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Dear Nigel Konstam,

I was fortunate to watch the second installment of the fascinating TV program, "Athens: The Dawn of Democracy," on local PBS channel here in the US recently, and after seeing the segment where you were briefly interviewed I wanted to try and gather more information about the discussion regarding the theory you presented that live human models were used in ancient Greek times for their bronzes. In particular, I am still skeptical of the evidence as it was presented, but would like to hear more about your conclusions in this matter, if you would be kind enough to elaborate on them for me.

I contacted the Producer of the show, Timothy Copestake, and he forwarded me to you. I am also looking over the other site you have set up regarding your studies on Rembrandt, by the way, which is also very interesting reading. As for myself, I am not a sculptor, but a painter and student of Art History who has spent a great deal of time studying the art forms of this period.

The segment in the Athens TV program was very brief, unfortunately, but I think I got the gist of it. Based on your own experience with modelling sculpture, you can determine that the flattening of the soles of the feet gives a telling clue that they used human models, and this would not be the sort of thing a sculptor would add of their own accord. YES THE FEET ARE PERFECTLY MODELLED BUT BEARING WEIGHT. I think that is a fascinating point, but there are conflicting thoughts in my own mind I hope you can help me resolve which the show didn't cover.

From what I have read, many ancient "Greek" sculptures that exist now are in fact /copies/ of the originals, and were made at a later time period. I assume that the feet in the sculptures you studied and spoke of for the TV show were from original Greek sculptures, and not copies, correct? That point was not mentioned in the show. Although, I have been fortunate to have seen many of these sculptures in person at different museums around the world, I've never been quite certain that what I was looking at was actually touched by Greek artists before the age of Rome, circa 400-100 BCE or so. YES I AM SURE.


Another aspect of the statement on the TV show was to imply, as I heard it, that the artists of this period did not model their work by hand at all, but rather used shortcuts. NO, SEE BELOW. In truth, it seems we're only really talking about bronzes here, so in effect the show left out quite a bit from the whole discussion on this matter. In regards to the process of "lost wax" casting using plaster molds on living things, again I'm not greatly experienced in this technique as I'm certain you must be, but it occurs to me that there's a problem if we try to apply it to all known Greek bronzes. Many of the ones I've seen from this period in person and in photographic reproductions could not be easily cast in plaster, or not without more difficulty. There's a bronze in the Athens National Museum that I have seen, for example, of a young boy who was riding a horse. Although only pieces of the horse exists, it was also in bronze as I recall. Are we saying here they actually put plaster on a horse? I HAVE NOT SEEN THIS SINCE MY DISCOVERY SO I WILL ONLY SAY THAT ONCE YOU HAVE A SIMPLE POSE IN WAX YOU CAN MANIPULATE IT BY CUTTING AND TWISTING THE WAX TO THE DESIRED POSE. The figure of the boy is also in a pose which would be easier to sculpt by hand I would think. There are also many bronzes of figures dressed in fabric, draped tunics and the like, with intricate folds of the fabric that would need to be carved by hand. Many of them have very expressive faces, and tufts of curly hair, that I can also only imagine to be carved by hand. There's a famous bronze of a seated boxer in Athens IN ROME recall whose feet are not flat on the ground, but I wonder if the flesh around his posterior flattens out in the same affect that you call out on the feet of standing poses? NO I VERY MUCH DOUBT WHETHER THE MODEL FOR THIS SAT IN A POOL OF PLASTER, THE MOULD WOULD BE BUILT DIRECTLY ON HIS STOOL. THERE IS NO REASON WHY HE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN CAST HOWEVER ONE WOULD NEED TO EXAMINE IT FOR CLUES. In other words, is the bottom of his butt flat, if you know what I mean? PROBABLY BUT NOT IN BRONZE - HOLLOW.

There's another bronze in the Met in New York of a robed figure who happens to be wearing sandals, but it looks like there are carving marks on his feet, going by my memory. I BELIEVE THE GREEKS AND ROMANS WORKED OVER THEIR WAXES CONSIDERABLY. THERE ARE MANY PARTS OF THE FIGURES I HAVE MENTIONED WHICH HAVE BEEN RETOUCHED. HAIR AND FACES WOULD HAVE BEEN DONE BY HAND IN CLAY? OR WAX IN THE USUAL WAY, NOT CAST. So far, we've only been talking about Greek bronzes from this late Classic/Helenistic period. What about the marble sculptures from this time, like those from the Pergamum altar? They were definitely carved by hand, so where do the artists that created those works fit into this discussion? Did they not work in bronze? They certainly had great skill, so it seems to me they would be the first choice for all such projects. SPEAKING OF THE PARTHENON IT IS MY PERSONAL BELIEF THAT THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN GENERATED ORIGINALLY FROM CAST WAX, THEN MANIPULATED AS ABOVE AND FINALLY CARVED BY ARTISANS USING THE WAX ORIGINALS TO MEASURE FROM. WE DO THE SAME TODAY AND THE GREEKS KNEW HOW TO DO THIS. [see Blumel, "Greek Sculptors at Work"] NO PROOF AVAILABLE

Essentially, I am wondering to what extent have you researched this theory that human models were cast in plaster by the Greek artists of this time period? What exactly is your claim, if I may be so blunt? YOU MAY Timothy Copestake mentioned you've even written a book on the subject. Is that true? YES - "Sculpture, the Art and the Practice" SEE WEB-SITE Personally, I don't find it hard to believe that this method was used in some fashion. It actually makes much sense to me that they would, but not exclusively. EXACTLY WHAT I BELIEVE Having read historical studies of this period, I understand that quite a bit of the art at this time was sanctioned by the government, so having systems like this in place to make the production more foolproof to some extinct is sensible. It would make it more like a factory production by technical craftsmen. Artists throughout history have always used technology to assist them in some form or another. Also, their appreciation of physical beauty could be more directly involved here by their using the actual soldiers or Olympians themselves they so celebrated, as we might cast a sports superstar today. Nonetheless, there are times when the skilled hand of an artist is required, moments I'm sure you yourself are personally aware of.

Thank you for your attention. I hope you will have a few moments free to respond.

Sincerely, David Clemons

I HAVE ANSWERED EACH QUESTION IN CAPITALS AND BOLD. THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST. KEEP IN TOUCH, Do you mind if I use this letter on the web-site? It seems to cover everything, sincerely Nigel K

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