I can’t breathe (detail), Alison Carlier, 2021, wax, plaster of Paris, resin
This work shows Laocoon, a Trojan Priest, with his nose cut away. The original sculpture would have been made in the second century BC in Greece.
He is said to be The prototypical icon of human agony (N Spivey 2001)
In ancient Egypt, statues were often defaced. Monuments of people were thought to represent an interface between life and the supernatural. They believed that a soul could occupy the sculpture of a person, so such vandalism deactivated their strength.
Once a body part was damaged it was thought to be unable to perform its purpose any longer.
A broken nose meant the spirit ‘stopped breathing’.