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Analysis of the sculpture of Leander by William Henry Rinehart - Essay Example

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Leander is the name of a sculpture by William Henry Rinehart that represents a young male of between 20 to 25 years of age. He is very good looking, athletic and slender. In fact, his proportions appear to be perfect. His manner is delicate, neither overly masculine nor boyish, but at the same time confident…
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Analysis of the sculpture of Leander by William Henry Rinehart

Download file to see previous pages... His facial expression is peaceful but, at the same time, thoughtful and distracted. His head is not raised and, consequently, he does not look directly at the observer but gazes into the horizon. The purity, grace and proportion of the figure are greatly enhanced by the quality and color of the medium chosen to execute it: pure white marble.
For the spectator, the main reaction after observation of the sculpture is probably one of awe and admiration for the technical skills and artistic proficiency of the author, who manages to capture with great expertise the perfection of the male human body. The work of art of choice is exquisite, a piece of extraordinary beauty.
Looking at this sculpture immediately brings to mind the famous sculpture of David by Michelangelo, one of the best known works of art of the Renaissance, which Rinehart knew from his stay in Florence between 1855 and 1857. Rinehart, like Michelangelo with David, in his representation of Leander has provided the observer with a great illustration of the perfect male human form. One of the greatest differences between David and Leander makes itself evident when one looks at the two heroes in the face: while David shows fear, tension and aggression in his facial expression, Leander looks relaxed, pensive and meditative. The tension in David's face is believed to be due to the fact that he was about to confront Goliath in battle. Additionally, Leander's proportions are more realistic than David's, who exhibited an upper body and head that appeared slightly out of proportion. This is due to the fact that the sculpture, due to its monumental proportions, was designed to be admired from underneath. Leander is also less muscular and thus more realistic than David.
Both heroes show a very similar posture. The body is lightly rested over one leg, the other is slightly flexed, which helps give the impression of movement or action. Rinehart repositioned Leander's left leg with respect David's, achieving a more open stance. With respect to their hands, David is holding a stone that he is about to throw, while Leander keeps a delicate hold of the cloth that covers his nudity. Leander, shown at the edge of the shore, is actually in the act of undressing himself ready to get in the water that can be seen at his feet.
3. Interpretation
The sculpture of Leander is one of a pair that was produced to illustrate a tragic love story of the Greek mythology. Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite, and Leander were lovers residing in opposite sides of the Hellespont. Each evening Leander would swim across the strait in order to meet with his beloved Hero. Tragedy struck one stormy night, when the lighthouse he used as a guide failed and, as a consequence, he got lost and drowned. Overcome with grief, Hero decided to meet the same fate as her lover and threw herself into the sea [Greek Mythology Link]. Rinehart's work shows, on one shore, Leander undressing in preparation for his evening swim and, on the other shore, Hero in anxious wait for her lover with the guiding lamp right beside her. The waves that can be observed at the bases of both sculptures represent the waters of the strait [The Magazine Antiques].
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