Αρχική > πολιτισμός > The top 10 ancient Greek artworks / The 10 best disputed artworks

The top 10 ancient Greek artworks / The 10 best disputed artworks

Red-figured stamnos (jar) showing Odysseus and the Sirens.

The Siren Vase, Red-figured stamnos (jar) showing Odysseus and the Sirens


The top 10 ancient Greek artworks


From rare bronzes found in the sea to goddesses that proved a millennium ahead of their time, ancient Greek art is majestic, vital and full of high drama

Sculpture of a fallen warrior from the Greek temple of Aphaia at Aegina, 6th century BC.

Sculpture of a fallen warrior from the temple of Aphaia at Aegina. Photograph: Print Collector/Getty Images Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Jonathan Jones, Guardian, Thursday 14 August 2014

Fallen Warrior from Temple of Aphaia (c 480-470BC)

There is a tragic pathos to this mighty sculpture of a dying hero from a temple on the Greek island of Aegina. Tragedy is a Greek concept. The tragedies of Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus are still performed. This statue shows a strong man fallen, heroic to his last breath.

The Pergamon altar (180-160BC)

Pergamon Altar. Athena against the giant Alcyoneus.

Pergamon Altar. Athena against the giant Alcyoneus. Photograph: Phas/UIG via Getty Images

Classical Greek art changed rapidly as Greece itself went through wars and imperial transformations. In what is called the Hellenistic age it became much more emotional, sensual and even sensationalist. The furious sculptures on the Pergamon altar – which can be seen in its own museum in Berlin – are full of passion and psychological drama.

The Riace bronzes (460-420BC)

One of the two Riace bronzes: the Warrior

One of the two Riace bronzes: the Warrior Photograph: Alinari Archives/Alinari via Getty Images

These tremendous statues found in the sea off southern Italy in 1972 are important because so few original Greek bronze statues survive. Most of the classical nudes in museums were carved in marble in the Roman era, as reproductions of such rare, and now largely lost, originals. Here we see the true majesty of Greek art in its classical age, which occurred in the fifth-century BC.

Goddesses from the east pediment of the Parthenon (c 438-432BC)

Three goddesses from east pediment of the Parthenon

Three goddesses from east pediment of the Parthenon. Photograph: ©The Trustees of the British Museum

Sitting and reclining in graceful unison, these goddesses carved in marble for the Parthenon in Athens are among the most beautiful and mysterious images of the human form ever created. Incredibly, the artist makes the draperies that cover their bodies as real and richly textured as similar garments painted by Leonardo da Vinci a millennium later – and who didn’t have to produce his illusions in stone. These are dream goddesses.

Marble metope from the Parthenon (c 447-438BC)

Metope from Parthenon, battle between Centaurs and Lapiths

Metope from Parthenon, battle between Centaurs and Lapiths. Photograph: DEA/G Nimatallah/De Agostini/Getty Images

Violence is a favourite theme of ancient Greek artists. Reared on the myth of the Trojan war and experiencing the reality of wars with Persia and between Greek cities, classical artists found new ways to show conflict. This human fighting a centaur, carved for the Parthenon in Athens, is astonishingly real in its detail and dynamic energy.

God from the sea, Zeus or Poseidon (c 470BC)

A bronze sculpture of the god Zeus, or possibly Poseidon

A bronze sculpture of the god Zeus, or possibly Poseidon Photograph: Archive Photos/Getty Images

This majestic bronze, found in the sea off Greece, conveys the magic of Greek mythology. The god – probably Zeus, lord of Olympus himself – is caught in the act of hurling a thunderbolt. His body is charged with divine power, and yet, it is a human body, neither colossal nor ethereal but the mirror of ourselves. The Greek gods are human, all too human, and their petty squabbles cause wars and sorrow in the world.

The Siren vase (480-470BC)

The Siren Vase

The Siren vase. Photograph: © Trustees of the British Museum

In Homer’s Odyssey, one of the founding epics of Greek literature, Odysseus longs to hear the seductive yet dangerous song of the sirens that lure sailors to their deaths. So all his crew plug their ears, and Odysseus has himself lashed to the mast. This powerful painting captures the tension as Odysseus strains at his bonds, his whole body agonised, his head raised in rapt listening.

The Motya charioteer (c 350BC)

The Motya Charioteer

The Motya charioteer. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

This is one of the most startling Greek statues to survive, and highly revealing about the erotic charge of the Greek nude. This youth is not technically nude, but wears a tight-fitting garment that instead of hiding his body, heightens every contour. Greek statues are portraits of human beauty that are meant to be arousing as well as noble. This athlete poses in sensual triumph.

The Dionysus Cup by Exekias (c 540BC)

Dionysus, god of wine and madness, sails on his boat, surrounded by dolphins, in this delightful painting. Part of the fascination of Greek art is that its themes were taken up by artists down the centuries, as the myths of this culture were constantly being rediscovered. So this image of Dionysus can be compared with later portrayals of the wine god by Titian, Michelangelo, or Cy Twombly.

Mask of Agamemnon (1550-1500BC)

Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. Gold funerary mask

Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. Gold funerary mask. Photograph: Universalimagesgroup/Getty Images

When the enthusiastic, romantically minded archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered this golden mask at Mycenae in 1876, he had no doubt that it must be the death mask of Agamemnon himself, the king who led the Greeks in the Trojan war, only to be assassinated on his homecoming. Of course there’s no proof of that, but it is one of the most compelling faces in art.


The 10 best disputed artworks

As Greek efforts to reclaim the Parthenon Marbles receive a boost from Amal Clooney, Laura Cumming considers other artworks caught up in legal and artistic wrangling

Have we missed an artwork from the list? Leave your suggestion in the comments below and it could feature in the alternative list next week

Laura Cumming, Guardian, Friday 31 October 2014

The Parthenon Marbles on display at The British Museum in London.

Sculpture c.440BC from the north frieze of the Parthenon in Athens, on display at the British Museum in London. Photograph: Laurie Chamberlain/Corbis

The Parthenon Marbles

The great frieze of figures removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century remains the most perennially disputed of all artworks, the arguments as divided as the sculptures themselves – the goddess Iris’s head is in Athens, her body in the British Museum; Poseidon’s torso is split between them. Defenders argue that Elgin bankrupted himself to save the marbles from local destruction, with full Greek authority, and London is their legal home. The opposition (which has included Byron, Christopher Hitchens and of course now the Clooneys) argues that the marbles were literally “ripped off” the Parthenon, and ruinously scoured, and must be returned to Greece.


'Las Meninas'

The Household of Philip IV, ‘Las Meninas’ by Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo. Photograph: National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Household of Philip IV, ‘Las Meninas’, Kingston Lacy, Dorset

 In 1814 an Englishman abroad thought he had come upon Velázquez’s first version of Las Meninas (1656) – not that he, or practically anyone else at that time, had seen the original in the Spanish royal palace. William Bankes MP bought the canvas for Kingston Lacy, his Dorset home, calling it “the pride of England”. It shows the celebrated scene on a much smaller scale and with strange anomalies, not least the fact that the famous mirror at the back is empty. Some believe it to be a preliminary oil sketch, most that it is undoubtedly a copy by his son-in-law Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo. The row still rages: the Prado held a conference only this year.

Jackson Pollock: Red, Black & Silver

Jackson Pollock: Red, Black & Silver. Photograph: Cooper Square Publishers

Jackson Pollock: Red, Black & Silver

Painted on Long Island in the summer of 1956, shortly before Pollock’s death in a car crash, this canvas was the subject of a 40-year battle between the artist’s wife, Lee Krasner, and his mistress, Ruth Kligman. Kligman claimed he made the work for her as a love token; Krasner claimed it was a fake. An ex-NYPD detective brought all his forensic skills to bear on the case, discovering traces of thread, dust and hair from Pollock’s home in the surface. But what did that prove? Nothing, according to the editor of Pollock’s catalogue raisonné, for whom it simply did not resemble a Pollock. In this case of science versus scholarship, the jury is still out.

Rembrandt - De Poolse ruiter, c.1655 (Frick Collection)Public DomainRembrandt - The Frick Collection

Rembrandt’s The Polish Rider. Photograph: The Frick Collection

Rembrandt: The Polish Rider, Frick Collection, New York

Of all the disputed Rembrandts in public galleries, this is by far the most controversial, and not just because it belongs to the magnificent Frick Collectionin New York. For centuries the picture was not just a Rembrandt, but one of the greatest of all Rembrandts – a rare and magnificent equestrian portrait that had once belonged to Polish princes. But the mighty Rembrandt Research Projectquestioned it in the 1980s, to worldwide shock, claiming it was by his pupil Willem Drost. The furore continues to this day, raising the perennial question: if the picture is so great, and so beloved, does it really matter who painted it?



Queen Nefertiti of Egypt, after it returned to Berlin's Museum Island for the first time since World War II, at the city's Old Museum.

The limestone bust of Queen Nefertiti of Egypt. Photograph: Oliver Lang/AFP/Getty Images

Nefertiti, Neues Museum, Berlin

The exquisite painted limestone bust of Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s wife, was discovered in 1912 by the German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt, who claimed to have done a deal with Egypt to share rights to half his findings; it entered Berlin’s Egyptian Museum in 1923 (it’s now in the Neues Museum). But a recent document suggests Borchardt lied about the sculpture’s composition and true value in order to keep his most treasured discovery. Egypt has requested its return since 1933; Germany insists its ownership is not in doubt. In 2009 two historians claimed – to widespread outrage – that the great beauty queen was a fake.


Chandos' portrait of William Shakespeare.

The Chandos portrait of William Shakespeare. Photograph: National Portrait Gallery

The Chandos portrait, National Portrait Gallery, London

The never-ending controversy: is this Shakespeare or not? Most people prefer this dark-eyed stranger with the earring to the egghead of the First Folio, but can we really choose which Shakespeare we want? The Chandos portrait, named after a previous owner, was the first portrait acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1856. Its fortunes as a true likeness of the Bard have been mixed ever since. The NPG claims it may have been painted from life, but it looks nothing like the First Folio etching or the memorial bust in Stratford. Nobody knows who painted it.


Picasso: Boy Leading a Horse

Picasso’s Boy Leading a Horse. Photograph: © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2014

Picasso: Boy Leading a Horse, MoMa, New York

From Picasso’s “rose period”, Boy Leading a Horse belonged to a Jewish collector who may have sold it under duress (his descendants argued) in Nazi Germany in 1935. William S Paley, founder of CBS and chairman of MoMa, later bought it, bequeathing it to the museum in 1964, by which time it was worth $100m. It has been the subject of two test-case disputes: the descendants filed a legal claim on the grounds of Nazi persecution; MoMa countersued, keeping the work but paying damages to the descendants, even though the picture was neither looted nor illegally acquired. The judgment was not made public and the case may be a precedent.



Raphael: The Madonna of the Pinks National Gallery, London

Saved for the nation, The Madonna of the Pinks at the National Gallery, London by Raphael… or is it? Photograph: National Gallery, London

Raphael: The Madonna of the Pinks, National Gallery, London

Attributed to Raphael by Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery in London, and purchased from the Duke of Northumberland for the gallery for £22m after a massive public campaign, the little Madonna (not much bigger than an A4 sheet) is nonetheless in dispute. The gallery claims science and art historical investigation back up the picture’s authenticity, but they only prove that it comes from the right place and time: 16th-century Italy. Nearly 50 copies or versions of this composition exist: detractors argue that we ought to trust our eyes, given certain weaknesses in the composition, and assume it is just one of these.



Matisse: Seated Woman

Matisse’s Seated Woman. Photograph: Getty Images

Matisse: Seated Woman

Found in 2012 in the infamous Munich trove of the reclusive Cornelius Gurlitt, son of Hitler’s art dealer, Matisse’s masterpiece is one of 1,200 paintings that have been investigated by German authorities ever since. Yet this is the only painting they have so far agreed to identify as Nazi loot, and the heirs of its rightful owner, the late Jewish dealer Paul Rosenberg, still haven’t received the picture. Gurlitt died in May, leaving his pictures to the Bern Kunsthalle, a toxic bequest since they may all have been stolen. A classic impasse: without documentation, hard if not impossible to find, the pictures remain in legal limbo.


Artist Damien Hirst stands in front of one of

Damien Hirst in front of his dot painting Minoxidil, 2005. Photograph: Timothy A ClaryAFP/Getty Images

Damien Hirst: Bombay Mix

In 1988 Damien Hirst painted one of his highly successful spot paintings directly on to the wallpaper of a London house as a gift from the occupant’s rich parents. The house was sold, Bombay Mix remained, until some future owners had it removed from the wall and mounted on board with a view to selling it. But Hirst had anticipated this scenario, issuing a certificate of authentication to the original owner, without which the work would be valueless and could not be sold. This dispute is a neat parody of today’s market, in which names, and authenticity, now matter as much as actual art.

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