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  • image M322

Torso of an apoxyomenos

Greyish Greek marble

Height (excluding base): 46cm

Museum number: M322

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 367help-vermeule-catalogue-number

On display: Basement South Passage
All spaces are in No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields unless identified as in No. 12, Soane's first house. For tours https://www.soane.org/your-visit

Curatorial note

This approximately half-lifesize torso is that of a nude, youthful figure of athletic proportions; only the start of the legs and a bit of each arm at the shoulders remain to indicate the stance and action. The right hip was thrown out, and the weight rested on this leg, the other probably being bent. The remains of the support on the abdomen and the tightening of the arms, especially the left, against the chest, indicate that the action represented was that of an Apoxyomenos - an athlete scraping himself after exercise or games.

Immediate comparison reveals that this figure is not an adaptation after the well-known type attributed to the Greek sculptor Lysippos and made famous by the lifesize Roman copy in the Museo Vaticano1 , instead it probably derives from more widely used types of the athlete scraping himself. The Vatican Apoxyomenos shows the left hip out and the weight on the left leg; the arm position, however, could vary from copy to copy, and is not a basis for comparison. This small Soane torso, of good Graeco-Roman workmanship, shows by its lack of style, its clash of muscular force in the shoulders and attempted athletic grace about the lower body and legs (such as remain!) that it is modelled on a later Hellenistic gymnasium-type figure, probably of a boxer with, of course, antecedents in the late fifth-fourth Century (see also note to the Torso of an Oil-Pourer, Soane M455/Vermeule 368).

There is a much closer parallel in stance and in eclectic clash of head and body type, with weight also on the right leg and the right hip out, in a statue restored as a boxer and formerly in the Lansdowne Collection, London (see Sale Catalogue, Christie's 5 March 1930, p.67, no.103). The palm tree support against the right, leg and lower thigh suggests a possible form for the missing lower support of the Soane torso, although these could vary considerably according to the taste of the copyist-adaptor. While presenting confirmation of one of the several actions suggested by small bronzes and gems in that the Soane athlete was probably scraping his left arm with the strigil in his right hand rather than the left thigh with the left arm lowered, the origin of the pose and body structure lies with that of a series of athletes scraping themselves, known best from a marble statue in the Uffizi, Florence2 and a small figure in the Braccio Nuovo of the Vatican. The two groupings as seen in the larger figures in the Pitti Palace, Florence3 and the smaller examples in the Vatican, furnish two parallels to the statuette of the oli-pourer in the Catacombs of the Soane Museum4 .

Charles Morgan's suggestion that, on the evidence of the Agias of Delphi, the original of the Apoxyomenos of the Vienna bronze5 and of the Uffizi marble has a better claim to being the Lysippic statue than the Trastevere copy so enshrined in archaeological belief and the public mind, would account for the renewed popularity of this first type in Hellenistic and Roman art. This solution for the several inconsistencies of the old attribution6 emphasizes the fact that the popular type of the athlete scraping himself went through several phases at the hands of later fifth and fourth Century masters and that while the Vienna and Uffizi statues are replicas the Braccio Nuovo youth suggests an older inspiration, particularly in the details of anatomical structure. The position of the raised head in the Lansdowne figure varies from the attitude that Morgan would assign to Lysippos and, if anything, presents a pendant to the Trastevere Apoxyomenos so long taken as the canon of Lysippos' art.

If we go a step further along the road with Madame Mavigilia and Morgan we could explain the famous Vatican Apoxyomenos as merely a clever Graeco-Roman pendant composed in the Lysippic style. Its uniqueness and its criterion of separation from the other Apoxyomenoi lie in its reversed leg position. Furtwängler, Amelung et al were led emphatically to the circle of the Munich or the Dresden oil-pourer for placement for "sets" of these athletic statues in the period of the copyists. In this penchant for balancing series of athletes may lie the simple solution to the puzzle of two valid contenders for the title Apoxyomenos of Lysippos. Mavigilia and Morgan's arguments may enthrone the Vienna-Uffizi athlete, but there is still the hard fact that some provision has to be made for the defeated champion. The copyist who was clever enough to present the Lysippic stance in reverse gave further evidence of his technical dexterity by the daring position which has hitherto provided an answer to those who asked why this so-called work of Lysippos could only boast one solitary replica. If the copyists of pendant terminal figures of Herakles (see Soane M220/Vermeule no.375) and the Genzano-type busts of Herakles7 varied the directions of their heads, why should not a copyist-adaptor have dared to create a work in the Lysippic style? We can, finally, console the champions of the old cause by suggesting that the later sculptor may have had access to a Lysippic original, not necessarily an apoxyomenos, but perhaps a diskobolos of which we know little beyond this adaptation.

1 W. Amelung, Die Skulpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, I, p.86, no.67, pl.XI and G.M.A. Richter, The Sculptureand Sculptors of the Greeks, p.288f., figs. 739, 742, 743.
2 Amelung, Führer, no.25; Br.-Br. 523-524.
3 Amelung, Führer, nos. 190f.
4 Furtwängler, Mp., p.261f. and Amelung (op.cit), I, p.119f., no.105, pl.XVII.
5 Br.Br. 682-685; Picard, Manuel, III, 1, pp.283ff., figs. 96-99.
6 In Comm. Studies In Honor of T.L. Shear, Hesperia, Suppl. VII, 1949, p.228ff.
7 Hyde, Olympic Victor Monuments, p. 169f., fig.31; Picard, Manuel, III, 1, pp.705ff.

Provenance help-art-provenance



Michaelis, p. 475, no. 8.

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