavated, in fragments, in Rome in the early nineteenth century, in a vineyard near the basilica of Saint John Lateran” (Hemingway et al. 114). It was kept at the collection of Count Nikolai Nikitich Demidov at Rome until 1828.
Then it was held by Anatole Nikolaevich Demidov, later Prince of San Donato, Rome and St. Petersburg until 1852. The statue was moved to Rollin & Feuardent, Paris after 1858. Finally, this art piece was sold in 1905 from Pottier & Co., Paris
The statue is impressively big. It is not to scale. The statue towered over me and has dimensions of 91 inches (241.3cm) according to metmuseum.org which is approximately 7.9 feet nearly 8 feet tall. The artist intentionally created such a tall statue as it depicts a clear example of hierarchical scale. Hierarchical scale is a technique in which the artist uses an unnatural scale to portray the importance of that figure in their artwork. The statue appears very serious, heroic, and nude which suggests being an important Roman emperor. The height of this statue can also convey his power. The statue is naked but has a shawl across his shoulder and is wearing sandals that appear decorative and detailed. The figure has its hand in the air pointing with a finger suggesting the Gallus was giving an important political speech to his audience. It’s clear the artist wants the statue to portray leadership and military strength. But even appearing powerful, he looks like he’s concerned and wants to do what’s best for his people. The statue is constructed to have a very strong and built body, one would call this idealized. The upper and lower body look very big, muscular and unproportional to his head. With that being said, the face does not look idealized. Rather it looks rough, brutal, and constructed with flaws such as wrinkles, small lips, etc. The wrinkles make him look old but with an aged emperor comes knowledge and experience in life. The expression of the sculpture looks very wise and serious. This was constructed in this way in order to show how brutal and heroic this Roman Emperor appears. The flaws also give the bronze statue realism and add to its emotion. The figure looks very confident, strong, and intimidating. All features that represent the qualities of a good respectable leader.
This bronze statue is much different compared to other statues created during the classical time period as it’s very disproportional. This is an uncommon statue when you compare it to many idealized figures for the time. “Scholars have come up with assumptions and interpretations of the statue to be so large in size because emperor Gallus was to represent how a soldier-emperor would look in 3rd century Rome” (Liang). The statue had a big influence on the Roman soldiers that would observe it. They can visualize his history as being an emperor by his facial features and idealized body. This representation of the human body can empower soldiers to strive for greatness and strength. This work of art can truly depict the importance and strength of Romes military and culture.
The Bronze Statue of the emperor Trebonianus Gallus is composed of bronze. Bronze is an alloy primarily made of copper with around 12% of tin also involving other metals such as aluminum, magnesium, nickel or zinc. Over time the statue turned green due to water reacting with the copper. This is known as a process of oxidation. The green layer is called a patina. Copper that is exposed to elements undergoes reactions that result in a pale green outer layer. The patina protects the copper from resulting in further corrosion. Knowing this, it is clear how the statue was able to survive and preserve so well throughout the years until this day and age. The bronze statue has various shades/tones of green, mostly dark green with lighter green areas spread throughout the statue. The statue displays space that takes up most space vertically as the height of the statue is what really draws you in and is most noticeable when first viewing it. The statue was designed so that it can be viewed from all sides but its main focus is intended to be looked at the front of it. The knees and elbows look very boney stick out a little as the rest of his body is more smooth. The purpose of this statue may be to symbolize the emperor’s power and strength to the people of Rome. However, due to the statue being nude it may be in an exclusive building or even his house.
Trebonianus Gallus was born in Italy and had a career in politics and the military. He was made governor of the Roman province in 205 A.D. The emperor at the time Decius and his son Herennius Etruscus died in the Battle of Abrittus. As a result, Gallus was appointed emperor. The reign of Gallus was very eventful and troublesome as he had problems with the Goths and a plague that wiped out most of the empire including his co-emperor. The Goths soon broke their treaty with Gallus by invasions. However, Gallus had a bigger fear, the Aemilianus heavily defeated the Goths and soon invaded Italy and advanced towards Rome. The support for Gallus had quickly fallen and his own soldiers murdered him and his son. The reign of Gallus was very problematic and short.
To conclude the Bronze Statue of the emperor Trebonianus Gallus was a very significant statue for the time. It was well crafted with heavy meaning behind the art. The statue represents the emperor’s strength in political influence at a very problematic time period for the Roman empire. The statue was created with bronze, and age well with some restoration. The statue also portrays hierarchical scale, the use of space to draw in the spectator, the use of an idealized body but realism to the face, and detail in order to visualize the short but influential reign of Gallus in third century Rome.