previous Previous no next

no. iii.

LAOCOON, the son of Priam and
Hecuba, and priest of Apollo, in-
flamed by love for his country, vio-
lently opposed the reception of the
wooden horse within the walls of
Troy. To awaken his countrymen
to the impending danger, he dared
to hurl his javelin against the fatal
machine, consecrated to Minerva.

Enraged at his temerity, those of
the gods hostile to Troy, resolved
to punish him, and shortly after,
as Laocoon, crowned with laurel,
was sacrificing to Neptune on the
beach, two enormous serpents,
emerged from the waves, and in-
stantly sprang upon his two chil-
dren, who had accompained him to
the altar. The distracted father
flies to their aid: in vain he strug-
gles against these monsters, they
enclose him with his sons.... they roll
themselves around their bodies....

they crush them in their coils.... they
tear them with their venomous
teeth.... in spite of their efforts to
disengage themselves, this unfor-
tunate father with his sons, the
victims of an unjust vengeance, fall
at the altar of the god.... and turning
their distracted eyes towards hea-
ven, expire in the most cruel

Such is the pathetic subject of this
admirable group, one of the most
perfect works which the chissel has
ever produced, the master-piece of
composition, design, and sentiment;
and the impression of which, can
only be enfeebled by commentary.

It was found in the ruins of the
palace of Titus, on the Esquiline
Mount, during the pontificate of
Julius II. Pliny, who speaks of it
with admiration, saw it in this place.
To this writer we owe the know-
ledge of the three skilful sculptors
who executed it. Their names are
Agesander, Polydorus, and Athene-
dorus. Agesander was probably
the father of the two others; they
flourished in the first age of the
vulgar æra. The group is com-
posed of five blocks so artificially
united, that Pliny believed them to
be but a single piece. The right
arm of the father and the two arms
of the children are wanting.

previous Previous no next