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The Ludovisi “Suicidal Gaul” and his wife: bronze or marble original, Hellenistic or Roman?

  • Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway (a1)


From 1981 to 2002, in various lectures and writings, I presented my suggestion about the “Roman” conception of the Ludovisi Suicidal Gaul, without eliciting positive responses. What has prompted me to re-open this issue after the passing of so many years? Perhaps the catalyst was a major exhibition — Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World — held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from April 18 to July 17, 2016, together with its impressive catalogue. There, an essay by M. Papini reviewed present knowledge about the victory dedications of the Attalids and the stone bases for them erected at Pergamon within the precinct of Athena Nikephoros. Although admitting that certainty was impossible and that serious difficulties existed about previously attempted reconstructions, he reproduced two drawings that showed the Ludovisi Gaul atop the large cylindrical monument as well as on the long rectangular pedestal “leaving aside [other] improbable attempts … and even more the interpretation of the marble pieces as Roman works evoking Pergamon ‘in the grand manner’.” The Ludovisi Gaul was not part of the New York exhibition. Its companion piece, the Dying Gaul collapsing on a broken trumpet, did receive a catalogue entry (by E. Polito) that reiterated the difficulty of visualizing the original placement. Yet these two Gauls (the “Trumpeter” and the Ludovisi Gaul) have joined the sculptures from the Pergamon Great Altar as virtual touchstones for our understanding of Pergamene style even though they may not be “Greek” at all, let alone Pergamene.


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Journal of Roman Archaeology
  • ISSN: 1047-7594
  • EISSN: 2331-5709
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-roman-archaeology
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