Friday, January 25, 2019

Rome Journal: Ludwig Pollak: Archeologist and Art Dealer

Laocoon with Pollak's bent arm (photo by Francis Levy)

There are a thousand stories in the naked city, but this one is worth millions and comprises the essence of "Ludwig Pollak: Archeologo E Mercante D'Arte (Prague 1868-Auschwitz 1943)" at the Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barracco and the Museo Ebraico Di Roma. As the curators describe it, Ludwig Pollak was born to a Jewish family in Prague when the city was one of the commercial and intellectual centers of the Austro-Hungarian empire. He studied at the Archelologica Epigraphische Seminar under Theodor Mommsen where his colleagues were involved in excavations at Pergamon, Ephesus and Samothrace. He trained in Vienna and eventually traveled to Rome in l893 where his mandates became archeology, collecting and art dealing. His love of Rome was such that he called himself "Ludovicus Romanus" and referred to the city as his “Alfa and Omega.” He started to meet people like Count Alexander von Nelidow, the Russian Ambassador to Constantinople whose collection of antique jewelry he analyzed. His reputation grew as he discovered a 5th century B. C. work by the Greek potter Hieron whose fragments he sold to the English collector E.P. Warren and a 3rd century B.C. work, the “Maid of Anzio,” which had been found on the site of Nero’s villa. He discovered a Roman copy of Greek sculpture by Myron also from the 5thCentury BC, that had been seen at the Acropolis by Pausanius. Probably his most preeminent discovery, however, was that of the bent arm of the Laocoon. The statue with a missing arm had been reconstructed in 1506 with a straight appendage reaching out, but his finding completely changed archeological history. Giovanni Barracco was one of Pollak's clients. Pollak met Freud, who had always believed that archeology was a metaphor for the psyche and with whom he shared a mutual affection for Goethe’s concept of “bildung" or self development. The Pollak show underscores the tremendous schizophrenia of a culture that could produce Heinrich Schliemann and Kristallnacht. Would that Pollak's insights into antiquity could have alerted the scholar and connoisseur to his own monstrous fate.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.