Perhaps a youthful Apollo, standing stridently, this Roman marble statue typifies the high-point of Classical sculpture. Leaning back, with his right hip bearing down on to his leg, cementing it in to the ground, as his left hip pushes forward, he stands in a carefully articulated contrapposto pose – an artistic move developed by the ancient Greeks for their monumental bronze statues; one of which this may have been a copy of.
With a chlamys (a seamless rectangular woollen cloak) over his chest, fastened in the centre with a large fibula, he cuts a powerful shape of almost exaggerated masculinity. His overly-chiselled hip muscles, and inflated pectorals suggest an idealised form of unattainable male beauty that can only be achieved by the ever-divine gods, eternally youthful and powerful. Two gentle curls of long hair are still visible on both shoulders, suggesting that this is the son of Zeus and Leto, the god of music, poetry, the arts and the sun, Apollo. One of the twelve Olympian deities, Apollo was considered a model of youthful male beauty, embodying values deeply rooted in Classical Antiquity.
This type of sculpture, with emphasised anatomy and precise geometry, is in the tradition of the Polykleitan School. Polykleitos, who was a Greek sculptor of the fifth century BC., wrote treatise on the virtues of harmonious and balanced sculptural forms to represent the human body. This finely carved torso is particularly similar to his 440 BC bronze Doryphoros sculpture, which is known through surviving Roman marble copies, and in particular a fine surviving example from Herculaneum that dates 150-120 BC. Now in Naples Archaeological Museum and another version in the Uffizi Gallery. The Romans greatly celebrated such Greek sculptures, emulated in hard stone, associating the rational proportions of the body with beauty and health and their spirituality as representative of the old world of gods and mythology. It is quite possible that this torso is a Roman copy of the now lost Greek Doryphoros by the great Polykleitos, but with the head of Apollo swapped for the original head of an athlete. A highly skilled craftsman who has laboured over the hard stone to create this strong yet calm rendering has expertly captured the exquisite proportions and delicacy of the bronze original, for a Roman market. This heroic stance was adopted by everyone from the winners of ancient games to the Emperor Augustus as the choice pose for their statuary. Such objects were mostly originally painted, often holding bronze weapons, on both public and private display, and found throughout the Roman Empire, signalling their immense popularity.
Fortune Fine Arts, New York, 2012
Private American Collection, New York, acquired in the 1990s
George Lotfi Collection, Geneva, 1980s