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The Porticello Bronzes Once Again

The Porticello Bronzes Once Again

Approximately 20 fragments of bronze statuary were recovered in the 1970s from a wreck off the coast of Calabria near the village of Porticello, but only one of these pieces, the long-bearded head of an elderly man (P1), has attracted scholarly attention because of its pronounced realism. A second male head (P2) was smuggled abroad almost immediately upon recovery. It had remained unknown until it was returned to Italy from Basel, Switzerland, in 1993; but after the first announcements, it received scant official mention, and doubts have even been expressed about its connection with the other bronzes from the Porticello wreck. It is here argued that such connection can be proved on the basis of stylistic and technical evidence, which should place both heads ca. 430–420 B.C.E. In addition, the idealized features of the head from Basel (P2) confirm that even the previously known “philosopher” from Porticello (P1) does not portray a known personage, but rather a fictional character such as a mythological being or an epic hero. The bronzes from the wreck, which include some athletic nude males, should be examined together before a proper assessment is attempted.

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The Porticello Bronzes Once Again

By Brunilde S. Ridgway

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 114, No. 2 (April 2010), pp. 331–342

DOI: 10.3764/aja.114.2.331

© 2010 Archaeological Institute of America