November 12, 2013

Bronze Dancer

        It must have been some 25 years ago that I saw an exhibit of ancient Greek and Roman miniature bronzes.  There were assorted gods and warriors, athletes, politicians, and satyrs, and there was an elaborately dressed Hellenistic dancer only 8.5 inches tall.  I fell in love.  Around 17 years ago I encountered the dancer again, this time in a book about art forgery.  The author (whose name I couldn’t determine in a quick search today) claimed this little bronze dancer was a renaissance forgery.  His argument was that forgeries reveal themselves after a certain amount of time, when their ideals of beauty can be seen to conform to the styles of the period in which they were made.  Certainly my dancer’s dress looks to my amateur eye more renaissance than classical, although I’m no expert on ancient Alexandrine dance costumes.  (It’s undoubtedly these charges that account for the Metropolitan Museum of
Art’s wording in their description of the bronze: that she’s been “convincingly identified.”)  But I don’t really care when she was made or by whom.  The artist, whether Greek or Italian, whether 3rd century BCE or 16th century CE, has created a masterpiece of incredible beauty.  Its value to me is exactly the same either way.
        I had sketched the statuette at some point, and in looking through some folders of old sketches it occurred to me that all those folds and draperies might make an interesting subject for transformation to black and white - in other words, for a block print.  So I used my drawing as the design for another block to carve a week ago at Roslindale Open Studios.  I’m fairly pleased with how it came out.  It does, of course, raise that age-old thorny issue of originality.  I
don’t want to rehash what I’ve already said about this issue (visit this post for my primary discussion).  But it once again raises all those questions: Is this copying?  Have I made something sufficiently new and different?  Is this work truly mine?  What makes anything original when all art, all human endeavor, is influenced by what came before?
        I certainly won’t solve those problems, and there will always be differences of opinion and interpretation, not to mention legal issues of copyright, etc.  All I can say is that I saw something beautiful and wanted to make a piece of art to celebrate it.  Here it is.


[Pictures: Bronze Dancer, rubber block print by AEGN, 2013;
Bronze statuette of a veiled and masked dancer, anonymous, 3rd-2nd century BCE Greek (Images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art).]

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