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Screening StatuesSculpture and Cinema$
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Steven Jacobs, Susan Felleman, Vito Adriaensens, and Lisa Colpaert

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474410892

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474410892.001.0001

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Of Swords, Sandals, and Statues: The Myth of the Living Statue

Of Swords, Sandals, and Statues: The Myth of the Living Statue

(p.137) Chapter 7 Of Swords, Sandals, and Statues: The Myth of the Living Statue
Screening Statues

Vito Adriaensens

Edinburgh University Press

As sculpture is the classical art par excellence, statues abound in films set in Greek or Roman antiquity. Moreover, many of the mythological tropes involving sculptures that have persisted on the silver screen have their origins in classical antiquity: the Ovidian account of a Cypriot sculptor named Pygmalion who falls in love with his ivory creation and sees it bestowed with life by Venus, Hephaistos’s deadly automatons, the petrifying gaze of the Medusa, and divine sculptural manifestation, or agalmatophany, for instance. This chapter investigates the myths of the living statue as they originated in Greek and Roman literary art histories and found their way to the screen. It will do so by tracing the art-historical form and function of classical statuary to the cinematic representation of living statues in a broad conception of antiquity. The cinematic genre in which mythic sculptures thrive is that of the sword-and-sandal or peplum film, where a Greco-Roman or ersatz classical context provides the perfect backdrop for spectacular special effects, muscular heroes, and fantastic mythological creatures.

Keywords:   Dust to Marble, Building Bodies, Fire from the Gods, Ghosts in the Shell, Myths, Greek and Roman literary art histories

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