Dying niobid in Munchen glyptotek inspired renaissance artists

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There is probably only one thing more tragic than a parent losing a child and that is a parent losing all his or her children all at once.

I guess that is why in art you almost always see Niobe either on her own or you see the slaughtering of her children as a group, but in the glyptotek in Munich they have just one dying niobid.

Its an old one from the 1st CE and even when it was made it was already classic, because we see the same figure in a collection of niobids in the Uffizi and in Villa Medici.

When you see the niobids being slaughtered in a group its natural to focus on the terror and on the impact it must have had on their parents, especially the mother, but when we see just one we get a chance to see the niobid more as an individual. Much of that has to do with the posture of the statue. One arm stretched out, unable to protect himself against his attackers and the other hand just barely covering his tummy. He is naked, vulnerable and he is quite literally exposed. He is not even able to protect his manhood.

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The hair looks really realistic and the face and the proportions of the body are just spot on, which is amazing when you think of how old the statue is by now. And yeah hes a bit battered. The feet are gone and his hands and manhood are damaged, but otherwise he’s in remarkable good condition.It’s easy to see it would have been even prettier when it was complete. Here you see a version of the dying niobid in the glyptotek in Munchen where the feet, hands and the plinth are restored the way the artist originally intended it.

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But the best thing of the statue is the body language. That is the thing that other artists have tried to capture in later art works. It was again a gap of centuries between when these statues were made (1st or 2nd century BC) and when renaissance artists started interest again in the 16th century.

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Florentine artist, 15th century.

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Umbrian artist after the Roman Dying Niobid today held in Munich (Glyptothek). Circa 1500.

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Amico Aspertini, 1505-1507. Bologna, Oratorio di Santa Cecilia.

Here we see a sketch by an artist that inserts the dying niobid in a completely different setting, a story about a saint. But its still easy to recognise that he took his inspiration from the dying niobid of the glyptotek in munchen. (He’s in the foreground).

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Sketch by Maarten van Heemskerk, 1532-1537, Wellington, National Art Gallery.

Here the artist scribbled a lot of different things, but in the upper corners you can see the dying niobid in slightly different angles.

Maybe he used those to prepare for this view of the cortile of Palazzo Maffei with the collection of antique statues. On the lower left side you can see the reproduction of the dying Niobid today held in Munich (Glyptothek).

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Maarten van Heemskerk, 1532-1537, Berlin Kupferstichkabinett.


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Aspertini sketchbook c. 1535, British Museum, London.

Here we see the dying niobid in the bottom left corner.


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French, Raymond Le Plat, 1733.

Here Raymond Le Plat placed Cleopatra (upper image) in an almost similar pose as the son of Niobe (bottom image).

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Graphite on paper, Eugene de la Croix, 19th century. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Here you can see the dying niobid in the middle.

Even though none of the artworks inspired by the dying niobid of munchen glyptotek are world famous I think they are still pretty to look at. Its interesting to be able to compare the sketches of the same subject but done by different artists. And its fun to imagine that these artists used this work to practice their skills and become better artists and that some of them incorporated them in their own art work in new contexts.

Schönen abend liebe freunde, Hilde



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