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  • image Image 1 for A27
  • image Image 2 for A27
  • image Image 1 for A27
  • image Image 2 for A27

Statuette of a man (perhaps an Athlete?) holding a plaque


Height (excluding mounting): 15cm

Museum number: A27

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 419help-vermeule-catalogue-number

On display: Lobby to the Breakfast Room
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Curatorial note

Nude male figure, with sword belt running from right shoulder to left hip, right hand extended with palm, except index finger, closed, left hand raised, grasping a plaque on which appears in Greek letters which are extremely difficult to make out owing to corrosion and indistinct casting:
BIOY (?)
[Translation: born through life?]

Cornelius Vermeule (the writer of this note) knew of at least seven other bronzes similar to this figure and which on the grounds of style and the technical appearance of the casting must all be considered second-rate but distinctive reproductions or, more precisely, fabrications/fakes, of the late fifteenth or sixteenth century (compare, for style, with the work of Bartolommeo Bellano (1430-1498)1; also similar but more skillful, is the style of Francesco da Sant'Agata2). From a stylistic affinity to work of the Padua school and from the presence, according to Mr. D. E. L. Haynes, of an example in the Museo Archaeologico, Venice, Padua appears to be the likely workshop from which these figures originated. The presence of one example in the Soane collection (formed pre-1837) rules out the possibility that these statuettes are semi-skilled modern forgeries, and Vermeule considered that 'they seem hardly the products of the Neoclassical period'.

Other bronzes in this group are:
1. Fake warrior figure British Museum no.1772,0302.21.b acquired from Sir William Hamilton in 1772: see H.B. Walters, Catalogue of the Bronzes in the British Museum Bronzes, 1899, no.1607; this figure has broken sword in left hand.
2. Fake warrior figure British Museum no.1772,0302.21.a acquired from Sir William Hamilton in 1772: see H.B. Walters, Catalogue of the Bronzes in the British Museum Bronzes, 1899, no. 1612. This figure has a shield and the remains of a sword.
3. Fake Athlete, British Museum no.1929,1016.7, purchased from: T. Zoumpoulakis in 1929. See British Museum Quarterly, vol. IV, no. 3. 1929, p.70f; pl. XLIV, d. He holds a board inscribed: ANTIOXE Ω N/T Ω N E π I/Δ AφNHI [translation: From the people of Antioch to Daphne?] and his helmet is similar to the previous two but crestless.
4. Apollo with hatted headress and similar to the last, but with the plaque held on the ground at his left side: BM 1930,10-15.1.
5. Apollo (?); part of the inscription appears clockwise in the under side of the headdress [(ΔAΦNHI – to Daphne - is omitted): British Museum no.1940,3-12,1.
6. Athlete or Warrior, with helmet and plaque with an inscription attached as on no.3. This passed through the salerooms at Spink and Son Limited and was photographed by A.C. Cooper neg. no. 176571.
7. Nude male with plaque, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachussets USA (accession no. 1960.485), which is not no. 6 above but very like it. It bears a different inscription from the Antioch-Daphne group6.

Sir John Forsdyke reminds us that the notorious Sacred Grove of Daphne near Antioch contained the Temple of Apollo built by Seleucus Nicator, with a cult-statue by Bryaxis. 'The neighboring city seems to have been distinguished from other Antiochs by the title ηεπ Δáφvη'3; or Epidaphne4. Since at least one of these figures may be constructed as if mirroring a Hellenistic Apollo, as in the case of the well known Angerona type5 an antique prototype may lie behind the curiously inscribed objects/plaques and the suggestions for the figures bearing them. They could perhaps echo one or more votive statuettes to the god of the temple of Apollo at Daphne, or they could be, on the other hand, merely fakes produced with the aid of a scholar versed in the classical texts.

1 Wilhelm Bode, Italienischen Bronzestatuetten der Renaissance, short ed., p. 29, fig. 12, pl. 18f.
2 Bode, op. cit. pl. 78.
3 Strabo, XV.719, XVI, 749.
4 Pliny, Naturalis Historiae, trans. Jex-Blake, V.79.
5 Bode, op. cit. pl. 79, 3.
6 The D.M.Robinson Bequest, A Special Exhibition, Fogg Art Museum - Harvard University, May 1 to September 20, 1961, no.233.

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