As one first proceeds towards the Metropolitan’s Greek and Roman Galleries and gets a glimpse of the long hall of statues ahead, the response is complete awe. For housed in these next rooms are some of the best examples of marble and stone carvings anywhere in the world.

Many are in various states of restoration and most are Roman reproductions of the Greek originals.  However, they are all awe-inspiring. Plus, the natural light, towering ceilings and expansive rooms all aid in bringing a magnificent time in history back to life.

In the center of the first hall is a majestic warrior from the Roman Antonine period, AD 138-181, a copy of a Greek bronze. He holds a shield in his left arm and probably had a spear in his right, as his grandiose presence commands over the long hall and the many fabulous works surrounding him.

Bronze Warrior

There is the Apollo with the missing head, some fragments of the Great Eleusinian Relief, immense ceramic urns, as well as a few robed women from the second half of the Fourth century B.C. The exquisite detail, such as the many creases in the garments, suggests that these pieces are Greek originals and not Roman copies.

Greek Robed Woman

If you turn off to the room to your left you will encounter a marble statue of a Kouros (youth) from the Greek Attic period 590-580 BC. It is one of the earliest marble statues of a human figure carved in Attica and it is clearly derived from Egyptian art. This piece marked the grave of a young Athenian aristocrat.


Now enter the grand light-drenched room – encompassed by a glass-installed atrium with a stately marble fountain in its center – and you will be overwhelmed by many masterful pieces, most of which are from the Roman Imperial period, the 1st to 2nd centuries A.D.

Witness the marble Hercules seated on a rock (only his torso remains), the statue of Aphrodite and that of a seated muse, each brilliant in it own right.  Further along you will pass The Three Graces standing side by side – Aglaia (Beauty), Euphrosyne (Mirth) and Thalia (Abundance) – said to be the handmaidens to Aphrodite.

The Three Graces

Then there are the fabulous over life-sized Hercules’, one youthful, the other bearded, standing across the hall from each other. Both may have been excavated in the remains of public baths constructed under Nero in AD 62 near the Pantheon.

Young Hercules

Bearded Hercules

The Crouching Aphrodite is a particularly special piece as it was designed to be viewed from all angles. The work is of the goddess crouching at her bath with Eros (no longer seen) behind her.

Crouching Aphrodite

Crouching Aphrodite

Towards the back room are the absolutely amazing Sarcophagi. The highlight is the intricately carved structure of Dionyses on a panther with his attendants. The work is Roman from AD 220-230.

Further along is a marble sarcophagus lid with a reclining couple from the Roman Severan period, AD 220. The piece represents the personification of earth and water, with the wife’s head left unfinished, suggesting that the husband likely predeceased her and that no one added her portrait after she died.

In the back room are housed some very singular works. Witness the portrait head of Emperor Constantine I, from the Roman Constantine period, AD 325-370. Constantine was the first emperor of Rome and this bust is an ideal example of what an emperor should look like – neat, clean-shaven, imperial.

Emperor Constantine l

The immense bronze statue of Emperor Trebonianus Gallus, AD 251-253, is one of the very few nearly complete statues of the Third Century preserved today and has gone through several campaigns of restoration.

Trebonianus Gallus

Meandering through these halls one can easily get lost in thought of times long ago. The many benches in the main hall offer the ability to spend hours here, gazing at the exquisite carvings, soaking in the chronicles and legends of history.

live at the green mill-radio days


James Kieran McGonnell was born in Ireland, speaks with a lovely Irish lilt and has a keen affinity for most things Irish. And American.

He is highly influenced by artists hailing from his homeland, most notably Francis Bacon and Louis Lebroquay, both of whom emerged out of the post WWII art movement – the period known as Existentialism. He is also greatly persuaded by notable writers such as Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Jim Thompson and Virginia Woolfe, to name a handful.

So it’s not surprising that literature, history and art history all have an immeasurable effect on what he does. In fact, every one of McGonnell’s paintings is embedded with a rich history that is clearly evident.

History in the Making

Take “Red Herring” for example, in which circles reside within a square, a theme popularized in 50’s pop art and the work of American Color field painters, such as Kenneth Noland. The concept is a play on the idea of searching for something undefined. All the fish are in a regimented order depicting the routine and safety of everyday life. What will happen to them?

Red Herring

Red Herring

In “Once Upon a Spinning Time”  two dancers are  doing the jitterbug. The piece represents the first dance of Obama and his wife, Michelle, at the inauguration and evokes a snapshot out of the continuum in which you expect the future to have a certain and predictable outcome.

Once Upon a Spinning Time

Once Upon a Spinning Time

“After Dark My Sweet” is based on a Jim Thompson novel and a Yeats poem. The idea of moths drawn to a light conveys a sense of danger and the piece demonstrates the unpredictability of the future.

After Dark My Sweet

After Dark My Sweet

“Ghost Bike” is also based on a Yeats poem, conveying all the beauty in the world thus far, but that which cannot be experienced because it has passed. The bike is a symbol of the life of a person, the tragedy and beauty in history.

“A Pair of American Glasses” and “Live at the Green Mill – Radio Days” both symbolize American history– that which has long passed but stays with us forever.

A Pair of American Glasses

A Pair of American Glas

The Method to the Motive

McGonnell has spent the past 15 years transferring images onto canvas. His technique is intense and intricate. First, he designs the images in his head, instilled by the inspiration of poems, literature, a muse of history or a reaction to daily life and living.

The ideas are then transferred to the computer, and through graphic imaging and photography the piece begins to take on a very conceptual shape. Next, McGonnell hand draws the entire piece on canvas with a pencil.

Finally, he paints. Through a combination of air brush spray paint and hand painting, utilizing high quality products containing silicones and resins, the work evolves into the finished masterpiece.

kieran in studio1

There is no question that Kieran McGonnell is a prolific and disciplined artist. He has been painting constantly for many years, currently in his upstairs studio, and works with galleries and dealers both in New York and Chicago, where he currently resides. He also shows once a year in Ireland. He says this has been the toughest year to date –no small statement from a talented artist such as he.

To view the ArtistsinAuction website click here.

To view more of J. Kieran McGonnell’s work, click here.

kieran studio2