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Decorative reliefs from a cuirass

 

Height: 6.500 inches
Height: 6.500 inches

GR 1833.4-22.1-2 (Bronze 285)

Room 73: Greeks in Italy

    Decorative reliefs from a cuirass

    Western Greek, about 390-340 BC
    Perhaps made in Taranto, Italy; found in the river Siris in southern Italy

    Amazons and Greeks in battle

    These two embossed bronze reliefs probably formed part of the decoration of the shoulder straps of a cuirass (upper body armour). Similar reliefs, usually hammered into shape over a former, were used to decorate furniture, chariots, horse-trappings, metal vessels and circular bronze mirror covers. The hinges at the top of these two reliefs were originally attached to the armour with metal pins.

    The theme of conflict - the battle between the Amazons and the Greeks - is appropriate for a piece of armour. Both the modelling of the figures and the transparent drapery of the Amazons recalls contemporary sculpture in marble. Amazonomachy scenes (scenes of Amazons fighting Greeks) were extremely popular during the fourth-century BC, and were a recurring theme on architectural friezes. One of the reliefs has a vivid scene of a helmeted Greek using his knee to force down an Amazon. Both the participants hold shields, and another lies on the floor beneath them. Beneath the Amazon's legs is a lion-skin of the type usually worn by Herakles who, in some versions of the myth, fights alongside the Greeks. The background is filled with billowing cloaks which enhance the fast-moving and violent action. The other, less well-preserved piece, shows the same scene but with the figures reversed.

    C. Rolley, Greek bronzes (London, Sotheby's Publications / Chesterman Publications, 1986)

    G.M.A. Richter, A handbook of Greek art (London, Phaidon, 1996)

    L. Burn, The British Museum book of G-1, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

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    On display: Room 73: Greeks in Italy

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