The Body as High Drama

"How much skill, time, and focus went into getting one simple moment of human gesture?"—Bill T. Jones, choreographer and director

Master of the Furies (Austrian). Saint Sebastian, 17th century. Ivory and kingwood socle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Fund, Walter and Leonore Annenberg Acquisitions Endowment Fund, and Mr. and Mrs. J. Tomilson Hill and Hester Diamond Gifts, 2013 (2013.36). Learn more about this object.

How does the sculpted body communicate? Hear from Met experts, leading authorities, and rising stars, each with a unique viewpoint on the language of gesture, facial expression, and pose.

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Bill T. Jones: I'm impressed with the virtuosity of how it's made. How much skill, time, and focus went into getting one simple moment of human gesture?

If I cut him at the waist and I look only downward, I couldn't really tell what the narrative is. The legs don't look distressed. The legs look like they could be doing a step, a dance step. But it's only when I put the whole thing together, that torque moving up, that my emotions begin to rise with it. I can imagine that the artist chose this design, this twisting, because there's sort of implied in it, something heading up to a level of transcendence. The torque is a kind of a fiction; I think it's like a cry. Are his hips really turning? The hips seem to be actually stationary, but the legs give the illusion that there's a movement. It makes a very exciting composition because of maybe something that is a lie in it, something that is an imposition of a will, an idea, on this very difficult material. There's a high drama at work here.

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