THE RIACE BRONZES. The artistic vision of Luigis Spina
The so-called “Riace Bronzes” are two sculptures of Greek origin dated to around the middle of the 5th century BC. They were found in the sea in 1972 near Riace Marina in the province of Reggio Calabria (Italy).
The two sculptures are considered among the most significant sculptural masterpieces of Greek art and among the direct testimonies of the great master sculptors of the classical era. They are currently on display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Reggio Calabria, in whose institution, city and region they have become a universal cultural symbol.
To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of their discovery, the renowned Italian photographer Luigi Spina has come face to face with these two masterpieces of classical art and offers us a tour through images that allows us to perceive the multiple nuances of their extraordinary humanity and beauty.
Presented at the MAC as part of the events to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Centre for Underwater Archaeology of Catalonia (CASC) and in parallel with the “Shipwrecks. Submerged History” exhibition, the sculptures remind us of the extraordinary wealth of our Mediterranean underwater heritage and the crucial need to protect it.
THE AGE OF THE HEROES
The statues are traditionally referred to as the Riace Bronzes A and B or the Younger and Elder, respectively. They are two naked male figures, standing and slightly larger than life (1.98 and 1.97 m), which we can imagine were originally completed with a shield, a raised Corinthian helmet and a spear (that unfortunately were not found).
The Riace bronzes were created using the lost-wax casting technique. Models of the various parts of the statue were made from a mixture of clay supported on iron bars. Wax sheets (of the desired thickness for the bronze) were spread over them and modelled by the artist down to the smallest detail they wished to reproduce on the metal. The wax was covered with a layer of refractory clay (the mantle) and then melted, allowing it to flow out through special tubes. In this way a hollow space was left between the clay mantle and the inner core. Molten bronze was poured into this space and the imprint left by the wax was reproduced in the metal. Finally, after the bronze had cooled, the outer layer was removed. The different pieces thus obtained were welded together and the final touches and appliques were added to give the finished work.
Analyses of the foundry soil sampled during the restoration of the two statues provided valuable information about the possible area in which the Riace bronzes had been made. The highest correspondences pointed to the Argos area, especially for the Bronze B smelting soil, although Attica and Euboea cannot be completely ruled out.
Thus we are looking at two masterpieces from the great Greek bronzes of the 5th century BC.
THE VISION OF LUIGI SPINA
Luigi Spina (b. 1966) is a renowned Italian photographer who is passionate about classical antiquity. His main fields of research are amphitheatres, the civic sense of the sacred, the links between art and faith, ancient cultural identities, and the comparison with classical sculpture, among other topics linked to archaeology and ancient art. His guiding thread is the search for beauty; a beauty that has always been fleeting and temporary. A beauty that, however, is mythical and regenerative in terms of the transience of human life and the fragility of human certainties.
He has published more than 22 books of personal research and has undertaken prestigious photographic campaigns for institutions and museums. His work has been exhibited in numerous museums in Italy and around the world, either permanently or in temporary exhibitions.
In his photographic study of the Riace Bronzes, Luigi Spina captures all the beauty of the nudity of these two masterpieces from antiquity. In his own words “the aim is to create a dialogue with the classical that exhibits its own transversal strength and is not at all anachronistic. The purpose of my photography is to highlight the contexts. The Riace Bronzes have lost their context and now they belong to everybody and nobody at the same time. It is now up to the photographer to offer contemporaneity”.