The statue of Laocoön and His Sons (Italian: Gruppo del Laocoonte), also called the Laocoön Group, is a monumental sculpture in marble now in the Vatican Museums, Rome. The statue is attributed by the Roman author Pliny the Elder to three sculptors from the island of Rhodes: Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus. It shows the Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus being strangled by sea serpents. Laocoön the son of Acoetes is a figure in Greek and Roman mythology, a Trojan priest of Poseidon (or Neptune), whose rules he had defied, either by marrying and having sons, or by having committed an impiety by making love with his wife in the presence of a cult image in a sanctuary. His minor role in the Epic Cycle narrating the Trojan War was of warning the Trojans in vain against accepting the Trojan Horse from the Greeks-“A deadly fraud is this,” he said, “devised by the Achaean chiefs!”-and for his subsequent divine execution by two serpents sent to Troy across the sea from the island of Tenedos, where the Greeks had temporarily camped. Laocoön warned his fellow Trojans against the wooden horse presented to the city by the Greeks. In the Aeneid, Virgil gives Laocoön the famous line Equo ne credite, Teucri / Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes, or “Do not trust the Horse, Trojans / Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts.” This line is the source of the saying: “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” When the statue was discovered, Laocoön’s right arm was missing, along with part of the hand of one child and the right arm of the other. Artists and connoisseurs debated how the missing parts should be interpreted. Michelangelo suggested that the missing right arms were originally bent back over the shoulder. Others, however, believed it was more appropriate to show the right arms extended outwards in a heroic gesture. The Pope held an informal contest among sculptors to make replacement right arms, which was judged by Raphael. The winner, in the outstretched position, was attached to the statue. In 1906 Ludwig Pollak, archaeologist, art dealer and director of the Museo Barracco, discovered a fragment of a marble arm in a builder’s yard in Rome. Noting a stylistic similarity to the Laocoön group he presented it to the Vatican Museums: it remained in their storerooms for half a century. In the 1950s the museum decided that this arm-bent, as Michelangelo had suggested-had originally belonged to this Laocoön. The statue was dismantled and reassembled with the new arm incorporated. The restored portions of the children’s arm and hand were removed. In the course of disassembly, breaks, cuttings, metal tenons, and dowel holes have suggested that a more compact, three-dimensional pyramidal grouping of the three figures was contemplated or used in Antiquity before subsequent ancient and Renaissance restorations were made; the more open, planographic composition along a plane, familiar in the Laocoön group as restored, has been interpreted as “apparently the result of serial reworkings by Roman Imperial as well as Renaissance and modern craftsmen” There are many copies of the statue, including a well-known one in the Grand Palace of the Knights of St. John in Rhodes. Many still show the arm in the outstretched position. The copy in Rhodes has been corrected. The discovery of the Laocoön made a great impression on Italian sculptors and significantly influenced the course of Italian Renaissance art. Michelangelo is known to have been particularly impressed by the massive scale of the work and its sensuous Hellenistic aesthetic, particularly its depiction of the male figures. The influence of the Laocoön is evidenced in many of Michelangelo’s later works, such as the Rebellious Slave and the Dying Slave, created for the tomb of Pope Julius II. The tragic nobility of this statue is one of the themes in Gotthold Lessing’s essay on literature and aesthetics, Laokoön, one of the early classics of art criticism. The Florentine sculptor Baccio Bandinelli was commissioned to make a copy by Pope Leo X de’ Medici. Bandinelli’s version, which was often copied and distributed in small bronzes, is at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. A bronze casting, made for François I at Fontainebleau from a mold taken from the original under the supervision of Primaticcio, is at the Musée du Louvre.