Laocoön And His Sons

Laocoön and his sons
Laocoön and his sons

What does Laocoön and his sons portray?

Since its excavation in Rome and its remains in the Vatican in 1506, the statue of Laocoon and its Sons, also called Laocoön Group (Italian: Gruppo della laocoon) has been one of the most famous ancient sculptures. It is probably the same statue that the main Roman author on arts, Pliny the Elder, praised in the highest terms. The figures are about 2 m high and show the Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus, who were attacked by sea snakes, are somewhat larger.

In Western art, it was called "the prototypical icon of human agony" so this suffering has no redemptive power or reward, as opposed to that often depicted in Christian art, which displays the Passion of Jesus or the Martyrs. They illustrate the suffering in the distorted expressions of the faces (Charles Darwin pointed out the physiologically impossible bulging eyebrows of Laocoön) which are combined with each part of his body, especially that of Laocoön himself.

Then, in the palace of Emperor Titus, Pline attributes the work to three Greek sculptors on Rhodes Island: Agesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus, but it does not date and patronize the island. It is considered in style "one of the finest examples of the Hellenistic baroque" and in Greek tradition, however, it is not known if it is original, or a copy of the earlier bronze sculpture or made for a commission in Greece or Romance. While many still see it as a copied piece of such work, probably made during early Imperial times, as of a bronze original, it is now a work of the 2nd century BC.

Others probably see this as a later-day original work that continued to use the Pergamonian style of two centuries before. In either case, the home of a rich Roman, possibly the Imperial family, was probably commissioned. They suggested different dates, ranging from approximately 200 BC to 1970 AD, although "a Julio-Claudian date (between 27 BC and 68 AD), is preferred".

Although most of the sculptures were excavated in excellent condition, there are still several pieces missing, and analyzes show that it was restructured in ancient times and since excavation has undergone several restorations. In the Pio-Clementino Museum, part of Vatican Museums where it is on display.

What is the story of Laocoon and His Sons?

The story of Laocoon, a Trojan priest, originated from the Greek Epic Cycle during the Trojan Wars. Sophocles had suffered a tragedy, now lost, and other Greek authors mentioned it, although the events around the serpent attack vary considerably. The most famous account of these dates from between the years of 29 and 19 BC and is perhaps later than the sculpture in Virgil's Aeneid. Some scholars, however, regard the group as a representation of the scene Virgil described.

The Posedeidon priest Laocoön in Virgil died, having tried to expose the Trojan Horse's ruse with a spear, with both his children. On the other hand, in Sophocles, he was an Apollo priest who had supposedly been celibate, but who had married. Only the two sons have been killed by the serpents, leaving Laocoon alive. In other versions, he was killed because he had sex with his wife in Poseidon's temple or just had a sacrifice with his wife present in the temple. The snakes were sent by Posedon in the second group and, in the first group, by Poseidon and Athena or Apollo. The trojans interpreted deaths as proof of the sacred object of the horse. Both versions have quite different morals: Laocoön is punished because he is wrong or because he is right.

The snakes, both biting and narrowing, are likely to be as venomous as in Virgil. Thought like that, Pietro Aretino praised the group in 1537:

"...the two serpents, in attacking the three figures, produce the most striking semblances of fear, suffering and death. The youth embraced in the coils is fearful; the old man struck by the fangs is in torment; the child who has received the poison, dies."

The older son can escape in at least one Greek storytelling, and the composition seems to allow for that.

What does Laocoon mean?

A Trojan priest, Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus, who were attacked by sea snakes after warning the Trojans against the wooden horse.



3D Sculpt Laocoon Group

By Hagesandros, Athenedoros, and Polydoros - LivioAndronico (2014), CC BY-SA 4.0,

By Agesander, Athenedoros and Polydorus - Marie-Lan Nguyen (2009), CC BY 3.0,

By Photograph: User:Jastrow (2003)Auteur : Jastrow - Own work, Public Domain,

By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Wknight94 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Gentil Hibou - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,