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Lifesize+ Ancient Greek Bronze Sandaled Foot

Greece, probably Hellenstic period, ca. 323 to 31 BCE. This is a larger-than-life-sized foot from a statue, complete with the lead weights inside its hollow feet, using for stabilization of the statue atop a plinth. The sandal has incredible detail, with each strap delineated; the shape of the ankle is also a fine, realistic touch. Since it is a fragment, this piece also offers us a fantastic look at the art of creating these immense bronze statues. It was made using the indirect method of lost-wax casting. First, the artist created a master mold from either clay, wax, wood, or, occasionally, stone. Molds were taken in several pieces from this master and dried, then reassembled into groups in a manageable size. These were lined with a layer of beeswax. This foot is built around an iron armature (which you can just see as you look down at the ankle); this was placed into the mold and clay (which you can also see) was poured around it. The clay would be build up in two or three fine-to-coarser layers. Eventually the mold would be broken away from the bronze and discarded, with the master mold remaining for use if something went wrong with the bronze casting. The addition of the lead weights represented a revolution in design when it was introduced during the Classical Period: they enabled the creation of new, less rigid poses because the statue no longer would fall over unless posed in a way that balanced its weight. In the Hellenistic Period, bronze sculpture moved away from austere religious depictions into more realistic, human pieces. Although today all these bronze statues have their dark green, almost black patina, when they were made they would have had a tone roughly similar to that of Mediterranean skin; they were also decorated with inlays, and this foot probably once had inlaid toenails. Size: 12.5" L x 4" W x 10" H (31.8 cm x 10.2 cm x 25.4 cm)

When many people think of the statuary of ancient Greece, chances are that they picture the beautiful marble sculptures that grace our museums, many of them Roman copies of original and now lost Greek works of art. However, ancient sculptors preferred to work in bronze: it surpasses marble in its tensile strength and ability to depict detail. The people of ancient Greece were used to seeing bronze statues everywhere -- they were produced in the thousands: bronze statues of famous rulers and citizens alongside gods and heroes populated every public space, both secular and religious. Sculptors could be famous and highly successful; for example, Lysippos of Sikyon was Alexander the Great's favorite sculptor, made over 1500 bronze pieces. Unfortunately in the intervening millennia, most Greek bronze statues have been melted down for their metal or destroyed in other ways -- although today there are plinths with empty spaces for feet bearing Lysippos's name, none of his sculptures survive. Similarly, the Colossus of Rhodes, the largest bronze statue in the ancient world, was last heard of in AD 653. when its parts were sold to a merchant from Edessa and, the story goes, said to have been loaded onto 900 camels -- and never seen again, presumably melted down to make jewellery, coins, and weaponry.

Condition: This piece is a fragment; the foot has obviously been removed from a statue. Much of the fine detail of the sandal -- especially the straps -- remain.

Provenance: private New Jersey USA collection, acquired over twenty years ago

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