May 8, 2006

Ugolino & His Sons

I have had many encounters with this magnificent piece of art. The most recent was in October 2005 when at 9am on a Wednesday I found myself alone, The Postal Service on my iPod, in the sculpture hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I actually went there specifically for this work, to take photos of every detail, but usually we cross paths unexpectedly. Each time I stand in front of this piece my pulse quickens, my knees go weak. I feel my emotions well and I want to cry. It is not a pretty subject matter, not romantic in the traditional sense. I cant describe why this is the one for me.

The piece is Ugolino & His Sons by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux . If you have seen it in person, then you know how huge and powerful it is. The piece depicts a passage from Dantes Inferno in which a man, Ugolino della Gherardesca is imprisoned in a tower with his sons and grandsons, for having betrayed is city. They are all sentenced to starve to death. In one of my first Art History classes I remember learning that the children had offered themselves to Ugolino. That once they had died, they wanted him to survive on their flesh. However, scientists believe they have found the remains on Ugolino and performed tests that discount this tale. You can read more about Ugolino and forensics here.

You can feel this sculptures life, as if these poor boys are about to breathe. About to shriek and sob. I am always expecting them to get up and run, beg for mercy even. I think that the overwhelming emotions take hold of me when I (after a few seconds of waiting for movement) realize they are frozen in their terror. Then my heart breaks for them.

Do you have a piece of art that makes your knees go weak every time you encounter it? Please comment and share them with us!!

To see more detail shots of this sculpture, click here.


Teri M. said...

It's possibly a cliche, but the first time I saw The Birth of Venus at the Uffici, I sat and stared at it, big tears rolling down my face. My husband looked at me like I'd grown an extra head! lol Then he got a little irritated because I couldn't tell him what was "wrong." Silly man - I COULDN'T SPEAK. ::sigh:: I still get choked up thinking about it. It was a combination of the beauty of the painting, the shear volume of history in just that one room, my general intense love for Botticelli and the thrill I get when I can get close enough to a painting that I can see the waves and valleys of paint.

susan said...

when i finally got to Munich to view the works of the Blue Riders, I found the painting i most wanted to see live...
paul klee's "rose wind"
it made me weep. my two girls couldn't believe the tears but the beauty of the Lenbach Haus got to them as well.
I have felt a lot of emotion with many pieces of art, but this one got physical!