The Netherland, private collection
United Kingdom, private collection, since early 1990’s
London, David Aaron gallery
London, private collection
This powerful and intense fragment of a Roman bronze bust, datable around the 1st-2nd Century A.D, comes from what would have been a larger than life sized sculpture of an athlete or a warrior, most likely in the pose of the Doryphoros of Polykleitos. The original Doryphoros, casted in bronze and now lost, is one of the most celebrated Greek sculptures of classical antiquity, depicting a solidly built, muscular, standing warrior or athlete, bearing a spear balanced on his left shoulder. A vast part of Polykleitos’s fame was due to the fact that with his Doryphoros and Diadumenos he solved the problem of the ideal representation of the athletic male figure, standing and revolving. Unlike archaic kouroi, which stand rigidly in an unnatural stance derived from Egyptian models, classical statues have a sense of motion achieved by a pose known as contrapposto. The Doryphoros stands in such a pose, bearing the weight on one straight leg, while the other is bent and relaxed. The arms, one of which is flexed, while the other hangs relaxed by the side, counterbalance the legs. This movement, tension, and shifting weight create the impression of motion.
Even if only the torso of this Roman statue, with its brutal realism, survives, it provides clues to the sculpture’s original appearance. Depicted in heroic nudity, with a youthful idealised musculature and proportions, this large fragment survives from just above the navel, and shows the broad chest, back and shoulders. The positioning of the shoulders suggest that the arms would have been outspread, with the right slightly raised.
In the first and second centuries A.D., the Romans had a special interest in the work of Polykleitos, and created both exact replicas of his work and variants in his style. The exceptional Minneapolis Institute of Arts sculpture (inv. 86.6), dating from 120-150 BCE, is one of the few almost intact copies remaining. Another is a marble copy in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples (inv. 6011), and an amazing basalt example of a Doryphoros torso is in the Uffizi in Florence (inv. 308).
The pose and proportions of the original bronze statue were easily adapted, as seen here, to suit Roman statuary. Bronze, with its tensile strength, reflective effects and ability to hold fine details comparing to marble, was employed to create dynamic compositions, dazzling displays of the nude body.
Our Roman torso was cast using the lost-wax process, method that was used far back in antiquity, but it was the Greeks who developed the technique in order to create large, life-sized sculptures. For a bronze figure of this dimension, the artist would have created the cast in several pieces, such as the head, torso, arms, and legs. These were later reassembled, the skill with which these joins were made in antiquity is one of the greatest technical achievements of Greek and Roman bronze working.
Price upon request