Apollonius, Boxer at Rest, c. 100 B.C.E., bronze, Hellenistic Period (Palazzo Massimo, Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome). Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris.Created byBeth Harris and Steven Zucker.
almost always when we are looking at greek sculpture we re looking at roman carvings, we aare looking at marble copies of what had once been bronze. but bronze is expensive.and it is reusable. so 2000 years after these objects were made, there is ample opportunity for it to be melted down.but once in a while we find a greek original. we are looking at the seated boxer, a greek helenistic sculpture from about 100B.C. now helenitic refers tothis period after alexander the great, so this is the last phase of the ancient greek art. because the helenistic ends when the romans conquer greece. Because it is bronze we have an opportunity to understand how the greeks constructed their flarge scale sculpture. This is lost-wax casting and it would be chased, so you could actually carve into portions, and we can see that especially in the beard, and in the hair so those lines would cut into the surface So this sculpture is hollow in other words. we can see that if you look into the eyes, if you look into the mouth, you can see the hollowness. now originally there would have been eyes that are missing. they would have been of ivory or some sort of glass paste, something reflective, well polished yes we can see that this is quite thin and that if we knocked on it, it would ring like a bell. a few moments ago as we were looking at it, there was someone standing in the veryplace that he seems to be looking and i almost thought likehe was in actual dialogue with someone he has a tremendous sense of presence. doesn't he? he does. during the helenistic period we see the real expansion of the subject matter that we usually think of as Greek art. Usually we think about ideal beautiful nude athletic young, figures. but this is an athletic figure, but he is not young and he is not beautiful in the traditional sense When I look at him I find parts of him beautiful, but his face is certainly not. Oh, the beauty comes from our understanding of his life, of his suffering instead of the elegance and perfection of his body. He's muscular, he's powerful, but he's defeated Yeah, there's definitely sense of pathos, the sculpture engages us emotionally. the artist has been careful to make sure that we feel sympathy. he has inlaid copper into parts of the face wher he has defined wounds, so that the copper functions as a more red color against the bronze, and we can see him bleeding. Boxing in ancient Greece focused mainly on blows to the head, to the face and that's why his body looks still so very beautiful and perfect and when I said before I still find him ideally beautiful i was thinking about the incredible muscles in his torso he's still really thin and athletic but the face is such a contrast, and also his hands are wrapped in leather.the face and the hands ground him in a kind of reality of a moment. well that's especially true with his posture. You can see that he's not simply seated. His torso is collapsing, his head is down. he is looking up but you can feel the exhaustion. you can also say the way in which his body has been beaten, the broken nose, the gashes in his face. And look at his ear which is swollen and distorted We rarely see seated figures. In the classical period in Greek art the figures are standing, they're noble, they exist in a world, you know, in a heroic way. Just by virtue of just being seated there's humility and humanity to the figure. Well there's also an informality. his right leg is out and up on the heel his left leg is splaid out slightly under the weight of his arm this is a man who'd like to lie down. so this is a period in Greek art when there really is an interest in pathos, in moving beyond the heroic, in moving beyond the traditional subjects of the ancient world And it's really beginning to expore of much wider variety It's facinating, it is this incredibly sophisticated moment