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Henry Moore Terme di Diocleziano - Modern Divinities

Henry Moore Terme di Diocleziano - Modern Divinities

Much of the essence of Moore’s works lies within the empty spaces and the voids that surround them, letting their surroundings seep into and through their bodies; the same way time somehow finds a way to flow through us. The timeless quality of the sculptures is captured seamlessly in the magnificent halls of the Baths of Diocletian. The millennia old, naked brick walls of the now empty spaces resonate strangely well with these epitomes of modernity, perhaps because they meet at a crossroads of what really can be considered modern and what antique.

Moore’s modernity was based on a return to the origin, to primitive figures, which represented not only the artist honesty to his vision, but also to the material, which was essential in shaping the artistic creations. This honesty is precisely what emerges from the sculptures on display at the Thermae Diocletiani, where the grandeur of the spaces somehow both dwarfs and enhances the monumentality of the sculptures.

In a space created for demonstrating man’s ability to mould the elements to his needs and desires, the desire of one man and movement to follow the nature of a material and its elements makes sense. The voids of the Baths, which speak loudly of the splashing wonders they must have once contained, enhance, despite their bygone opulence, the brutal simplicity of the figures.

Timeless and without history, the primitive sculptures sprung from Moore’s hands appear to transcend the divinity of what to us appears as one of the great civilizations of antiquity. The divinity perceived in the sculptures is beyond the anthropomorphic representations the great civilizations of antiquity had of their gods, yet also beyond any possible modern interpretation of divinity.

The central hall contains a large mosaic depicting Hercules and Achaelus after their battle, Hercules triumphantly holding the horn he tore from the river-god’s head. Two Reclining Figure’s, both in two pieces, flank the mosaic as though slowly moving into an embrace with a strange primal dynamic. The juxtaposition of the three scenes, the battle in the centre with the physical frame of the two Figure’s, creates a wholly new view of the story told by the black and white marble tesserae.

Suddenly the antiquity appears as though an attribute of Moore’s works, rather than of the Greco-Roman hero, who entwined in worldly battles is observed by the god-like abstractions. The setting within the Diocletian Baths is so saturated with its own history that it is impossible, for any object within them not to remain entangled in its web. The vaguely humanoid shapes remind us of their origin, or perhaps of our origin, without specifying which comes first and which comes after; only that awe is due.

The delicately curated exhibition also includes many of Moore’s drawings, almost as an illustration of the five thematic areas. One of the most compelling is War and Peace, with the famous illustrations of Londoners seeking shelter in the underground stations during the WW2 air raids. The drawings gently integrate and ground the otherwise very ethereal exhibition, pulling our imagination toward an understanding of the creational process of the artist.


“Henry Moore” Terme di Diocleziano, Grandi Aule

Viale Enrico De Nicola 78

25 September 2015 – 10 January 2016

Information and guided tours 06.39967700



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