Ganymede and the Eagle, Thorvaldsen

Ganymede and the Eagle, Thorvaldsen
Ganymede and the Eagle, Thorvaldsen

Since the middle of the 18th century and for a good part of the 19th century, the striking and ornate forms of the rococo aesthetic gave way to a current more rooted in the past, especially with the Greco-Roman aesthetic, where the forms they took up simpler and more purist models. It is not surprising that the philosophical currents of the Enlightenment gave way to new artistic conceptions in which rationality, the canon and the classical ideal of beauty prevailed in the field of plastic arts.


Two sculptors capture the new neoclassicist ideals like few others, one of them is the Italian Antonio Cánovas, the most outstanding figure of this century and another of them –whose figure has perhaps remained more shadowed or forgotten- is the author of the work that concerns us here Alber Bertel Thorvaldsen.

According to recent studies it seems that the origin of the sculptor is Danish although many art historians have placed his birthplace in Iceland; The sculptor must have been born in Copenhagen in the year 1770 and there he trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen where he achieved numerous successes. He obtained one of the coveted scholarships that allowed him to travel to Rome to meet the classical sculptors of the Renaissance. Thorvaldsen had numerous hits throughout his career and was one of the most celebrated artists of his time.

This time weWe find ourselves before a sculpture with a round shape that the artist has small dimensions (the piece does not even reach a meter in height, it only measures eighty-five centimeters) made of marble. It is a mythological sculpture that represents the cupbearer of the gods Ganymede giving drink to Zeus metamorphosed into an eagle, it is one of the stories extracted from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Thus it is narrated how the young Ganymede was a Trojan prince who was on Mount Ida when Zeus, the father of the gods, saw him and fell in love with him; then transforming himself into an eagle kidnapped the young man taking him to live on Olympus and making him the cupbearer of the gods.

In the sculpture of the neoclassicist author we see how Ganymede has been represented as a young boy, beardless and whose musculature has not yet developed, this is because on the mount Olympus, the place of residence of the gods, did not age. The boy appears crouched with one of his knees on the ground and completely naked, he only appears dressed in a typical Phrygian cap from Troy. In one of his hands he holds the amphora with the concoction while with the other he holds a bowl in front of an eagle from which it drinks.

The animal is large and powerful and the artist has taken special care in its representation, the plumage appears well defined and its upright body counteracts the volume of the crouching youth, thus In this way, symmetry is evident in the whole, showing us a very reasoned work.

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