Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
I can heartily recommend the Glyptotek sculpture museum. I was lucky in that I saw it on a very sunny day, and the light coming down through the skylights made a lot of things there very photogenic. I took lots of photographs and I present here a largish selection. I'm quite happy with the way a lot of them came out.
Here you see the "Winter Garden" at the centre of the museum. It contains a replica of The Water Mother (1921) by Danish sculptor Kai Nielsen [below].
The central hall, lined with big statues. It has a stage at one end.
Naturally, I was interested in the very old stuff. This one was Sumerian, as doubtless you recognised.
Here you see Anubis, possibly the coolest of the Egyptian gods. Who wants the head of an ibis?
We all love a good canopic jar, and the Egyptians certainly liked their cats, or did they secretly fear their evil?
I always like to see Egyptian models of buildings. I can think of no better evidence for what the actual buildings were like.
I've seen throwing sticks from many places. They often, as here, look like Australian boomerangs. The sandals were interesting: I saw no way to fix straps to the upright pegs on them, so I'm guessing that they just jammed their heels in between the two rear ones and gripped the front ones with their toes - a very quick way to slip them on and off.
Greek tragedy mask.
I suppose I must be fairly familiar with ancient statuary, because I can pretty reliably tell the difference between ancient Roman and Greek, and between ancient and post-Renaissance stuff from a glance. The best stuff tends to be the works that are not copying someone else.
These shots don't make it clear that these two heads are colossal.
They were researching the colours of ancient statuary there, and exhibited a few examples of reconstructions of what the statues would have looked like when they were new. On the left you see an archaic Greek sphinx, and below is the darling Caligula. I wonder if the painters might not have added more light and shade, because here they seem to rely entirely on relief to create the effect, and it doesn't seem to work very well.
Apparently, the ancient Greeks had flying wheelchairs. Why can't we have them?
And now a word from our sponsors - the people who paid for all this in the first place.
"Hello, we are Carl Jacobsen (1842-1914), the Danish brewing magnate, and his wife. We hope that you have enjoyed the show so far. We thought it only fair that we got statues made of us and displayed."
Now to see what the Romans could do...
As it turns out, the Romans at their best could do some nice work. Here we see some republican period portraits, and it is quite clear that these are accurate portraits of real people. The man has a small almost delicate body, and a very fierce look to his face. The woman has a noticeably assymetrical face, short neck, and is of a certain age.
I liked the republican Roman portraits, and prefered them to the ageless idealised portraits copying the Greek style. This style went out of favour within the Imperial period. On the left you see a head identified as a likelness of Constantine the Great's father (Flavius Valerius Constantius). I was intrigued by two things: his smile, which is very unusual, and that he was described as an emperor, which was news to me. I didn't know Constantine had such purple ancestry. He wasn't the son of Diocletian, the previous emperor. I've just checked this on Wikipedia, and it seems that I was right - his dad was not an emperor - no, wait! It's more complicated than that, he was a "Caesar", junior to an "Augustus". I don't have a note of the exact wording of the label, but possibly it was wrong.
A line of Roman heads copying the Greek ageless style.
They really did have a lot of Roman heads.
Here left you see "The Beauty of Palmyra", showing a strong Indian influence.
This chap seemed to me to be a bit overwhelmed, although that's an artefact of perspective. That isn't a cancerous lump on her breast - it's the remnant of the attachment point for a cloak that is now missing.
Something has to be said of the great mosaic floor patterns throughout the museum. I shall say this: they are good.
The heat was intense that day. Walking up onto the roof, I felt like I was mounting a Mexican ziggurat. Strangely enough, there was a ziggurat on top of the roof, as you see here. I was alone on the roof for some time, squinting in the sun and admiring the view.
Here are the steps up to the roof. If I'd been there not many minutes earlier I'd have got the sun in the dead centre.
Stairs in the new wing (added 1996), with a Rodin statue on the landing.
More Rodin. Below you see one of The Burghers of Calais, and he doesn't look happy.
Fate. Nice. This is one of the more modern sculptures.
This sculpture is apparently quite famous. I think my favourite aspect is that it has four back feet and only two back legs, and no front legs, and somehow this looks right. Perhaps the sculptor's trick was to distract you from this somehow.
Here you see Thor depicted as the ancient Greeks might have done if they had known about him.
Girl with dead bird. I think much of the beauty and impressiveness of such sculptures comes from their ability to suggest things like cloth and skin through surface relief alone, so actually I'm glad that they are not painted like ancient statues. It's a bit like black and white photography - less can be more powerful.
Possibly some of the sculptures strayed a little over the porn/art boundary, although I suppose that these statues are too expensive to be porn.
Penelope, with her ball of yarn. This is Danish Neo-Classical sculpture. It takes inspiration from ancient sculpture. Notice the bland idealised face and the period costume, and of course the theme. Note too, though, that this is not just a copy of ancient sculpture. For one thing, the neo-stuff achieves some phenomenal undercuts that ancient carvers wouldn't have attempted. Look at the undercuts either side of her neck, into her left elbow, and most amazingly under the edge of the cloth over her head. Also, clock the light coming through the stone depicting her shawl between her left forearm and head. The stone must be very thin there indeed. It is interesting how the statue can express the character of Penelope without giving her a facial expression.
I spent quite a while in this hall. Here you see Perseus. He looks a little strange, and I don't think I'd invite him round to dinner, but you can admire the collar bones.
Here we see his victim: poor old Medusa, although here she is depicted as a rather fetching young gorgon.
I don't know how these sculptors achieved the amazing undercuts. How, for instance, was Medusa's mouth
carved out? A rotating drill bit can get you deep, but not round corners, so how was the curve of her
tongue cut out right to the back of her throat, and how were her front teeth achieved? Was there any way to
remedy a mistake? Was there some marble filler that could be added to the statue if too much marble was
removed in a small spot?
I would like to state now that the finger marks on her left breast were (a) not mine, and (b) some indication of when she was last dusted.
This was one of my favourites. I think it gets across the subject very well. It is called
La Paradis Perdu (Paradise Lost). This was such a phenomenally
complicated shape that I had to wonder whether it was truly all one solid piece of marble. The
composition was so good that I could get a good shot of it from almost any angle.
So, here are a few more.
It helps that the walls are painted a plain dull colour that doesn't distract from the sculptures.
Can you not see how Eve is feeling the full weight of her guilt, and is just starting to come to terms with the horrific concept of spending the rest of her life outside the Garden of Eden, and how her actions have cast the entirety of Mankind into darkness and sin? And can you not see Adam weighing up how long to give it before trying to cop a feel?
A marble hippie. I can only make ignorant guesses at how the sculptor was able to carve such precise and gentle curves around the sides of her neck, and then finish them to such smoothness. It is interesting how one can immediately tell that this statue is not very old by the shape of the girl's head – it is distinctly modern.