Menelaus and Patroclus (or Ajax and Achilles)
The group is a copy of a famous bronze prototype from the 3rd century BC. Known from numerous Roman replicas, it was found in the 16th century in the area of the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome. Donated to Cosimo I de 'Medici, the sculpture arrived in Florence together with a second copy of the group, now preserved under the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria.
The sculpture of Palazzo Pitti (located in the Sala delle Nicchie probably as early as 1576), despite the numerous seventeenth-century additions, is perhaps of greater interest than the Piazza della Signoria group, since it is one of the rare replicas of this type to preserve the original head of Menelaus. Furthermore, its discovery inside the Augustan mausoleum suggests an original important public arrangement of this work.
The group was subjected to a meticulous (and expensive) restoration work which was completed before December 1836. The following year 1837 the statue was placed in the "Courtyard of the Ajax", an environment so renamed precisely because of the presence of the sculpture. At the end of the 18th century Francesco Cancellieri and Ennio Quirino Visconti proposed a new interpretation of the group: “Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus”. The novelty was immediately received by Luigi Lanzi in his notebooks. However, a recent iconographic reinterpretation of the group, now known from thirteen replicas in all, seems to make the hypothesis that Ajax with the body of Achilles is much more plausible.
Capecchi G., L’altro Aiace: tempi e modi di un restauro (1788-1836), in Palazzo Pitti. La reggia rivelata, Giunti Editore S.p.A., Firenze-Milano 2003, pp. 70-83.
Grassinger 1999 D. Grassinger, Die Achill-Penthesilea-Gruppe sowie die Pasquino-Gruppe und ihre Rezeption in der Kaiserzeit, in Gedenkschrift für Andreas Linfert: hellenistische Gruppen, Mainz 1999, pp. 323-330
Wünsche 1991 R. Wünsche, Pasquino, Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, 41 (1991), pp. 7-38