Laocoön (Height 8′ or 2.4 m.) Vatican Museum, Rome. A Wikimedia photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen (2009)
Works of art often have fascinating histories. And none like Laocoön.
It was carved in Greece, probably about one hundred years before Christ.
Years later a rich Roman bought it for his art collection and put it in his palace in the place of honor. It was surely the best work he or anyone in Rome had. The great Roman writer Pliny saw it and raved about it.
When the barbarians sacked Rome the statue disappeared and stayed missing for a thousand years.
Then in 1504, when Italians were digging in Rome to find old statues, they came across the Laocoön in a chamber deep underground. The old Roman owner had hidden it well from the barbarians.
Michelangelo himself, who was working in Rome at the time, dropped what he was doing and ran to see the great statue lifted out of the ground. He was impressed. Maybe he was jealous. In fact, the Laocoön is the ancient statue that looks most like a Michelangelo. (See Is the Laocoön by Michelangelo?)
Now it is in the Vatican Museum.
In the eighteenth century there was a famous argument between German philosophers and art critics on this statue. Read about it in Why Didn’t Laocoön Shout?