WASHINGTON — An ancient Roman is visiting the United States for the first time.
The Capitoline Museums in Rome has lent the statue “The Dying Gaul” to the National Gallery of Art until March 16, 2014. This is the only place it will be exhibited in the United States.
The statue was unearthed in the 1620s during excavations in the gardens of Villa Ludovisi. It is a Roman copy of 3rd century B.C. Greek bronze original created to mark a victory by the King of Pergamon over the Gauls, according to the National Gallery.
The Greek historian Polybius in the second century B.C. described the Germanic warriors as “wearing nothing much but their weapons” when they fought, and as “finely built men,” which fits the sculpture.
The dying warrior was first taken for a gladiator. In the early 18th century, scholars suggested that it might be a fighter based on the carved trumpet on the base. The statue was given to the Rome museum by Pope Clement XII, then was removed by Napoleon to the Louvre in France until 1816, when it was returned to Italy.
An etching by Francois Perrier published in Rome in 1638 made the statue famous. It has been copied by centuries of art students, and inspired artists such as Jacques-Louis David and Diego Velazquez. European royalty had copies made. Both Mark Twain and Lord Byron wrote about the statue.
It is one of several loans to Washington, D.C., from Italy in the past few years. The first was Michelangelo’s David-Apollo in December 2012 at the National Gallery. “Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds” was loaned to the National Air and Space Museum earlier this year.
The two-year Dream of Rome program has lent art from the Capitoline Museums to museums in five U.S. cities, including Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and Kansas City.
The program is “is meant to foster cultural exchanges, exhibitions, restoration of work of art but also to share research projects and databases,” says Ignazio R. Marino, the mayor of Rome, who was at the National Gallery opening of “The Dying Gaul” this week.
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