He’s young. He’s lithe. He’s dying on the battlefield at Thermopylae, along with 300 other Spartan warriors. It is the summer of 480 BC. The Persians won.
Carved in 1892, he’s known as “The Last of the Spartans.” He’s Everyman who has known bitter defeat. He’s Everyman who fights on, now and forever, despite the odds.
His maker, Gaetano Trentanove, an Italian by birth, died in America in 1937. It’s comforting to muse that he died pleasantly, unlike the young hero he so expertly memorialized, the hero who is forever on the brink in the Frederick Layton Gallery at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Twelve Ionic columns surround the marble slab beneath him that elevates and celebrates the good fight, fought and lost.
Produced by Trentanove for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, the last Spartan lived and died (and lived again) in the movie 300, small comfort and of no consequence to the youth near death at MAM, he who breathes his last for us in the year 2011.