«The Xanten Boy: Original or Roman Copy? - A Technological Excursus»

 Presentation by Uwe Peltz, restorer at the Collection of Classical Antiquities, Berlin 

October 19, 2009 Event date: 19.30 to 22.00

Uwe Peltz is currently working on a project researching the so-called Xanten or Lüttinger Boy - an ancient bronze statue of a naked youth that was found by fishers near Xanten in 1858. Via various stations, it was possible for the Royal Museums in Berlin to acquire the over 1.5-meter-tall boy. After various restoration measures, the large bronze was made accessible to the public in the Altes Museum.

The initial interpretation of the figure as a charioteer or bookend was recognized early on as incorrect and the correct interpretation of it as a tray-bearer soon prevailed. The function as a «dumb waiter» is explained by the position of the left arm. The interpretation is considered as confirmed even when the right lower arm, the eyes and parts of the bandeau are missing.

During the restoration work performed from 2006 to 2008, scientific methods of investigation also assisted in comprehending the technological details. This Berlin tradition has made it possible to understand the working process of the ancient foundry in almost every detail.

What was impressive, however, was less the completeness of the documentation than the discussion between technology researchers and archeologists to which it gave rise: can the method of production provide inferences about the workshop and its place in time? Do we have sufficient knowledge today about the work process in the production of large bronzes to differentiate between late Hellenic and early Imperial sculptures? Is the «Xanten Boy» less a Roman copy based on a late Hellenic model than a casting from this time? In principle, the large bronze produced with extraordinarily high quality allows inferences on the processes in the workshop.

In this research project on the ancient large bronze of the Xanten Boy, Felix Lehner is also involved. In the Kunstgiesserei St.Gallen AG, an ancient welding technique is being reconstructed within the framework of an archeological experiment. Early attempts have already shown that a real welded joint - i.e. an on average completely homogenous transition between the weld material and the parts joined together — can be achieved by flushing an established connection through a casting channel with bronze until the surrounding metal is heated to such an extent that it is able to connect with the casting metal. For a publication on the current status of the research on the Xanten Boy, these experimental findings will be corroborated and developed in further attempts with so-called crucible welding.

Literature from Uwe Peltz in the Art Library