A moment cast in bronze

At first glance, this barely seven-centimetre tall bronze statue from the Metropolitan Museum of Art might seem to be a supplement to our previous post, Balancing talent. But the movement captured in this piece is more than just acrobatic skills.

The athletic figure balances on his left hand and right foot, his bent left leg is raised high. Although the right arm is missing, it was once probably also raised, counterbalancing the position of the left leg. The man turns his head to the left. His face is the best clue to his identity – the donkey-like ears, the straight nose and the large beard are characteristic attributes of a satyr. Dating from the early 5th century BC, the statuette – like the female figure doing a backbend in the other post – may have decorated an Etruscan bronze vessel. The movement of the satyr is usually described as a dance.

It is difficult to reconstruct the dances of Etruscan satyrs people, but ‘snapshots’ on surviving vases, small bronzes and engraved mirrors do offer a glimpse into the movements. Just as the modern floor routine contains a number of dance elements, Etruscan dance was also full of acrobatic tricks. The various depictions include relaxed steps and delicate hand gestures, as well as risky jumps and positions requiring both focus and technical skills. The Ure View project took these observations and combined them with 21st-century dance moves. With the help of Steve K. Simons, they brought to life a black-figure oinochoe from the last quarter of the 6th century BC. Are you ready for an Etruscan dance-off?

Featured at top and in the post: Etruscan bronze statuette, early 5th century BC. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972.118.68 / Public Domain.
Vase in the video: black-figure oinochoe, 525–500 BC. Reading, Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, REDMG:1951.130.1 / CC-BY. For more information on the animation of the Ure View project, see www.panoply.org.uk/dance.

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