Let Laocoon be a lesson for all you gift givers this holiday season – giant man-eating serpents carrying the wrath of Greek deities are not a good idea.
Laocoon (pronounced ‘lah-ock-o’-own’) was a Trojan priest of Apollo who was killed along with his two sons by sea serpents for having warned his people of the Trojan horse. For those who don’t know, the Greeks and Trojans were at war for a long time before the Greeks decided to trick the Trojans with a giant wooden horse. If you don’t know the story, you definitely should look it up. The saying “beware Greeks baring gifts” is derived from his warning. A god who favored the Greeks (Poseidon or Athena, the story varies) sent snakes who coiled around Laocoon and his two twin sons killing them.
This sketch is a study of the famous sculpture of Laocoon, which resides in the Vatican Museum in Rome. The theatricality and emphasis on emotional intensity is typically Hellenistic Greek, 1st Century AD. The furrowed brow and open-mouthed pain would be copied by Bernini and Caravaggio in the seventeenth century. You can see studies of their work in some of my past blogs. This sculpture is a marvelous example of how emotions can contort the human face and how these distortions can create a powerful sense of empathy within the viewer.