Laokoon – The ideal of the father-figure

Laokoon – The ideal of the father-figure

Even the small ten-year pupil who ascended the steps of the humanistic high school of Katharineum to Lübeck to the art classroom coined in the stair hall the gigantic marble group of Laokoon as an ideal image of Greek art in his subsequent consideration of the ancient world. Even Michelangelo when he saw for the first time the masterpiece after excavations in the Coliseum to Rome could only give his admiring expression with the enthusiastic comment: „This is the greatest piece of art of all times.“

According to mythology the sculpture shows the priest Laokoon from Troy with his both sons in the death struggle against two snakes. After the legend the Roman poet Vergil in the Aeneid Laokoon warned his compatriots against the wooden horse in whom the Greeks kept themselves hidden to let them in their town . Because by his warning the plan of the gods of Troy could be thwarted, Athene sent out as the Greeks well-disposed goddess two sea monsters in the shape of snakes to the punishment of Laokoon and his sons by strangle.

From the three sculptors Hagesandro, Polydoros and Athanodoros of Rhodes approx. 25 BC created sculpture is preserved only a later marble copy. They found the group 1506 during excavations in the Baths of emperor Titus near the Coliseum in Rome in the presence of Michelangelo. Even today the sculpture is in the Vatican museum of the pope in Rome.

In the late Hellenistic sculpture the moment is banned in a most impressive manner, where Laokoon is bitten in the hip by one of the snakes in the agony of rebels, while the younger son hangs dying in the bends of the other snake and the older one tries to escape from the snares of the first attempt and being dismayed at the death of his father and brother.

The Laokoon group in its extraordinary drama has excited since then repeatedly the admiration of posterity. Thus, for example Lessing, in his study of the sculpture with the the title:“ Laokoon or about the borders of the painting and poetry“ (1766) . In its he states the doctrine of the terrible moment, i.e. the moment of the highest tension which the sculptor has to choose, but may exceed that of the poet. Moreover, Goethe and above all Winckelmann dealt in especially decisive works with the special aesthetics of this wonderful piece of art. Particularly Winckelmann since then was considered as founder of the art history and father of the classical period of German literature. His special passion for the Laokoon group is expressed in the following quotation:

“ Laokoon was to the artists in ancient Rome precisely what he is to us: finally, the Polyklet`s rule, a perfect rule of art“ The generally superior feature of the Greek masterpieces is a noble simplicity and a quiet size, both in the position as in the expression. Just as the depth of the sea remains all time calm, the surface may still raging so well the expression in the figures of the Greeks with all passions sets a great and sedate soul. This soul describes itself in the face of Laokoon. The pain, which reveals itself in all muscles and tendons of the body, without looking in the the face and other parts of the painfully drawn abdomen, almost believes to feel himself expresses itself with no anger in the face and in the whole position.

The pain of body and the greatness of soul are distributed by the whole construction of the figure with the same strength and are weighed as it were. Laokoon suffers, but he suffers like the Sophokles Philoktetes; his misery goes to us, but we wish us to be able to endure like this great man misery.“

At the present time transfer, which is often in the absence of a real father-figure of a reminder, Laokoon just can be found outside in his desperate agony and heroic efforts for his both adolescent sons as an admirable father- model. This can be emphasized beside all art-historical and aesthetic aspects, and be particularly subject to these male virtues of courage and determination as exemplary.



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