In 1506, a 1000+ year old statue was unearthed. The main figure, Laocoön, was missing an arm. The pope commissioned a contest to find who would recreate the missing arm best. Michelangelo’s version lost. In 1906 the original arm was found and in nearly the exact pose Michelangelo had sculpted.

Laocoön and His Sons

The arm after refixing, 2010

When the statue was discovered, Laocoön’s right arm was missing, along with part of the hand of one child and the right arm of the other, and various sections of snake. The older son, on the right, was detached from the other two figures. The age of the altar used as a seat by Laocoön remains uncertain. Artists and connoisseurs debated how the missing parts should be interpreted. Michelangelo suggested that the missing right arms were originally bent back over the shoulder. Others, however, believed it was more appropriate to show the right arms extended outwards in a heroic gesture.

According to Vasari, in about 1510 Bramante, the Pope’s architect, held an informal contest among sculptors to make r… Continue Reading (12 minute read)

13 thoughts on “In 1506, a 1000+ year old statue was unearthed. The main figure, Laocoön, was missing an arm. The pope commissioned a contest to find who would recreate the missing arm best. Michelangelo’s version lost. In 1906 the original arm was found and in nearly the exact pose Michelangelo had sculpted.”

  1. DoctorStrangeBlood

    The story is way cooler than I could fit in the title.

    Around 200 BC – 70 AD this sculpture was created of a Trojan priest and his sons being attacked by sea serpents. It was amazing to people and commented on by one of the most prominent art writers of the time, Pliny the Elder.

    It was eventually lost in time and randomly found nearly 1500 years later in a roman vineyard. This happened to be during the Renaissance and amazed these highly decorated sculptors. They seemed to recognize it as the lost art from centuries past but it had many missing pieces notably the arms. The vatican commissioned a competition to be judged by none other than Raphael to determine who could best create the pose of Laocoön’s arm.

    Michelangelo believed the man to be bending his arm backward, while Jacopo Sansovino believed that the [arm was sticking up and out](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cd/Laocoonphoto.jpg). Sansovino won and the arm was added to the sculpture.

    Then in 1906 a marble arm was found near where the Laocoön structure was found. Not only was it the right shape and design, but it had a drill hole that lined up perfectly with the one in the original structure. [This arm was bent backwards just as Michelangelo had suggested nearly 200 years prior](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/14/Laocoon_Vatican.jpg/280px-Laocoon_Vatican.jpg).

  2. DoctorStrangeBlood

    Note: Small correction in the title, it was actually the pope’s architect that commissioned the competition

    Relevant section:

    > In 1906 Ludwig Pollak, archaeologist, art dealer and director of the Museo Barracco, discovered a fragment of a marble arm in a builder’s yard in Rome, close to where the group was found. Noting a stylistic similarity to the Laocoön group he presented it to the Vatican Museums: it remained in their storerooms for half a century. In 1957 the museum decided that this arm—bent, as Michelangelo had suggested—had originally belonged to this Laocoön, and replaced it. According to Paolo Liverani: “Remarkably, despite the lack of a critical section, the join between the torso and the arm was guaranteed by a drill hole on one piece which aligned perfectly with a corresponding hole on the other.”[45]

  3. Wuzzy_Gee

    Lay-okk-oh-juan. Remember having learned to pronounce it back in Hogh School Latin class.

  4. NudeRanch

    If you find yourself in San Francisco, there is a copy of this statue outside the Legion of Honor (on the southside path between the Legion and the golf course): [https://www.ronhenggeler.com/Newsletters/2016/5.8/Newsletter.html](https://www.ronhenggeler.com/Newsletters/2016/5.8/Newsletter.html)

    (It’s between two trees of significance; one planted by General Ferdinand Foch, one planted by General Joseph Joffre.)

  5. Zymotical

    How we know Michelangelo didn’t just make 2 arms and bury one.

  6. shadolit12

    Why isn’t this a statue Redd sells? We even have real world examples of fake vs genuine.

  7. dharkmajik

    Woooow, that’s amazing!!

  8. Hippopotamidaes

    Super interesting!

  9. Geruvah

    Going to sound nerdy, but this has been my favorite statue ever since I saw it in my art history class back in 2004.

  10. cjdking

    Wow, I’ve actually seen this sculpture in person and I never knew this story. I wish I knew it back then. It’s a really impressive statue.

  11. FlareSpeedWalkOnAir

    God, imagine how hot it must get in those things.

  12. i_am_not_a_raptor

    Talk about a hell of an arms race LOL

    They should have fought it out, possibly a wrestling match of sorts lol

    I never thought of Michelangelo being a bodybuilder LOL

    Can someone else give me a hand with these puns? LOL

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