GREAT ART - Ancient Sculpture

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© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2015


Roman 2nd Century Bronze

In classical mythology, Priapus was a fertility god, son of Dionysus (Bacchus) and Aphrodite (Venus) - protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens and male genitalia.
Priapus is marked by his over sized, permanent erection, which gave rise to the medical term priapism.
He became a popular figure in Roman erotic art, and Latin literature, and is the a central subject in 'The Satyricon' by Petronius - written at the time of the Emperor Nero.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016


The marble Kritios boy or Kritian Boy belongs to the Early Classical period of ancient Greek sculpture; "the first beautiful nude in art", as Kenneth Clark thought, it is a precursor to the later classical sculptures of athletes.
The Kritian boy is thus named because it is attributed on slender evidence to Kritios who worked together with Nesiotes (sculptors of Harmodius and Aristogeiton) or their school, from around 480 BC.
The statue is considerably smaller than life-size at 1.17 m (3 ft 10 ins).

Atlas brings Herakles the Apples of the Hesperides



The Diadumenos ("diadem-bearer"), together with the Doryphoros and Discophoros, are the three most famous figural types of the sculptor Polyclitus, forming three basic patterns of Ancient Greek sculpture that all present strictly idealised representations of young male athletes in a convincingly naturalistic manner.
The Diadumenos is the winner of an athletic contest at a games, still nude after the contest and lifting his arms to knot the diadem, a ribbon-band that identifies the winner and which in the bronze original of about 420 BCE would have been represented by a ribbon of bronze.
The figure stands in contrapposto with his weight on his right foot, his left knee slightly bent and his head inclined slightly to the right, self-contained, seeming to be lost in thought.
Phidias was credited with a statue of a victor at Olympia in the act of tying the fillet around his head; besides Polyclitus, his successors Lysippos and Scopas also created figures of this kind.


The Doryphoros, was a bronze sculpture by the classical Greek sculptor Polyclitus, (It is not, however, to be confused with Discobolus of Myron, which shows a discus being thrown not carried.)
It features a young, muscular, solidly-built athlete in a moment of thought between disrobing ready to throw the discus and actually throwing it.
The marble copies that feature the addition of a marble tree stump - marble is weaker but heavier than bronze, so the stump is needed for support.
These copies are also often missing their arms, which are equally often restored.

Δισκοβόλος - DISCOBOLUS - (Roman Copy)

The Discobolus of Myron ("discus thrower" Greek) is a famous Greek sculpture that was completed towards the end of the Severe period, circa 460-450 BC.
The original Greek bronze is lost.
It is known through numerous Roman copies, both full-scale ones in marble, such as the first to be recovered, the Palombara Discopolus, or smaller scaled versions in bronze.
A discus thrower is depicted about to release his throw: "by sheer intelligence", Sir Kenneth Clark observed in The Nude (1956:p 239f) "Myron has created the enduring pattern of athletic energy.
He has taken a moment of action so transitory that students of athletics still debate if it is feasible, and he has given it the completeness of a cameo."
The moment thus captured in the statue is an example of rhythmos, harmony and balance.
Myron is often credited with being the first sculptor to master this style.
Naturally, as always in Greek athletics, the Discobolus is completely nude.
His pose is said to be unnatural to a human, and today considered a rather inefficient way to throw the discus.
Also there is very little emotion shown in the discus thrower's face, and "to a modern eye,it may seem that Myron's desire for perfection has made him suppress too rigorously the sense of strain in the individual muscles," Clark observes.

Δισκοβόλος - DISCOBOLUS - (Roman Copy)

Δισκοβόλος - DISCOBOLUS - (Roman Copy)


Pythian Apollo or Apollo Belvedere
Vatican Museum - Rome

The Apollo Belvedere or Apollo of the Belvedere — also called the Pythian Apollo — is a celebrated marble sculpture from Classical Antiquity.
It was rediscovered in central Italy in the late 15th century, during the Renaissance.
From the mid-18th century, it was considered the greatest ancient sculpture by ardent neoclassicists and for centuries epitomized ideals of aesthetic perfection for Europeans and westernized parts of the world.
The large white marble sculpture — 2.24 m (7.3 feet) high — depicts the Greek god Apollo as a standing archer.
The complex contrapposto of the work has been much admired; it appears to position the figure both frontally and in profile.
The Apollo is thought to be a Roman copy of Hadrianic date (ca. 120-140) of a lost bronze original made between 350 and 325 BC by the Greek sculptor Leochares.

Rondanini Medusa
Glyptothek - Munich

The over-lifesize Medusa Rondanini, the best late Hellenistic or Augustan Roman marble copy of the head of Medusa, is rendered more humanized and beautiful than the always grotesque apotropaic head of Medusa that appeared as the Gorgoneion on the aegis of Athena.
The Medusa Rondanini is located in the Glyptothek in Munich, Germany, having been purchased by the art-loving king Ludwig of Bavaria from the heirs of the marchese Rondanini, during his Grand Tour of Italy as a prince.
The Medusa Rondanini may be a Roman copy of a classical work of the fifth century BC, a model attributed to one or another Athenian sculptor of the age of Phidias.
Alternatively, it may have been modeled after a classicising Hellenistic work of the late fourth century BC.
The Medusa has more recently been made famous as the logo of the Italian designer Gianni Versace.

'Schlafender Satyr' oder 'Barberinischer Faun'(Barberini Faun)
Glyptothek - Munich

The life-size marble statue known as the Barberini Faun, or Drunken Satyr, is located in the Glyptothek in Munich, Germany.
A Faun is the Roman equivalent of a Greek Satyr.
In Greek mythology, satyrs were human-like male woodland spirits with several animal features, often a goat-like tail, hooves, ears, or horns. Satyrs attended Dionysus.
The sculpture was either carved by an unknown Hellenistic sculptor of the Pergamene school, in the late third or early second century BC, or is a Roman copy of high quality, though its present form was given it by a series of restorers in Rome, ending with Vincenzo Pacetti.
The statue was found in the 1620s in the moat below the Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome, which in Antiquity had been Hadrian’s Mausoleum.
The sculpture made its first documented appearance in a receipt for its restoration, 6 June 1628, when it already belonged to the Pope's nephew, Cardinal Francesco Barberini.

'Schlafender Satyr' oder 'Barberinischer Faun'(Barberini Faun)
Glyptothek - Munich

Barberini Faun - detail
Glyptothek - Munich

Barberini Faun - detail
Glyptothek - Munich

Hellenistic  Sculpture - Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus

Laocoön is 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.

The death of Laocoön was famously depicted in a much-admired marble Laocoön  and his Sons (see above), attributed by Pliny the Elder to the Rhodian sculptors Agesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus, which stands in the Vatican Museums, Rome.

Μέγας Ἀλέξανδρος  -  Alexander the Great

Alexandros III Philippou Makedonon (Alexander the Great, Alexander III of Macedon) (356-323 B.C.), King of Macedonia, was born in late July 356 BC in Pella, Macedonia, he was one of the greatest military genius in history.
He conquered much of what was then the civilized world, driven by his divine ambition of the world conquest and the creation of a universal world monarchy.
Arrian describes Alexander: the strong, handsome commander with one eye dark as the night and one blue as the sky, always leading his army on his faithful Bucephalus. Alexander inherited from his father King Philip the best military formation of the time, the Macedonian Phalanx, armed with sarisses - the fearful five and half meter long lances.
He was the first great conqueror who reached Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor, and Asia up to western India.
He is famous for having created the ethnic fusion of the Macedonians and the Persians. From victory to victory, from triumph to triumph, Alexander created an empire which brought him eternal glory.
He brought Greek ideas, culture and life style to the countries which he conquered, and assured expansion and domination of Hellenistic Culture which, together with Roman Civilization constitutes the foundation of what is now called Western Civilization.

Winged Nike of Samothrace

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, is a 2nd century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory).
Since 1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world.
Nike of Samothrace, discovered in 1863, is estimated to have been created around 190 BC.
It was created to not only honor the goddess, Nike, but to honor a sea battle.
It conveys a sense of action and triumph as well as portraying artful flowing drapery through its features which the Greeks considered ideal beauty.

Winged Victory of Samothrace

Quirinal or Terme Boxer

The bronze Boxer of Quirinal, also known as the Terme Boxer, is a Hellenistic Greek sculpture from the 1st century BC of a sitting boxer with cestus, in the collection of the National Museum of Rome.
It is one of the two unrelated bronzes discovered on the slopes of the Quirinal within a month of each other in 1885, possibly from the remains of the Baths of Constantine.
It appears that both had been carefully buried in antiquity.
The realism of the portraiture suggests that it is a particular boxer, with a boxer's scars and broken nose, and not a representation of Polydeuces, one of the Dioscuri.
The sculpture is soldered together from eight separately cast segments. The lips and wounds and scars about the face were originally inlaid with copper, and further copper inlays on the right shoulder, forearm, cestus and thigh represented drops of blood. The fingers were worn from being rubbed by passers-by in ancient times.

Quirinal or Terme Boxer - Detail

Ἀντίνοος  - Antinoüs

Antinoüs or Antinoös ( 27 - 130 AD) was a member of the entourage of theRoman Emperor Hadrian, to whom he was beloved.
Antinous was deified after his death.
Antinous was born to a Greek family in Bithynion-Claudiopolis, in the Roman province of Bithynia in what is now north-west Turkey.
One version is that Antinous joined the entourage of the Emperor when Hadrian passed through Bithynia in about 124, and soon became his beloved companion who accompanied him on his many journeys through the empire.
Another version has it that Hadrian had the empire searched for the most beautiful youth, and chose Antinous.
In October 130, according to Hadrian, cited by Dio Cassius, "Antinous was drowned in the Nilus". (D.C. 69.11).
It is not known for certain whether his death was the result of accident, suicide, murder, or (voluntary) religious sacrifice, but the last is best supported by the surviving evidence.
At Antinous's death the emperor decreed his deification.
Ἀντίνοος  - Antinoüs
(full length - nude)

Ἀντίνοος  - Antinoüs

Ἀντίνοος  - Antinoüs

Antinous  Mondragone - Louvre

The Antinous Mondragone is a unique colossal 0.95 m high marble example of the iconographic type of the deified Antinous, of c. AD 130.
It can be identified as him from the striated eyebrows, full lips, sombre expression and the head's twist down and to the right (reminiscent of that of the Lemnian Athena), whilst its smooth skin and elaborate, centre-parted hair mirror those of Hellenistic images of Dionysus and Apollo.
It formed part of a colossal acrolithic cult statue for the worship of Antinous as a god. 31 holes in 3 different sizes have been drilled for the attachment of a head-dress (possibly a lotus flower or uraeus) in metal; the sculpture has also lost eyes in metal, ivory or coloured stone.

Antinoüs in Purple

Antinoüs the God

'In the Sculptor’s Studio'
Christian Meyer Ross


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