Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Farnese Bull

The Farnese Bull

The Farnese Bull is a massive sculpture attributed to the Rhodian artists Apollonius of Tralles and his brother Tauriscus. We know this thanks to the writings of Pliny the Elder. He tells us it was commissioned at the end of the second century B.C. and carved from just one whole block of marble. It was imported from Rhodes, as part of the incredible collection of artwork and sculptures owned by Asinius Pollio, a Roman politician who lived during the years between the Republic and the Principate. It is widely considered the largest single sculpture ever recovered from antiquity.

This colossal marble sculptural group represents the myth of Dirce. She was tied to a wild bull by the sons of Antiope, Zeto and Amphion, who wanted to punish her for the ill-treatment inflicted on their mother, first wife of Lykos, King of Thebes.

Engravings such as this, dated 1633, made the image familiar.

It was found in 1546 in the Baths of Caracalla in Rome during excavations commissioned by Pope Paul III in the hope of finding ancient sculptures to adorn his Roman residence. It is now located at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli in Naples.

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