Saturday, July 12, 2008

How Old Is Your Mother?

I have read several articles over the past few days concerning the claim that the bronze statue of the Capitoline Wolf, that iconic image from ancient Rome, is not as old as previously thought. The Lupa Capitolina has long been revered as the image of the she-wolf who found and nutured the babies Romulus and Remus after they had been cast into the Tiber River. Romulus would, of course, go on to found the City of Rome.

Anna Maria Carruba, a member of the team that restored the statue a decade ago, claims that carbon-dating methods show that the statue was cast in the 8th century A.D., not around 500 B.C. as commonly believed. I have also read that the statue could be as late as the 13th century! History of the piece reveals that Pope Sixtus IV donated the statue to the Capitoline Museums in 1471 and that the twin babies were added during the 1500s. More information is needed to find out when and how the statue was "discovered" and where it was kept before the Pope gave it away.

Another argument which casts doubt on the ancient date of the statue is that the restorers discovered that it was cast as one piece, not separate units joined together after casting. Most, if not all, of the bronze statues created by the Etruscans in the time period in which the she-wolf was thought to be created, were made and assembled piecemeal. To have the statue cast as one unit would represent technology unavailable until the medieval period.

These articles also bring to mind another claimed revision to art history in that the magnificent statue of the death of Laocoon and his sons, a piece housed in the Vatican Museum, is not ancient but a fabrication, complete with burial and a staged discovery in the ruins of the Domus Aurea of Nero, of the Renaissance master Michelangelo.

I am intrigued by the claims concerning both statues, but I remain unconvinced. I'm not being close-minded, I just need more information.

Regardless of whether the Capitoline Wolf is ancient or medieval, it still remains as a symbol of Rome and is no less dear to me, nor should it be for others, for its supposed new-found youth.


Antoninus Pius said...

<< carbon-dating methods show that the statue was cast in the 8th century A.D. >>

I'm no expert, but I wouldn't have thought there was much "carbon" in a bronze statue?!

Mark A. Keith said...

I found it odd that the statue would be carbon-dated as well. From what I understand, the dating was actually done on residue found somewhere on the statue. Now that certainly casts some doubt on things.

Anonymous said...

The analysis was carried out on carburized plant parsts i the core remnants (casting cores, at least during the middle ages, according to Theophilus Presbyter, were composed of clay and horse manure). It was removed during conservation and found to be homogenous, the clay from somewhere between Rome and Orvieto. During the earlier analysis, they only said that the carbon dating was inconclusive. The new results seems to the place the statue solidly in the 13th century.