Early Roman Empire   :|:   Document

Boat n°1 on Lansdowne relief

ref. : en.1760.2018 | 25 November 2018 | by Francis Leveque
sculpture | Second quarter of IIe century AD
Latium ( Italie )
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Frequently represented mythological scene, this version of Ulysses attached to his matt not to give in to the sirens lets feel a certain softness by its smooth treatment, in a light environment.

The Lansdowne Relief was unearthed in 1769 during excavations undertaken the site of the Emperor Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli, 120-138 AD, by the art dealer and archaeologist Gavin Hamilton, who sold it to Lord Lansdowne. It is now displayed in the Greek and Roman Gallery of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

This sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a dark grey limestone relief. It is beautifully decorated with scenes from Greek mythology, all of which are connected to the sea. From left to right (from the viewer’s perspective) we see Odysseus and the sirens; the wine god Dionysos conveying the gift of wine, in the form of a spreading grape vine, across the sea to Greece; and the Argonauts with the man-eating Stymphalian birds.

dimensions :
- height 56 cm,
- width 181.5 cm,
- depth 23cm

This first scene depicts Odysseus and the sirens. Odysseus was curious as to what the Sirens would sing to him and, following Circe’s instructions, plugged his men’s ears with beeswax and had them bind him to the mast of the ship.

So we can see the round ship with a strange triangular sail. The mat is rounded and held by 2 ropes, one towards the rear and the other towards the front. The top of the bow seems to end with a volute or a figure. The boat has no spur or taillemer. The stern is decorated with a gooseneck. On the plating are figured 4 oars whose appearance looks more like representations of rudders, which allows to question the knowledge of the artist.

An important part of this commentary is borrowed from the analysis of Carole Raddato