To properly celebrate their 500th anniversary, the Vatican Museums have been organizing throughout the year a series of
events which will culminate in an exhibition of international importance focused on the Laocoon sculpture, its discovery and its
fortune, inaugurating on November 16 and 17, 2006.
The Laocoon was found in Rome on January 14, 1506, in Felice de Fredi’s vineyard, close to ‘Terme di Tito’ on ‘Colle Oppio’.
The group of sculptures was immediately identified by Giuliano da Sangallo as the one that Plinio il Vecchio attributed to the
Rhode’s sculptors Hagesandros, Athanodoros and Polydoros and remembered as belonging to the emperor Titus (79-81 A.D.)
Laocoon was the Trojan priest who, against the will of Athena and Poseidon, opposed the great wooden horse, left by the Greeks
outside the town, to enter Troy. Two sea-snakes wrapped him up in coils together with his sons killing them, thus marking the
destruction of Troy as a necessary prelude to the foundation of Rome. This latter will become the capital of the Roman Empire and
will finally house the seat of St.Peter’s successor.
Pope Julius II (della Rovere, 1503-1513) intended to underline this link by purchasing the Laocoon’s group to create the Courtyard of
the Statues from which originate the Vatican Museums. According to his own vision, Julius II proposed Himself as the new founder
of Christian Rome.
The exhibition does not only represent the first stage of the discovery of the well-known marble group from its finding’s day
through the negotiations among the European Courts to secure this piece of art but also explains what the finding of such
masterpiece of ancient art means for modern and contemporary art. Its dramatic figurative language strongly stired up again an
unequalled sparkle which inspired sculptors, painters, poets, erudites of all time, making the sculpure a symbolic image of the
rediscovery of the ancient world and of its values, which permeated the Aesthetic from the Renaissance on.
The Laocoon, more than other works, inspired the figurative arts and the literature. During the opening of the exhibition,
Remo Girone will offer an example of it, reading some chosen passages of ancient and modern literature (Virgil,Petronius,
Sodoleto etc.) against the setting of the new artistic photographs of the Laocoon specifically taken for the Vatican Museums
by Giovanni Ricci Novara.
This event will be remembered thanks to a special postage cancellation by the Vatican Post Office and the minting of a
commemorative medal by the sculptor Giuliano Vangi bearing the figure of His Holiness Benedict XVI on the front and the
Laocoon on the reverse side. A good catalogue and a wonderful photographic atlas will be published by the types of the well-known
roman publishing firm «L’Erma» di Bretschneider.
“... questo è Hilaoconte di cui fa mentione Plinio ...”: starting from what Giuliano da Sangallo said at the moment of the finding.
· The first section - Laocoonte e Laocoonti - is dedicated to the different iconographies of the same mythological subject. Since
ancient times, the myth has not been sanctioned in a precise artistic model and the Laocoon’s death has always been
represented under different aspects. Among the ancient works on exhibit it is worth mentioning a pompeian fresco and a
contorniate (from the National Archaelogical Museum in Naples) and the illustation of the “Virgilius Vaticanus”, a codex from
the Vatican Library written around 400 A.D. and in which the works by Virgil are illustrated by high quality miniatures.
Among the modern works, it is worth remembering a bronze sculpture by Francesco di Giorgio Martini (from the
Skulpturensammlung of Dresda) and a painting by Francesco Hayez (from the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera, Milan).
· The second section - La scoperta - describes the identification of the sculpture at the moment of the finding and its immediate
impact on the cultural and artistic world at that time. Together with the Vatican marble group, other works of the same cultural
background are exhibited, such as Ulysse’s head from Tiberius’ Cave at Sperlonga, made by the same sculptors of the
Laocoon’s group. It collects the first drawings and incisions about the Laocoon and the literary and poetic correspondence
following its discovery. This section is enriched with works by Giovanni Antonio da Brescia, Sansovino, Sodoma and Giorgio Vasari.
· The third section - La fortuna - illustrates the artistic impacts which arose from the group of sculptures. First of all, the original
marble of Laocoon takes place in front of the copy cast by Primaticcio in 1540 for the king of France, Francis I, to be housed
in the castle of Fontainebleau. Several drawings, incisions, sculptures, decorative objects and ancient photographs reproducing
the Vatican marble group or inspired from it, come from the most important museums and private collections in the world; among
the artists: Raphael, Rubens and Bernini.
· The fourth section - Laocoonte per sempre - closes the exhibition. The work’s fortune is not ending even today and the
contemporary art is capturing the movement, the emotions, the essential elements of the famous sculpture by gradually
removing each historical and narrative reference. In this section it is worth mentioning-among others-the works or Arturo Martini,
Fabrizio Clerici and Francesco Somaini
· Periode: from November 18, 2006 through February 28, 2007
· Entrance: Vatican Museum (Viale Vaticano)
· Ticket: Free
Sede Musei Vaticani
Curatori Francesco Buranelli, Arnold Nesselrath, Paolo Liverani
e allestimento Francesco Stefanori, Andrea Pesce Delfino
dell’allestimento Ditta Meloni Fabrizio srl
Installazione esterna Progetto Chiara Stefanori, realizzazione Ditta Brammerttz e Ditta Meloni Fabrizio srl
Periodo 18 novembre 2006 - 28 febbraio 2007
Ingresso Musei Vaticani (Viale Vaticano)
Orario lunedì-venerdì 8,45-12,20 e 13,00-16,45;sabato e ultima domenica del mese 8,45-12,20
Chiusura la domenica (tranne l’ultima del mese)
festività Vaticane (8 e 25 dicembre, 1 e 6 gennaio, 11 febbraio)
Catalogo «L’Erma» di Bretschneider
UFFICIO STAMPA MUSEI VATICANI
Dott.ssa Lucina Vattuone, Dott.ssa Cristina Gennaccari
Tel. 06 69883041
Fax 06 69885236