Listen to an audio description written especially for blind and partially sighted visitors
Or you can download the mp3
3 minutes, 34 seconds

Wax model of the Laocoon

Probably French, late 17th or first half of the 18th century

The group depicts Laocoon, a Trojan prince and priest of Apollo, and his two sons. According to legend, they tried to stop the Trojans from opening the city gates to the Greeks' gift of a wooden horse, but were killed by serpents from the sea.

The model is a copy of a late Hellenistic (Greek) marble of the group, now in the Vatican Museum. This was rediscovered in Rome in January 1506, causing immense excitement. It was bought by Pope Julius II who had it displayed in the Belvedere with other sculptures considered to represent the essence of Greek idealistic art. It remained there until it was taken to Paris in 1798, having been ceded to the French in the Napoleonic wars. After Napoleon's defeat, the marble returned to Rome in 1816.

For several centuries the Laocoon group ranked with the Apollo Belvedere as one of the finest surviving sculptures from the ancient world. Copies of the Laocoon group were made in all sizes and media, often bronze, but this fine red beeswax copy is very unusual. It is uncertain exactly when it was made or for whom, but in May 1758 the collector and antiquary Thomas Hollis (1720-74) presented it to the British Museum.

Find in the collection online

More information

Bibliography

K. Sloan (ed.), Enlightenment. Discovering the (London, The British Museum Press, 2003)

F. Haskell and N. Penny (eds.), Taste and the Antique: The Lur (Yale University Press, 1922)

Dimensions

Length: 30.000 cm

Museum number

P&E MLA 1758,5-5.1

MCN20360

Gift of Thomas Hollis, 1758

Location

Find in the collection online



Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore