An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part VI

Carved Stone Architectural Atlas in Genova, Italy (LEO Design)

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish. 

If ever sculpture and architecture were to marry, an "Atlas" would be their progeny. An atlas is an architectural support structure—like a column, pier or pilaster—presented in the form of the male figure (usually his top half). In Greek mythology, Atlas is the character who was required to forever hold-up the sky on his shoulders. The plural form is "Atlantes" and Romans called them "Telemon." They were first utilized in Greek Sicily and Southern Italy. Later, during the late Renaissance, they were revived, this time with Mannerist (twisting) or Baroque attitudes. Atlantes were almost always at least life (human) sized, often "heroically" sized (that is, larger than life). Smaller versions—like one might see on furniture or interior decorative uses—are called "Terms."

"Caryatids" (the female version) are older; ancient examples are usually associated with temples (or other religious architecture) which served to honor or worship a female deity.  Male atlantes were usually depicted strenuously exerting energy—as they struggled to bear their architectural load (like Atlas). Their faces usually depict strain, their bodies pop with muscular tension or they sometimes employ their arms to facilitate their never-ending task. Female caryatids are usually portrayed placidly bearing their assignments.

The impressive atlas shown above, patiently and dependably helps hold-up the doorway of this 16th Century palazzo on Via Garibaldi, in Genova. He is yet another expression of the great wealth and power this Italian port city accumulated through shipping, trade and banking in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance period.

We'll continue our summer holiday tomorrow. 


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