Hebe by Thorvaldsen

Hebe by Thorvaldsen
Hebe by Thorvaldsen

This is a work that clearly exemplifies the characteristics of the art of this Danish sculptor. Bertel Thorvaldsen represented Hebe twice, once in 1806 (the one we see here) and another ten years later. And both marbles are kept in the museum named after the artist at Copenhagen.


Thorvaldsen's Hebe

Hebe was the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Her function was to serve her parents, and above all she was the cupbearer of the gods. That is why we see her here in the attitude of pouring a glass of wine. To do thisThorvaldsenshows us his enormous culture overclassical Greece, since each element that he represents is based on archaeological models. In other words, she wears a kylix, which is the bowl where the wine was poured, and she wears it in the typical ceramic bottle, called oinoko. In turn, the girl is dressed as are all the female sculptures of the early classicism. Actually, the figure can easily remind us of those of Phidias for the Parthenon in Athens.

By the way, this spirit of archeology in neoclassical art, also carried over into fashion, and for a time women in the early 19th century wore clothes very similar to this one, with high waists and long pleats.

As for the representation itself, we can compare it to the Hebe made by the other great sculptor of neoclassical art, the Italian Antonio Canova.

WithoutWithout a doubt, the Dane is a much more formal and submissive figure. While Canova's seems more rowdy. There are two explanations for this. In the first place because the Danish sculptor was much more rigid in his formal approaches, while the Italian was able to take the classical spirit but give it more life.

But on the other hand you have to look for the explanation at the moment or the aspect of Hebe that both want to show. Thorvaldsen seems to focus more on the servile aspect of the girl, which was one of her traits, a girl brought up to faithfully serve her elders, as she befits a virtuous young woman. However, Canova seems to be more interested in another aspect of the myth of Hebe, since the girl had the primary obligation to serve the wine well, however she once tripped and spilled it on Zeus, for which she was punished. An episode that would come to represent the most crazy and unconscious aspect of youth, which acts without considering the consequences.

In fact, when in the 19th century the ancient myths of Greece or Rome are taken up with such force, they are done for an aesthetic interest, but there is always another exemplary motivation, and here we see two versions and visions of the same character.

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