Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Ephebus (or Alexander) from Agde, France

Having just spent a few days in that area in the South of France, to attend a sculpture master class, followed by some relaxing time riding bicycle alongside the Herault river, I passed in front of the Archeological Museum of Agde displaying the famous Ephebus. So I wanted to share this unique sculpture story, which was discovered just 50 years ago.

This large antique bronze was found on September 13, 1964 in the Herault River, in front of Agde cathedral, by Jacky Fanjaud, together with other divers having a strong passion for submarine archeology. The left leg was discovered 6 months later, not too far away in the river.

The statue was seriously damaged, so it was sent to the Louvre museum in Paris to be restored by the specialists teams and laboratories there, where it stayed for years. Indeed the sculpture is exceptional : it is the only Greek bronze statue discovered in France, probably casted 4 centuries before JC.

Almost 20 years after that discovery, the statue was eventually given back to Agde city, and the condition was the building of a submarine archeological museum, who could display not only this sculpture, but also the numerous collections of items discovered in that area.

The statue represents a beautiful Greek teenager, in the classical nude heroic pose. His left shoulder carry a folded chlamys, also rolled around his left forearm. Which is usually a sign of a Macedonian soldier.

It looks like an athlete, but many experts say it is actually a portrait of Alexander the Great, as many traits have been similarly sculpted by Lysippe of Sicyone, the official portrait sculptor for the royal family in Macedonia, who did many bronze sculptures and liked the beauty of young athletes.

The body with slim torso shows thin muscles, fitting the adolescent youth. The head is slightly turned towards the shoulder. The face shows a youth profile, thin lips, high cheekbones. The head diadem is similar to the one in golden silver on the grave of Phillip II from Macedonia.

- Cap d'Agde Museum (see their website here)
- Tourism Office of Herault

To see a video about the sculpture discovery, in French, click here).

The underwater archaeology collections of the Musée de l'Ephèbe (Ephebus Museum) are displayed in 4 large departments:
- The Royal Navy: canons and cargoes from wrecks from the 17th to the 19th century, architectural items for ships and those used to fit them out...
- Ancient Navigation: naval architecture (anchors) and cargoes (amphorae, crockery, etc.)
- Ancient Bronzes: outstanding collections of bronze works of art, the most famous of which are the statues of Caesarion and Ephebus, portrait of Alexander the Great.
- Protohistory: more than 1,400 objects that are evidence of the life of the first inhabitants, before the Greeks arrived.