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Antique Busts and Ancient Wisdom.
18 November 2016

“Take courage, my heart: you have been through worse than this. Be strong, saith my heart; I am a soldier; I have seen worse sights than this.”
Homer, The Odyssey

It seems we are living in a period of time, when more than ever, there is a greater need for reflection upon some ancient wisdom. As Seneca, the Roman philosopher said, by reading the words of philosophers,

“he will have friends whose advice he can ask on the most important or the most trivial matters, whom he can consult daily about himself: who will offer him a pattern on which to model himself’

I have always been drawn to sculpture but especially antique busts, a present collection, of which I share in this blog, inspired as always by the aesthetic of the English country house and of course Sir John Soane.

Homer:1200 BC-750 BC

“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.” A C19th continental carved marble bust of Homer.

Homer, the bearded scholar gazes forward, with a cloak around his shoulders. The ‘leader of learning’, the first and greatest of the Epic poets, instrumental to Greek philosophy. It is said that almost half of identifiable Greek papyrus finds in Egypt are attributed to his words and of course the epic poems: the Odyssey and the Iliad. The oldest complete handwritten version of which, created about AD 900, can be found inside St. Mark’s church in Venice.

Homer provided a platform for the Ancient Greeks and Western culture to view themselves and the world. As Plato said, he was the educator of all Greece. Quite simply he reminds us that ‘any moment may be our last’ and that “wisdom never lies.. for words as empty as the wind are best left unsaid”

Solon:638-558 BC

“Our virtue sticks with us and makes us strong, but money changes owners all day long.” A C17th carved limestone bust of Solon mounted on an 1820 solid Bardiglio marble column.

The Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet, Solon, is credited with laying the foundations for Athenian democracy and considered one of the seven wise men of Greece.

Like Homer, his advice is not to waste time, but to “Seek to learn constantly while you live; “do not wait in the faith that old age by itself will bring wisdom”

I like his wisdom also in friendship, “In giving advice, seek to help, not to please, your friend”.

Seneca 4 BC – AD 65

“Life is long if you know how to use it” A very rare George III lead bust of the Philosopher Seneca, attributed to the workshops of John Cheere, England, Circa 1750

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman and dramatist. The tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero, reminds us not to put off plans and to live out your dreams, for by not doing that is ‘the biggest waste of life“.

He points out there is a difference between living and existing…“`people are delighted to accept pensions and gratuities.. but nobody works out the value of time: men use it lavishly as if it costs nothing.” He continues, “The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately’ – “so you must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it”

Euripides 484-406 BC

“The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.” An early C19th continental carved marble bust of Euripides.

Euripides, the bearded gentleman, is credited foremost with his work as a playwright, notably, Medea.

Euripides, talks of Love, for it is, “the greatest pleasure” and “all we have, the only way that each can help the other”

However, he warns that when ‘Love is in excess, it brings man not honour or worthiness”

He also reflects on a daily communion with the sea and sky, for it is “the sky which is all men’s together”