For centuries there has been a note of yearning in our feelings about ancient Greek and Roman art. We can’t help mourning for what has irretrievably vanished. In 1764 Johann Joachim Winckelmann wrote that we have ‘nothing but a shadowy outline left of the object of our wishes, but that very indistinctness awakens only a more earnest longing for what we have lost’. In the same spirit, Power and Pathos, an exhibition of Hellenistic bronze sculpture at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, begins with an empty plinth.
It is the marble base of a statue, found in Corinth, on which are written the words ‘Lysippos made [this]’. The inscription is poignant for a series of reasons. The statue that once stood on that plinth has disappeared, probably melted down more than a thousand years ago. So has every other bronze made by Lysippos, of which there were — according to Pliny the