Ariadne Galleries

Torso of an Athlete
Period: Second century BC
Culture: Greek
Material: Silver
Dimensions: 4.5 cm H
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What is so magnificent about this torso is the outstanding modeling of the body. Not only is the physiognomy anatomically correct, but it is also fluid, graceful, toned and athletic. An artist with a fine eye and steady hand has carefully and artistically modeled each muscle group. The figure's left leg is striding forward and the flexed, tensed right leg carries his weight. These legs, broken at the knees, support a muscular frame with a clear vertical line running up the chest and defined by the musculature. The right shoulder and corresponding arm is missing and the left arm is bent at the elbow. He wears a brief chlamys, the short cloak which is draped over his left shoulder and descends to the forearm. Only the base of the neck remains. The figure's hips are slim and his shoulders are broad, which, besides his contrapposto stance, is characteristic of the great sculptor Lysippos' muscular bodies.

This could be the body of Zeus, or of his brother Poseidon. In fact, artists did use this body form for gods and heroes. However, the prototype for this splendid torso is Lysippos' "Victorious Athlete" which was originally chiseled by the sculptor in the fourth century BC, but now only exists in replica. Thus, this statuette more likely represents not a hero or a god, but a victorious athlete. Perhaps it was a masculine votive for an athletic god, like Herakles, or a personal piece for an athletic individual; or even a prize in one of the many athletic competitions that the Greeks favoured. Because of the fine workmanship and balance within the physiognomy of this precious piece, it is an outstanding tribute, in miniature, to the fourth century master Lysippos.


English Private Collection, 1977.
Published: Christie's London, 7 October 2010, lot 158.