Laocoon and His Sons

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This essay is an attempt to address the marble sculpture commonly known as Laocoon and His Sons, and why exactly I believe it to be a work of high art, of great value and significance to the species. Laocoon and His Sons is a marble sculpture representing a scene that is a part of the tale of the siege and invasion of Troy. Laocoon was the protagonist in a play by Sophocles that is now lost. He was also written about by Virgil. The statue itself is one of the most famous sculptures of Greek and Roman antiquity, its subject is Laocoön, a Trojan high priest, who, along with his two sons, is – according to legend - attacked and killed by two snakes, or sea serpents. The tale is known as myth, but its content may have symbolic roots in actual historical happenstance. No one is quite sure as of yet how much of that myth may or not be so. The scene depicts Laocoon, the chosen priest of Neptune for the city of Troy, and his sons, in their death throws, overcome by an enormous serpent. Cursed by the gods for either impiety – 3

according to Sophocles - or for warning the Trojans of the danger of the Trojan horse – according to Virgil, the serpents were dispatched to do away with Laocoon ‘I tell you there are Greeks hiding in here, shut up in all this wood, or else it is a siege engine designed for use against our walls, to spy on our homes and come down on the city from above, or else there is some other trick we cannot see. Do not trust the horse, Trojans. Whatever it is, I am afraid of Greeks, even when they bear gifts.’ (Virgil, 2003, p.26) The scene depicted is the wrath of the gods in action. The turmoil of the scene, the hopeless agony on the faces of the figures, is so charged with emotion that the forms seem truly alive. This is the first time this caliber of realism is reached in Greek art, in all known human sculpture up to this point in history; and many would submit that it has never been surpassed. The action addressed in this sculptural scene animates it...
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