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Statue of a Boy with Thorn



Vasari, in his biography of Michelangelo, suggested that he represented the highpoint of artistic accomplishment since the Renaissance had begun. Vasari’s opinion has been confirmed, in the centuries after his death, by the fact that Michelangelo has been widely viewed as one of the most skilled and influential artists in the history of Western Art.

Today Crouching Boy is to be found in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, the only work by Michelangelo in the Museum’s collection. It is a small, unfinished, piece, sculpted in marble, measuring only 22 ins. (54 cm.) and shows a boy, naked and crouching down, perhaps to tend his injured foot. The boy’s body is well developed, with prominent musculature, and his crouching figure strongly suggests the inner strength compressed within him.

The boy’s head is turned down as he concentrates on his foot, oblivious to all that is going on around him, and contributes to the sense of sorrow and pain that the piece evokes.

Yet the work remains enigmatic. Some scholars have seen the piece as a representation of the unborn soul, others as a wounded soldier. Still others interpret the “Crouching Boy” as the personification of Genius or of the suffering of mourning.

The Crouching Boy was brought to Russia by Catherine the Great (1729 - 1796) when she purchased a large collection of antiquities and other pieces from the English antiquary and banker, John Lyde Browne (died 1787).

Lyde-Browne was an enthusiastic collector of antiquities and had accumulated one of the largest collections of the time having visited Italy many times since the 1750s. His collection was in a constant state of flux as he was trading extensively in these objects, with other collectors, as well as collecting them. His house in London served as much as a showroom as it did a private museum.

Catherine the Great agreed to pay about £23,000 for around 250 of Lyde-Browne’s pieces in 1785, but he only received the initial £10,000 payment as a result of the bankruptcy of his agent in St Petersburg.

In addition to his collection of antique marble pieces, Lyde-Browne had gathered together a collection of Renaissance works. Among these was an item described in one of the catalogues of his collections as “an unfinished statue of a boy removing a thorn from his foot, a celebrated work by Michelangelo. The boy is naked and has superbly rendered anatomy. It is said that the statue was formerly in the Villa Medici”.

In 1520 Giulio de’ Medici commissioned Michelangelo to design a family vault, what was to become the Sagrestia Nuova, within the Medici’s parish church of San Lorenzo. Michelangelo’s drawings, now held in the British Museum, suggest that “Crouching Boy” was intended to be a part of his design for this Medici Chapel.

In his preparatory sketch of a double wall tomb for Lorenzo de’ Medici and his brother Giuliano de’ Medici, Michelangelo included two such crouching figures. It would have been appropriate for a work like the “Crouching Boy”, with its sense of hunched sorrow, to have had a place in such a scheme but the two crouching boys were not included in his final design for the project.

It was a project that Michelangelo would have had a personal interest in. It was Lorenzo de’ Medici that summoned Michelangelo to be a member of his household when he was still a teenager. As part of the Medici household he studied under the famous sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni and was able to study the works of the Renaissance masters such as Giotto, Masaccio and Donatello and also those of the Greek and Roman sculptors that were available to him in the Medici collection.

It was also where Michelangelo met his future Papal patrons, Giovanni de’ Medici (Pope Leo X) and his cousin Giulio (Clement VII).

It was Michelangelo’s first project in which he designed both the architecture of the chapel, the sculptures and sarcophagi to be installed in the chapel including figures representing the four times of the day.

While the building itself was completed by 1524 the project suffered a number of interruptions, such as the period of exile of the Medici in 1527, the death of Giulio de’ Medici (Clement VII) and Michelango’s permanent relocation to Rome in 1534.

By this time most of the statues had been carved but they were not installed until 1545 in Michelangelo’s absence. The work was finally completed, again without Michelangelo’s presence, in 1555.


Manneken-Pis: The real story behind the iconic statue

Manneken-Pis, literally “little man pee,” in the Dutch dialect of Marols or “le petit Julien,” in French, is one of Brussels’ most famous and beloved citizens. But what’s the story behind this iconic, if tiny, figure? These days, the statue has become something of a cliche–recreated on t-shirts and beer labels around the world. At its origins, however, the famous Manneken-Pis is practical in purpose, with a little bit of whimsy thrown in for good measure.

The statue of the “pissing boy,” as he is commonly called, has led a long and not always easy life, surviving the bombardment of Brussels in 1695 and various wear and tear over the centuries. According to local records, the fountain, located at the intersection of Rue de l’Étuve/Stoofstraat and Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat, was used as early as the 15th century to help distribute drinking water across the city.

For tourists, the statue is high on the list for places to visit, but for many locals the meaning is much deeper. To some, the fountain has come to symbolize a certain spirit of Brussels that is both steadfast, playful and highly individual. Though the statue is no longer used for water distribution, it has come to nourish the city in a new way–providing entertainment and a sense of play. It also reminds residents of the city’s rich history and perpetually evolving identity.

Still today, and since the 18th century, the little statue is dressed up to mark special occasions and festivals. You never know what you might find “little man pee” masquerading as the next time you walk by.

As for the little boy who served as inspiration for the statue? This is where legend tends to overshadow facts. One tale maintains that the statue is a likeness of a boy who saved Brussels from fire and disaster by peeing on the fuse of an explosive another story depicts the boy as the victim of a witch’s spell, frozen in time as punishment for peeing on her door. Whatever the case may be, the statue is likely here to stay–snapshot fodder for the many visitors who visit the city each year, and a good reminder of humor and history for the city’s lucky inhabitants.


Is this the original Manneken Pis?

The name Manneken Pis was first mentioned in archives dating back to 1452. Before that, he was named Petit Julien and was a part of a public fountain on the same street corner. The stone statue was replaced by a bronze sculpture made by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder in 1619. It is unknown whether the replica resembles the first one, as the original was not preserved.

The statue by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy was destroyed in 1817 and was stolen by a former convict named Antoine Licas. Fortunately, the pieces were found and glued together to make a mold for a replica.

The current statue was made in 1965, after Manneken Pis had disappeared again. After several months, the broken statue was found in the Brussels canal and currently resides in the Maison du Roi at the Grand Place.


Spinario, the boy with a secret

Who is the boy that people call “Spinario”, sitting with his legs crossed as he inspects the sole of his left foot?

Perhaps he is the young Podalirius, son of the god of medicine Asclepius.

Or is he Ascanius (Iulo, in Latin), son of Aeneas and Creusa, the forefather of the Julian clan from which Julius Caesar and Emperor Augustus descended?

It could even be the legendary shepherd boy Gnaeus Martius – nicknamed “the faithful” – who only after heroically delivering an important message to the Roman Senate stopped to remove a splinter he had stepped on during his journey.

Whomever it may represent, many artists, especially during the Renaissance, used this bronze statue – a gift to Rome from Pope Sixtus IV in 1471, now on display in the Capitoline Museums – as their “model”, leading to a long list of copies that are now exhibited in museums all around the world.

The “Boy with Thorn” very likely is the work of a Greek artist from the 1st century BC, and is currently thought by the most authoritative experts to have been made by soldering various pre-existent compositions.


The Making of Charles Ray’s “Boy with Frog”

Peering up at a giant sculpture, I often wonder: How do artists construct such massive creations? Here’s a peek at the journey, from artist’s conception to the Getty Center’s doorstep, of the larger-than-life Boy with Frog, which was installed yesterday on the museum stairs. On view through January 2012, Boy with Frog continues a series of temporary installations that have focused on contemporary art and its relationship to the Museum’s mission.

Before this powerful, inquisitive youth could plant his fiberglass feet on the travertine, Ray and expert art fabricators spent years constructing and assembling the figure to get every detail just right, from the boy’s toenails to the warts on the bullfrog.

Boy with Frog in white wrappers during installation yesterday on the Museum stairs at the Getty Center

One day a few years ago, the artist came to his friend Mark Rossi, the founder of Handmade, a facility of art fabricators, and told him he wanted to create a sculpture of a boy holding a frog.

Once the artist had the photographs he wanted of a boy holding a live amphibian, the images were scanned and a 3-D digital model was created. Ray then became a bit like a Renaissance sculptor wielding a carving tool—except, instead of a chisel, his team used modeling software to refine designs for the sculpture. The software uses a haptic interface that provides feedback via touch, and is so precise it’s also used in dental reconstruction and virtual surgery.

The next step? This digital model was used to create scale versions of the sculpture in urethane foam. Further iterations of Boy with Frog were made in different sizes and materials over the years to help Ray decide on scale and myriad other artistic details. When the artist was ready to create the final sculpture, Ray again worked with Rossi and his team of skilled fabricators. They made molds of the final pattern to create the two main components of the sculpture: fiberglass and steel.

Gerard Collier, a fabricator at Handmade, assembles the arm on one of the patterns for Boy with Frog

One way to understand the Boy with Frog’s construction is from the outside looking in: Below a layer of white paint is a quarter-inch-thick layer of fiberglass, which overlays a stainless steel armature. This armature runs the full extent of the sculpture—all the way from the frog to the bottoms of each of the boy’s feet.

Artist Charles Ray checks the angle of Boy with Frog during its installation at the Getty Center

Boy with Frog as installed on the Museum stairs

The particular fiberglass version of Boy with Frog installed at the Getty Center was completed in 2008 and, until recently, was a popular outdoor installation at François Pinault’s Punta della Dogana museum in Venice, Italy. A final version of the sculpture identical in scale to the one here—except cast in stainless steel—has taken the place of its predecessor in Venice.

Besides where they live and what they are made out of, what other major difference is there between the pair? Heft. The steel sculpture is 475 pounds, 300 pounds heavier than its twin.

Rossi said he’s honored to have worked on a sculpture on display at the Getty: “To be associated in some small way with that is wonderful.”


Painted in 1810, Barker showed this work at the British Institution in the following year. The boy is shown sat down on a log to take a thorn out of his foot.

The theme of a boy extracting a thorn from his foot is an old one in art that would have been recognised by a nineteenth century audience as referring to renaissance and antique examples. The pastel colours combine to create soft tone that conveys the sentiment of the subject. Such paintings of children were popular in the early to mid nineteenth century.

Given by Charles T. Maud, 1871

Re : Charles T. Maud : Taken from Somersetshire parishes a handbook of historical reference to all places in the county. 'Bathampton Charles Theobald Maud of the Manor House, farmer, horse-breeder, and collector of pictures. Left Harrow 1808-9. Bal. Col. Oxf. BA 1818.' Maud was also the cousin of W J Broderip, the eminent naturalist, who owned William Holman Hunt's 'The Hireling Shepherd' (City of Manchester Art Galleries). Maud originally commissioned a replica of the sheep in the background of this work, but Hunt persuaded him to commission a new piece, 'Our English Coasts (Strayed Sheep)' (Tate Britain).

Historical significance: Presumably, sold English and Son, J H S Piggott collection, 11 October 1849, (126, as 'Boy with a Thorn in his Foot', size given as 45 x 52 ins), bt. Capt. Ford, £95.

The pose of the boy is adapted from the famous classical large-scale bronze statue called the "Spinario", of a boy removing a thorn from the sole of his foot. This bronze is now in the Capitoline Museum, Rome. It was very influential on Italian Renaissance artists, and was also much copied in various media there is, for example, a mid-eighteenth-century Staffordshire earthenware figure in the V&A collections. Barker had travelled to Italy, arriving in Rome in 1790, and returning to England by the end of 1793. His trip to study the art works of Italy was financed by the Bath businessman Charles Spackman (1749-1822), who wished to advance the career of the young artist (Barker's 'Self-portrait with his Preceptor Charles Spackman' is in the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath).

The prime inspiration for this painting by Barker however, in terms of the treatment and sentiment of the subject, is the genre paintings of the Spanish artist Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1618-1682), such as the "Three Peasant Boys" of the late 1660s (now in Dulwich Picture Gallery, London). Barker was undoubtedly aware of the influence of Murillo on earlier British artists such as Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds, in their paintings of rustic or indigent children. Barker was particularly aware of the paintings of Gainsborough, who had also worked in Bath, and his Self Portrait referred to above shows him painting a landscape in the style of Gainsborough.

This is work was presumably the one exhibited at the British Institution in 1811, (cat. no. 17, "Boy picking a thorn out of his foot"), the size given in the catalogue as 73 by 66 inches including the frame (the measurements of the present frame are 69 1/2 by 61 3/4 inches). It was perhaps also the one exhibited at the British Institution in 1822, as "A boy extracting a thorn from his foot", size 74 by 66 inches. The 'British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts under the Patronage of His Majesty' was founded 1805, and was a private 19th-century club in London formed to exhibit the works of living and dead artists. Unlike the Royal Academy its membership was made up of connoisseurs rather than practicing artists. A number of paintings by Barker of Bath were exhibited at the B.I. during his lifetime.

Painted in 1810, Barker showed this work at the British Institution in the following year. The boy is shown sat down on a log to take a thorn out of his foot.

The theme of a boy extracting a thorn from his foot is an old one in art that would have been recognised by a nineteenth century audience as referring to renaissance and antique examples. The pastel colours combine to create soft tone that conveys the sentiment of the subject. Such paintings of children were popular in the early to mid nineteenth century.

  • The Barkers of Bath. exh.cat. Bath: Museums Service, Bath City Council Gloucester: produced by Alan Sutton Publishing, 1986, p. 35, cat. no. 31
  • Hunt, Tristram and Victoria Whitfield, Art Treasures in Manchester: 150 Years On, Manchester: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2007

Boy and the Boot

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  • Boy and the Boot (hospital): New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Boy and the Boot (race track): New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Boy and the Boot: Houlton, Maine
  • Boy and the Boot: Menominee, Michigan
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  • Boy and the Boot (indoor): Ellenville, New York
  • Boy and the Boot (outdoor): Ellenville, New York
  • Boy and the Boot (indoor): Sandusky, Ohio
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Moschophoros (calf-bearer)

Moschophoros (calf-bearer) is an Ancient Greek Marble Sculpture created in 560 BCE. It lives at the Acropolis Museum in Greece. The image is used according to Educational Fair Use, and tagged Cows and Sculpture.

Ancient Greece loved perfect men. In the Archaic period an entire genre of sculpture was dedicated to a very specific representation of the nude male body. Kouros, meaning ‘youth or boy of noble rank’ figures were formal, heavily stylized, freestanding sculptures, almost more akin to Ancient Egyptian depictions of pharaohs than the expressive Hellenistic postures that came to define Greek sculpture in later centuries.

This particular Kouros, excavated from the rubble of the Athen’s Acropolis, deviates from the common style. He is bearded, representing maturity, and wears a light cloak, the mark of a respectable citizen—and most unusual for its era, this man is smiling. These details, along with a dedication inscription to the goddess Athena, suggests that this kouros was made in the image of a wealthy local named [Rh]ombos. Also unusual for it’s time, the base of this statue was signed by the sculptor Phaidimos, who is thought to be the first Attic sculptor to sign his work.

But what’s with the cow? Many religious cults in Ancient Greece sacrificed animals to the gods. Kriophoros, or ‘ram-bearers,’ commemorate these sacrifices with male figures carrying the doomed animal on their shoulders as was the custom among shepherds. Sheep were most often the sacrificial animals, but this young bull was almost certainly an offering to win the blessings of Athena.


Jocko the Lantern Holder: The True Story Behind the Statue So Incensing to Blacks

Have you ever been offended by lantern-holding jockeys found situated on lawns throughout the suburbs, thinking they’re racist? Most have lumped the statue, known as Jocko, in with the mammy caricature and feel insulted when they encounter one.

“We used to kick them over and try to knock the heads off, run over them” said Michael McBride of Too Black, Too Fast, who has taken up the cause of drawing attention to the history of black jockeys through his artwork.

He went on to tell the story of what the statue really means:

“We’re gonna help you dispel the myth of the jockey statue. It’s called the ‘Story of Jocko.’ Jocko was George Washington’s stable boy. When George Washington went across the Delaware River, when it was very cold, he along with his soldiers, he had Jocko to stand there with a lantern and hold the horses till they returned.

They ended up staying longer than they thought they were gonna be. They came back and Jocko was still standing there, frozen, still holding the horses and still holding the lantern. George Wahsington was so moved, he had the artist to do a concrete sculpture of Jocko and he had his friends all have these things done, too.

Then, if you fast forward to during the underground railroad, when you went to a house that had this jockey there and the lantern was on, it was the safe houses for the underground railroad. Lack of knowledge made us think it was a degrading thing, but it’s not.”

Maybe you already knew this or maybe you didn’t – or maybe you don’t believe it, but it was compelling enough for me to listen to stories of the history of black jockeys, during Derby time, from someone so passionate about it. And there’s more. Check back for an in-depth look at the role blacks played in equestrianism and how lucrative a sport it can be, straight from a black former jockey. –gerald radford


Where spirituality meets commerce

To those who didn’t grow up with Thai-style Theravada Buddhism—a belief that intertwines elements of Hinduism, Chinese religions, and spirit worship—the atmosphere at even a simple Thai temple can seem almost festival-like. At Wat Chedi, this feeling is on overdrive.

In one corner of the temple complex, visitors rub baby powder on a massive hardwood log in the hopes that the winning lottery numbers will appear. Next door, a band, hired by someone as a gesture of thanks, blasts Thai country music. Every two hours, boxes of firecrackers are loaded into the bed of a truck, backed up to a virtual mountain of ash and charred paper, and unceremoniously dumped out and ignited, resulting in a volcano-like ejection of smoke and noise.

A staffer manages traffic at the entrance to Wat Chedi.

Much of the hubbub at Wat Chedi has a distinctly commercial feel. The temple compound includes a strip of vendors selling lottery tickets, a clutch of ATMs, and an expansive food court. At the entrance to Wat Chedi, there’s a booth where visitors line up to “rent” official Egg Boy amulets (although they’re indeed making a purchase, Thais use this term to skirt the problematic connotation of possessing a sacred object).

“People who come here have all kinds of different desires,” said Supachai. “I once interviewed 100 visitors of these, 60 wanted lottery numbers, 20 wanted help with work, and the other 20 wanted a mix of other things.”

I walked around the temple grounds to learn firsthand what people were asking of Egg Boy.

“We came here before, three or four years ago, and got the winning lottery numbers,” said a woman called Nun, who had driven from a town three hours away with her husband and child. “This time, we’re here to ask for a car.”

“My relatives came here before and won some money in the lottery,” said a woman who went by Diw. “I don’t really believe in this stuff, but I thought I’d give it a try.”

Boom, who had flown in from Bangkok for the day, was on his second visit to Wat Chedi. He and his friends showed me their amulets and bracelets.

Wat Chedi tourism has also benefited other areas in Sichon, the district where the temple is found. Above, Egg Boy visitors enjoy a popular seaside spot.

“I’m part of Generation Y,” he said. “We’re interested in amulets, but for us it’s not just about belief there’s elements of fashion and status. It’s also an investment.”

Later, I went to see Egg Boy myself. I scaled a marble staircase to a hall that, compared to everything that was going on just outside, was downright quiet and empty. A scant dozen people kneeled before the statue believed to house Egg Boy’s spirit. Smoke-stained, with intermittent patches of gold leaf and a contorted posture, the life-size boy was dressed in an ’80s sitcom-like take on child’s fashion: a white T-shirt with the temple’s name, cuffed blue jeans, a bright red Ferrari baseball cap, and sunglasses.

After the chicken graveyard, the mountain of firecrackers, the marching bands and the food court, the massive crowds and the relentless announcements, it seemed this tiny, obscured spiritual nexus had been almost entirely forgotten in the rush.


Watch the video: Conociendo a MANNEKEN PIS (December 2021).