Zeus & the Giants

Posted by Kayla Fletcher on

In our collection is a reduction of one section of the frieze that adorned the Altar of Zeus. The Altar once stood in the ancient Greek city of Pergamon in what is now Turkey. The Altar, in fragments and only partially extant, was reconstructed at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. It's a masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture with its beautiful depictions of the human body. Some of the figures' legs even enter our space by resting on the steps of the altar!

photo of Ancient Greek altar reconstruction in museum with visitors in front
Lestat (Jan Mehlich), CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_-_Pergamonmuseum_-_Altar_01.jpg 


In the early 1900s, our predecessors, P.P. Caproni and Brother, created a reduction and restoration of a section of the frieze from the Altar (#12). The restoration realizes the intended design as determined by art historians. The section depicts mighty Zeus, king of the Gods, fighting the Giants. Zeus is seen hurling a thunderbolt at a serpent-legged Porphyrion (far right) while two other giants are falling to the ground upon being struck by Zeus. Zeus's mighty eagle is seen at his left hand.


photo of two white plaster cast sculpture reliefs of the god Zeus in the center and the Giants around him on a gray background


Almost one hundred years later, we created an adaptation of the relief (#727). The resulting piece, with its triangular shape and framing, lends itself to architectural ornamentation. We reoriented the figures in order to fit this shape. To fill the space in the bottom right corner, we sculpted an additional figure based on one of the others in the scene (which is the giant on the far left of the original Caproni piece).

Feeling inspired? Learn more about the Altar of Zeus via the sources listed on the product pages (including a great video!) or view the other Ancient Greek pieces in our collection.



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