From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
As depicted in the marble group
The horrendous cries are usually identified as bellowing and are the object of speculation in Johann Joachim Winckelmann's "Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture," Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's "Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry" and Charles Bell's Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting.
Laocoön's full death
In Aeneid Virgil describes the circumstances of Laocoön's death:
- From the Aeneid
- Ille simul manibus tendit divellere nodos
- perfusus sanie vittas atroque veneno,
- clamores simul horrendos ad sidera tollit:
- qualis mugitus, fugit cum saucius aram
- taurus et incertam excussit cervice securim.
- Literal English translation:
- At the same time he stretched forth to tear the knots with his hands
- his fillets soaked with saliva and black venom
- at the same time he lifted to heaven horrendous cries:
- like the bellowing when a wounded bull has fled from the altar
- and has shaken the ill-aimed axe from its neck.
- John Dryden's translation:
- With both his hands he labors at the knots;
- His holy fillets the blue venom blots;
- His roaring fills the flitting air around.
- Thus, when an ox receives a glancing wound,
- He breaks his bands, the fatal altar flies,
- And with loud bellowings breaks the yielding skies.