Michelangelo’s Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs (c.1492)
One of Michelangelo’s earliest sculptures, Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs, depicts a scene in which stones are being hurled between the combatants. Paul Barolsky has noted that the choice of stones - weapons not specified by the classical poets - was Michelangelo’s and is related to his medium of choice.
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The sculpture resembles the verbal description of a battle-relief by the Greek sculptor, Phidias, in which he was said to have included his self-portrait as ‘a bald old man holding up a great stone with both hands’.1 This figure appears at the left of the sculpture and would appear to represent Michelangelo himself in the ‘likeness’ of Phidias, one great sculptor as a visual synonym for the other. ‘Phidias’ holds a stone crafted from stone, thus blending reality with imagination in a battle that is on its principal level an allegory of creative struggle. This is an image of the battle in Michelangelo's own mind to create the sculpture.
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