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Young Centaur

Museum Label:

Chiurazzi description:
Young Centaur. Is a copy from an original bronze of greek art probably from the Rodi school and carved in dark brown/ grey Lucullanmarble, perhaps to revive remembrance of the original bronze. The young Centaur laughs looking backwards towards the Cupid, (now lost) which should be on his back. These two beautiful works were executed by the sculptors Arestias and Papias.

Origin: Museo Capitolino, Palazzo Nuovo, Rome.

Subject info:
The original "Furietti" old centaur and its companion (the young Furietti centaur), kept at the Capitoline Museum and sculptured in Lucullan marble were discovered in 1736 in the excavations carried by Monsignor Furietti at Hadrians Villa. It is maintained by some art historians that these were copies commissioned by Hadrian of earlier original bronzes from the eastern mediterranean.

However, the provenance of the sculptures was highly distinguished and the Greek inscriptions by Aristaes and Papias of Aphrodisias were indisputably genuine. Pope Benedict XIV was said to have been so irritated by Furietti's refusal to present the Centauri to the Capitoline Museum that he passed him over for a cardinal's hat, but much later they were finally installed in the Vatican museum.

It is generally accepted that in their original state the Furietti pair, like the Borghese sculpture (now in the Louvre- see pic on the right), would also have ben ridden by cupids, and were generally believed to symbolize the sexual desires which torment the old and delight the young.

Villa Hadriani. An estate of more than 30 buildings, including baths, theatres, temples, libraries and audience halls, connected by a network of underground service tunnels. Hadrian, a brilliant, complex personality, designed many of the buildings himself. At 300 acres, the pagan emperor's residence was twice the size of the town of Pompeii.
The grandiose palace estate was used by all subsequent emperors until Constantine – who ransacked the villa for statuary and other valuables for his new city in the east. His vandalism set an example for others to follow. With the arrival of the Christian Dark Age the imperial residence became a quarry for stone, its beautiful marbles burnt for lime.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, European aristocrats – including the Popes – dug several hundred buried works of art from the ruins to decorate their Renaissance mansions. Many of the prized artifacts in the world's museums originally graced this sumptuous palace of the caesars.
In contrast to the genuine imperial splendor of Hadrian, seven centuries after the death of Hadrian, the Christian Emperor Charlemagne (Carolus Magnus), for all his pretensions, ruled his ramshackle 'empire' from the ruins of the Roman spa town at Aachen. He liked the thermal pools and quarried the ruins of the town to build a palace and a church.
The so-called "Carolingian Renaissance" is a fiction. The 7th/8th century conquests of Islam isolated the Frankish lands from the civilizing influence of the Mediterranean. Though Charlemagne styled himself "Roman Emperor and Augustus" in reality he broke with Roman tradition.

Origin of centaurs:
The most common theory holds that the idea of centaurs came from the first reaction of a non-riding culture, as in the Minoan Aegean world, to nomads who were mounted on horses. The theory goes that such riders would appear as half-man, half-animal. (Bernal Díaz del Castillo reported that the Aztecs had this misapprehension about Spanish cavalrymen.) Horse taming and horseback culture evolved first in the southern steppe grasslands of Central Asia, perhaps approximately in modern Kazakhstan.

The Lapith tribe of Thessaly, who were the kinsmen of the Centaurs in myth, were described as the inventors of horse-back riding by Greek writers. The Thessalians tribes also claimed their horse breeds were descended from the centaurs.

Of the various Classical Greek authors who mentioned centaurs, Pindar was the first who describes undoubtedly a combined monster. Previous authors (Homer etc) only use words such as Pheres (Beasts) that could also mean ordinary savage men riding ordinary horses. However, contemporaneous representations of hybrid centaurs can be found in archaic Greek art.

The armchair anthropologist and writer Robert Graves speculated that the Centaurs of Greek myth were a dimly-remembered, pre-Hellenic fraternal earth cult who had the horse as a totem. A similar theory was incorporated into Mary Renault's The Bull from the Sea.

The Greek word kentauros could be etymologized as ken - tauros = "piercing bull". Another possible etymology can be "bulls slayer". Some say that the Greeks took the constellation of Centaurus, and also its name "piercing bull", from Mesopotamia, where it symbolized the god Baal who represents rain and fertility, fighting with and piercing with his horns the demon Mot who represents the summer drought. (In Greece, Mot became the constellation of Lupus.) Later in Greece, the constellation of Centaurus was reinterpreted as a man riding a horse, and linked to legends of Greece being invaded by tribes of horsemen from the north. The idea of a combined monster may have arisen as an attempt to fit the pictorial figure to the stars better.

Alexander Hislop in his book The Two Babylons theorized that the word is derived from the Semitic Kohen and Tor via phonetic shift the less prominent consonants being lost over time ,with it developing into Khen Tor or Ken-Tor, and being transliterated phonetically into Ionian as Kentaur.

More information on other sculpture.